Tim Pocock recalls shocking homophobia at religious school

Gay actor Tim Pocock in an Instagram selfie photo
Image: Instagram

Australian actor Tim Pocock has spoken out about the devastating impact of homophobia at his religious school in Sydney.

Four Corners on ABC tonight (January 30) will air allegations of discrimination at two Sydney Catholic schools.

The ABC heard from dozens of former students of Sydney’s Tangara School for Girls and all-boys Redfield College. Both schools are affiliated with the conservative Catholic organisation known as Opus Dei, the ABC reports.

Speaking to the ABC, gay and lesbian former students alleged homophobic condemnation and bullying was “rife” and female students alleged sexist and traumatic sex education focusing on “sexual purity” at the schools.

Actor Tim Pocock (pictured), who is gay, graduated from Redfield College in 2003.

He and others told Four Corners students were told homosexuality is a grave mortal sin damning them to hell.

The 37-year-old told the ABC he experienced bullying at the school.

“It’s not just, ‘You are different from me, so I’m going to punch you’,” Tim said.

“It’s, ‘You are different from me, I’m going to punch you and you’re going to spend all of eternity in the fiery depths of hell because of something that you can’t change about yourself.’

“I’d spend all day hiding in the bathrooms so I wouldn’t be picked on by students. I would eat my lunch in the toilets.”

Tim Pocock describes school experience as ‘hell on Earth’

Tim Pocock said as a 12- and 13-year-old he believed what the school was teaching him. As a result, he said, he’d go to bed crying most nights.

“I’d pray with every fibre of my faith that I’d wake up as a different person,” he said.

Tim told Four Corners he’s still coming to terms with his time at the school.

“It is hell on Earth and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone,” he said.

“I would hope that, if anyone out there is watching and has a position of power, to maybe just turn the eye onto these independent schools.

“And just make sure that the children educated there aren’t actually being psychologically harmed by the education. That’s all that I can ask for.”

Redfield College graduate Jeremy Smith, who is gay, also said it was “cruelly ironic” the school motto translates to “The truth will set you free”.

“Yet, myself and others were told to not only hide and repress our true sexuality but also change it,” he claimed.

“Redfield was not a place of truth but a place of secrets, lies and suffering. In an Opus Dei system [we] were taught suffering brings you closer to holiness.

Jeremy also warned, “The effect on gay and straight students’ mental health has led to tragic outcomes.”

Schools say ‘no children are victimised’ over sexual orientation

In a statement to the ABC, the schools said student safety, health and wellbeing is paramount.

The schools said “no children are victimised because of their sexual orientation”. The statement said the schools “operate in accordance with Catholic Church teachings that demand that we do not judge others.”

“All students at our schools are treated equally and provided the same opportunities and level of care,” the statement said.

“If any staff member or student over the 40-year history of [the schools] have made inappropriate comments it certainly does not represent the policy of our schools.

“Like all schools with students who identify as LGBTIQ, we have put in place strict policies and procedures to deal with victimisation or bullying by teachers or other staff of the schools.”

NSW law ‘gives blank cheque to schools to discriminate’

However, LGBTIQ+ advocates have called for an urgent overhaul of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act after the allegations Four Corners reported.

Just.Equal Australia spokesperson Rodney Croome criticised the legislation as “no longer fit for purpose”.

“It has very broad exemptions allowing discrimination by faith-based schools on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, sex and even disability,” he said.

“When it comes to LGBTQ+ students and teachers, the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act currently gives a blank cheque to faith-based schools, allowing them to discriminate.”

MPs must reform the legislation “to ensure all students enjoy the right to learn, free from discrimination,” Croome said.

“All teachers [should be] employed on the basis of their ability, not their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

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Jordan Hirst
Jordan Hirst

Jordan Hirst is an experienced journalist and content creator with a career spanning over a decade at QNews. Since 2012, the Brisbane local has covered an enormous range of topics and subjects in-depth affecting the LGBTIQA+ community, both in Australia and overseas. Today, the Brisbane-based journalist covers everything from current affairs, politics and health to sport and entertainment.

QNews, Brisbane Gay, App, Gay App, LGBTI, LGBTI News, Gay Australia

1 Comment

  1. Peter Turner
    1 February 2023

    Yeah, good luck with that one.
    Religious schools have always, by their very nature, been hell holes for LGBTQI + students and teachers.
    My abuser still has a wing of the Christian Brothers College named in his honour even though I received a written acknowledgement and apology for his abuse.
    Begs the question as to whether the apology was genuine.
    I don’t think so!!

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