Ex-McAuley principal seeking apology

Lee Borradale.

A former Principal at McAuley Catholic Central School is requesting an apology and a payment from Archbishop Christopher Prowse, for his historic forced resignation on behalf of the Catholic Education Office (CEO) in 1998.

He believes his treatment was the result of his speaking out against the CEO, and it is his hope that the increased scrutiny the Catholic Church has received in the past few years will encourage the Canberra-Goulburn Archdiocese to admit what he says is their mistake in terminating his position.

Lee Borradale, now retired in Queensland, believes there are parallels between his experience with the Archdiocese, and the treatment of Father Brian Hassett that has recently come to light.

“There’s a pattern of behaviour in the Catholic system,” Mr Borradale said.

“They don’t tell the community what’s going on, they move people somewhere else and deal with it out of sight. It’s just wrong.

“When you run a school, your chances of making everybody happy are about nil – but I was always open with the community, which is something that the Catholic system isn’t.”

Mr Borradale was the Principal of McAuley from 1994 to 1997.

In 1997, after conflict between other staff members at McAuley as well as the Catholic Education Office, he was moved to Canberra for a “professional development year.”

This involved him undertaking a Master’s degree and teaching part-time at a large primary school in Canberra, with the written guarantee by the CEO Director that he would return to McAuley at the end of this year and resume his position as Principal.

Instead, two months later he was asked to resign with a $100,00 payout, or else be sacked.

Now, Mr Borradale has written to Archbishop Prowse seeking an apology and an “ex gratia payment” for the wrongs he believes he suffered a decade ago.

Mr Borradale’s termination from McAuley came about following a review into his performance. In the course of this review allegations from other McAuley teachers were made against him, including that he had hit several students and that staff were fearful of his temper.

The allegations were recorded, but due to time constraints “none of the information provided by staff…has been investigated,” the panel itself wrote at the time.

Mr Borradale denied the allegations and continues to deny them.

“When I came to McAuley the enrolments were suffering badly, and a number of things had to be changed,” he said.

“Bullying was a really big issue, and in dealing with that problem staff behaviours had to be challenged. The review panel also found that there was a coordinator who was undermining me in order to become Principal, and [some staff members] were more than happy to go along with that.”

Nonetheless, he took up the opportunity to pursue a Master’s degree in Canberra and undertook the CEO’s suggested placement in a larger school for training purposes, believing for the duration of his time there that he would be returning to McAuley at the end of it.

He did not predict that his departure would result in his 14 year career with the Canberra-Goulburn Catholic Education Office coming to an end.

The reason for his invitation to resign was given as being that he had “failed as a teacher”, but he believes his removal to Canberra and subsequent termination had more to do with his “rocking the boat.”

“During [the mid eighties] manoeuvring for positions and back stabbing was going on at the Catholic Education Office,” Mr Borradale said.

“I was the secretary to the Principals Association. Communication from the Association to the CEO Director, Peter Moore, was largely ignored. Peter had alcoholic issues and the situation at the CEO became increasingly problematic.

“Archbishop Carroll called an emergency meeting of the 52 Archdiocesan Principals – there had been two different accountants in recent times and now it was announced that the Archdiocese was $3.4 million in debt.

“I put forward a motion; that there should be an independent inquiry into the Catholic Education Office, and that means of accountability of the Catholic Education Office should be established.

“It passed unanimously, but I made some pretty significant enemies,” he said.

While Mr Borradale was at McAuley enrolments increased by 72 per cent. The review into his behaviour recorded that the general perception was that the school had improved under his leadership, and that “Lee gets things done.” His work in previous leadership positions had been described by his superiors as “outstanding,” and an example of his community approach was used in teaching materials at Edith Cowan University. A subsequent three month assessment by Queensland Education, where he was employed as a teacher after these events, awarded him the highest classification. For these reasons and others, Mr Borradale believes the claim he was asked to resign as he had “failed as a teacher” lack credibility.

However, he did resign at the CEO’s request, and it is something that has troubled him ever since.

“Since leaving Catholic Education in the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn things have been difficult,” he said.

“I moved to stay with my parents on Mt Tambourine in Queensland as a place to heal. At that time I was very close to a breakdown.

“I could not get another executive or head of department position and [my wife] and I were subject to significant costs in moving. I lived with stress that employers noted the change and filled these with scenarios rather than ask.

“I have been diagnosed from suffering from compounded PTSD [from other matters] and have tried to commit suicide on two occasions.

“I hope there is a better ending to this story.”

Director of the Catholic Education Office Ross Fox made the following statement:

“Catholic Education takes seriously the health and wellbeing of all current and former staff in Catholic schools. We do not intend to further aggravate Mr Borradale’s health concerns through a public dialogue regarding matters that reflect Mr Borradale’s personal account of historical events.

“Mr Borradale was supported with representation from the Independent Education Union (IEU) at the time of his resignation. A number of reviews requested by Mr Borradale dating back to 2004 have been conducted into the circumstances that lead to Mr Borradale’s resignation. These reviews all concluded that a thorough and fair process had been followed.

“In order to respect the privacy of Mr Borradale, Catholic Education is unable to make further comment at this point in time.”