Sometimes you come across a story that resonates for reasons often not intended by the author. This happened to me today.
Nicholaas Bester was a maths teacher at St Michael’s Collegiate Girls’ school in Hobart when he began a sexual relationship with Grace Tame, a 15 year old female student. He was convicted of child-sex offences and sentenced to two years, 10 months gaol but was released early on parole. Upon release, he bragged online about his exploits, his posts were deemed child-exploitation material, and he was gaoled for another four months. After that, he was sympathetically interviewed by Bettina Arndt: “I lost everything,” he complained, “I lost my home, I’d been married for 37 years, I lost my marriage, I lost my children, I lost my job, I lost my status in the community, I lost absolutely everything.”
At the same time, Tasmanian law muzzled the victim of his offences, as they did all victims of child-sex offences, from saying anything that might identify her in the absence of an order of the court. While this law was eventually overturned, it took Grace Tame two years to obtain an order so that she could tell her side of the story. And she’s been telling it ever since. Tame became the face of crusading journalist Nina Funnell’s “Let Her Speak” campaign, which attracted international celebrity support and (more practically) the personal attention of the state’s Attorney-General.
The Tasmanian A-G successfully amended the Evidence Act to permit victims of child-sex offences to publicly identify themselves if they wished. Riding the wave, Grace Tame has recently been anointed the (Tasmanian) Australian of the Year, and promptly announced that she will take the fight to the Northern Territory (where the law continues to muzzle victims of child sexual abuse) but in the meantime will be moving to California to capitalise on all the celebrity contacts she made during the campaign, both as an aspiring artist but also as an “advocate” working with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department’s Human Trafficking Taskforce.
But here’s the rub. If you Google ‘Grace Tame’ you get about 19 million hits. If you Google ‘Katrina Munting’ the fan in my MacBook Pro whirrs for a bit then spits out: 71 thousand hits. Marcus Pollard was a teacher at Rose Bay Highschool in Hobart when he began an ongoing sexual relationship with Katrina Munting, a 15 year old female student. He was convicted and sentenced to three years gaol. In the absence of an avenging journalist, celebrity mates, or a catchy hashtag campaign, Munting is pursuing justice by herself. No move to California, no appearances on CSI: Los Angeles and definitely no life in art.
Nina Funnell picked Tame, not Munting, as the face of her campaign. The blonde hotty from the private school with the sad self-harm stories, pretentious tattoos, and ugly pedo teacher — so Insta-perfect. Bettina Arndt now probably regrets saying: “Over the years I’ve talked to many male teachers about sexually provocative behaviour from female students. The question that remains for me is whether there is any room in this conversation for talking to young people, particularly young girls, about behaving sensibly and not exploiting their seductive power to ruin the lives of men.”
New Matilda, a leftist website I once admired, took to Arndt with an axe. They gave Tame free reign to bash Arndt’s reputation and credentials, yet failed on two crucial counts. They failed to disclose a major conflict of interest (the law firm behind Nina Funnell’s “Let Her Speak” campaign — which propelled Tame to stardom — represents New Matilda in its many clashes with libel, defamation and the like) and secondly, they failed to prove Arndt wrong. The real world has taught me that two things are inescapably true: that as the father of a daughter I’m right to fear for her; and that as the father of sons I’m right to fear for them too.