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Survivor Katrina Munting tells court of mission to 'stand in front of students and keep them safe'

ABC News (AU) logo ABC News (AU) 22/03/2023
Katrina Munting says she chose a classroom career, because for "every person like me … there was one less person like him". (ABC News: Luke Bowden) © Provided by ABC News (AU) Katrina Munting says she chose a classroom career, because for "every person like me … there was one less person like him". (ABC News: Luke Bowden)

A victim-survivor of child sexual abuse has told a court her abuser's response to a court case against him was "an abomination". 

Katrina Munting was a 14-year-old high school student at Hobart's Rose Bay High School when she was first sexually abused by teacher Marcus Pollard, now aged 66, in 1998. Abuse also occurred in 1999.

Pollard pleaded guilty in 2020 to persistent sexual abuse of a young person, and was sentenced to three years' jail.

Now, Ms Munting is suing Pollard and Tasmania's Education Department for damages.

Pollard is not participating in the civil, judge-only trial underway in the Supreme Court in Hobart.

During her evidence on Wednesday, Ms Munting told the court she had "mixed emotions" about Pollard's non-participation in the trial.

"When I first found out that he was not likely to be here I was angry, because he should be here listening to this, and he should be accountable for his part in this," she said.

"But [I also feel] relief that I do not need to see that damn man."

Ms Munting told the court that when Pollard's name was called on the first day of the trial — a formality because he was not there — she watched the door to the courtroom "and was absolutely mortified because I still thought that he would turn up".

"I was so scared that that man was going to walk through that door," she told the court.

Pollard has filed a defence as part of the current case. In it, he admitted some physical contact, but denied other behaviour.

Ms Munting's lawyers have told the court Pollard, in that defence, had denied behaviour that was found, during the criminal case against him, to have occurred.

When asked about her reaction to Pollard's defence, Ms Munting told the court "it's an abomination".

The court heard Ms Munting made a partial disclosure of the abuse to her now-husband, Danny Munting, in 2000; he supported her and, with her permission, reported it to the school's then-principal.

The court has heard the principal then contacted an Education Department grievances and investigations officer.

In emails tendered as evidence in the trial, that officer wrote in March 2000:

"As a result of my discussion with Marcus Pollard (the perpetrator) he has made a decision to resign and withdraw his workers compensation claim.

"I have also informed him that he will not be employed as a teacher again and that his file will be annotated to that effect."

The email was forwarded on to the then-department secretary Martyn Forrest, who said: "An excellent outcome. Pls [sic] pass on my congratulations to [the grievances and investigations officer]."

Ms Munting told the court she was never told of the outcome of the report about Pollard in writing.

"Danny was told in a meeting, I understand [with the then-principal] and that was relayed to me."

She told the court the principal did not contact her, and neither did anyone from the Education Department.

Ms Munting said she made a full disclosure to police in 2018, which is what led to the criminal case against Pollard.

The court also heard about Munting's ongoing mental health treatment, and how she recently reduced her working hours because she could no longer maintain a full-time load at work.

The court has heard Ms Munting has been diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder.

Clinical psychologist Damien Minehan told the court Ms Munting would be dealing with aspects of what occurred to her for "most of the rest of her life", that she would need ongoing psychotherapy and medication.

'I could prevent what happened to happening to others'

Part of Ms Munting's case is that her earning capacity was reduced as a result of the abuse.

The court heard Ms Munting, a high achieving student, was on a path to a career in biomedicine when she was at high school and when she started college.

She told the court she changed her focus as she continued with her senior secondary education, and decided to become a teacher.

"I could still follow science but at the same time I could prevent what happened to happening to others.

"So I went from essentially wanting to study a much more high-end science … I had made a conscious choice that, despite wanting to be a scientist, I could be a scientist in education and at the same time protect children because, for every person like me that stands in front of that class room, there was one less person like him," she said.

"So I stand in that classroom and I know that for every hour those students are in my presence, that is one hour that they are safe."

Ms Munting said several offers were made to her to to stay at the University of Tasmania to complete a PhD, which she continually declined because she wanted to start teaching.

"It's not that I didn't want to do it, I dearly wanted my PhD … however, it was going to take three years," she said.

"It was going to be five years before I could stand in front of students and keep them safe."

She told the court she also did not want to spend longer at the university, because, by the time Ms Munting started her science degree, Pollard was working in the university's science department.

The court previously heard it was a condition of Pollard's contract not to have contact with Ms Munting.

The trial, before Acting Justice David Porter, continues.

 [Contact ABC News]

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