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top gunffrree

I have viewed several images of a person I believe to be Greg Masters with students from Brisbane Grammar School.

I am writing this as a former president of the Australian Education Union and Federal Executive member of that Union for well over 3 years.  I was also a member of a Board of Studies as well as other statutory educational appeals panels briefed with investigating and advising ministers of education.

The images (photographs) are disturbing for a variety of reasons.

First and foremost, they depict Mr Masters and these students in various poses where Mr Masters has allowed himself to be in physical contact with the children. This was a most unwise decision.

In one of the photographs he has allowed a teenage student to rest his head on his lap, close to his groin. Another shows a student vigorously hugging Mr Masters whilst other students also gather around him posing for the photograph.

In all of these images, Mr Masters shows no signs of discomfort with the contact.  He does not protest.  He is not viewed as trying to “escape” or avoid the engagement. Indeed, he seems to enjoy it and feels comfortable with these images being captured (and published it would seem!)

Part of my former role as President of the Australian Education Union was to advocate for teachers unfairly accused of wrongdoing in the course of their employment – either by their employer or by the statutory authority registering and monitoring teachers.

I can assure you that these pictures alone would cause any employer, parent or registration authority alarm.

Many employers, as does Education Departments around the country have strict rules about physical (and other) contact between teachers and students.  In short, unless it is to console students in distress, or to administer first aid, they strongly oppose contact.  I am sure that Brisbane Grammar School will have such a policy.  Obviously, this “no-touch” policy is more difficult to achieve with much younger students in prep and the beginning years of schooling who tend to initiate contact consistent with developmental reasons.  But in this case, they appear to be 16 – 17 year old male students with Mr Masters, not primary aged children.

As a male teacher, Mr Masters would have been even more acutely aware of the dangers of having such contact with students in a profession where men are actively avoiding entering for fear of such allegations.

All Australian universities have mandatory professional standards and ethics courses taught to pre-service teachers. These course coordinators would be dismayed if these actions occurred by a beginning or neophyte teacher, but would be shocked and appalled if it was with a “respected” educator with over 20 years teaching experience.  Most teachers will not only not have any physical contact with students, but will even avoid being alone with a student in a classroom.

In my professional teaching career I have never had cause or reason to have physical contact with a student.  I believe most of my colleagues would similarly either not had any physical contact with a student, or did so to render first aid or emotional assistance or prevent harm occurring to a student.

I have personally represented teachers in disciplinary proceedings when it comes to physical contact with students.  I can recall one educator who was disciplined after being seen at a community fundraising event touching a student on the shoulder and giving him a farewell hug.  This teacher was suspended for inappropriate behaviour for a period of time.

The Queensland College of Teachers have the statutory power to investigate any teacher for misbehaviour including, but obviously not limited to physical contact between a teacher and student.  It would not matter if that contact was initiated by the teacher or student, nor would it matter if that contact occurred outside of a traditional classroom setting.  They also report publically on their disciplinary actions.

Might I say that I am shocked and bewildered that the images of Mr Masters with these students appeared on pages officially sanctioned by Brisbane Grammar School. Quite frankly, as an educator and parent I am shocked that they allowed these photos to be uploaded and published.  At the very least, they exhibit a relationship that goes well beyond that of a professional teacher/student one, and unfortunately goes towards eroding a sense of professionalism educators work so hard to achieve in our schools on a daily basis.

Matthew Cranitch

Former President and National Executive Member

Australian Education Union (AEU)