“A lot of beautiful places in Australia have a bit of a dark side,” Ms. Harris Rimmer said.
Sitting at a cafe near Dee Why Beach in the district, Amber Cooper, a local resident, said that as a high school student in 2001, she remembers a phys-ed teacher being fired for inappropriate behavior. “Everyone knew he was a creep,” she said.
Because of the #MeToo moment, she said, people are starting to speak up — even though some do not like talking about the problems under the neighborhood’s surface. “It’s a great area, but people don’t realize that the problems that happen in bad areas happen here,” she said.
More recent students, though, said the high schools here seem to be safer now.
Five minutes from the beach, Cromer High School, now named Cromer Campus, stands on a remote road surrounded by tall trees. At the soccer pitch across the street, a few students were waiting for a lesson. “I think it was such a long time ago, it doesn’t really affect anyone of our age,” said James Kain, a 21-year-old coach. He caught bits and pieces of the case through the news, but has never heard of any faculty misconduct at the high schools he attended in the Northern Beaches.
“It’s a good place to grow up,” he said.
But for those who remember Cromer High School during the 1980s, the experience left scars. Ms. McAuley said it made her certain that life was better outside of the Northern Beaches. “It made me want to find home, or the idea of home elsewhere,” she said. At 19, she moved away from Australia, vowing never to live here again.
“From the outside, I grew up in an idyllic environment,” she said. “The beaches are so beautiful, we have the sun, the great weather. But part of it was rotten.”