The NSW Department of Education has accepted that former teacher and principal Cletus O’Connor sexually abused indigenous boys in Western NSW throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Confidential compensation payments have been made to at least 14 victims; however, no efforts have been made to identify further survivors.
O’Connor, known to most as ‘Clete’, was a teacher, principal and school inspector who worked in public education between the 1950s and 1980s. Throughout his career, he targeted and preyed upon indigenous school children, often targeting boys from disadvantaged backgrounds by befriending the family, showering them with money, gifts and food, taking them on trips and offering to drive them around town.
Starting his career in the 1950s, O’Connor spent much of his career in Western NSW, serving as principal of Gilgandra High School from around 1973 to 1979. He then took up a position as a school inspector where, based out of Dubbo, he travelled widely across Western NSW to inspect schools in various small towns across the state.
A summary of O’Connor’s career can be found below:
|Late 1960’s/early 1970s
|Gilgandra High School
|Based in Dubbo, but travelling all over Western NSW
Are you a survivor of child sexual abuse by Cletus O’Connor? Click here to share your story with us. You may be eligible for compensation.
In his roles at Gilgandra and Dubbo, O’Connor abused indigenous boys from all across western NSW in his car, hotels, his own home and even within schools and his Department of Education office in Dubbo.
A Guardian investigation in 2020 revealed that there were widespread rumours about O’Connor throughout his career. These included:
- O’Connor taking Indigenous children on ‘unsupervised excursions’
- O’Connor grooming young males
- The word ‘Clete’ being used by students at Dubbo High School as a slang word for ‘gay’
- O’Connor paying indigenous boys for sex.
The Guardian investigation further found that a complaint was made to NSW Police in 1986; however, no charges were laid, and it is unclear how extensively O’Connor was investigated.
O’Connor died in 1995, and many ex-colleagues and associates continue to defend his reputation.
In 2020, the NSW Department of Education Minister apologised publicly to the victims of O’Connor who had come forward with compensation claims; however, the Department has been criticised for failing to do more to investigate whether there are further victims out there.
If you suffered abuse in a NSW school, we want to hear from you. We will fight for you. Click here to share your story, or call us on (02) 4907 4200.