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Racism in our schools

By Stephen Hagan - posted Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Jasmine Guy (b 1962), an American actress, singer and dancer once said “Bigotry dwarfs the soul by shutting out the truth”.

A teacher working at a local high school in Pittsworth, 40 minutes drive from my hometown of Toowoomba, pleaded guilty in the Supreme Court of Queensland on May 13 to being an accessory after the fact of murder and lying to police.

These startling revelations are disturbing when read as a news headline but when the lucidity of the prosecutor’s graphic account comes into play it personally horrifies and heightens my awareness of a crime that raises more questions than answers on the propriety of that noble profession of classroom teacher.


Graeme Frederick McNeil, 46, was charged with assisting his high school student, Anthony Rowlingson, who at aged 16 shot his 19-year-old brother Robert twice in the back of the head with a heavy-calibre .243 rifle in July 2007. The court transcript read that McNeil helped Rowlingson to dump his brother’s body over a bridge into a waterway on the Clifton-Leyburn Road between Pittsworth and Clifton on Sunday, July 15, 2007.

I sat transfixed to my local television news coverage: it was disturbing to think that the broadcasted images of this regular looking, heavy-set man with a thick moustache entering the court room could be of someone complicit in such a hideous murder cover-up.

When McNeil was approached by Anthony Rowlingson with his confession, the proper approach one would have expected from a person holding a responsible position in society would have been for McNeil to encourage his student to hand himself in to the police and confess mitigating circumstances for the crime.

The Toowoomba Chronicle reported the following day that Crown prosecutor Phil McCarthy said Rowlingson’s parents, John and Wendell Rowlingson, who were in court for the sentencing were left with a feeling of “betrayal” by the actions of McNeil who had been a respected teacher and role model for their son Anthony.

These snippets of news of this ghastly story were broadly the extent of the coverage of our local media outlets. Mind you the coverage that there was certainly caught my attention and momentarily put me off my evening meal.

It wasn’t until well after I read the court report in The Toowoomba Chronicle early the following day and when I started to receive numerous calls from national media outlets seeking my comments on an article by Tony Koch from The Australian about the murder that I discovered there was considerably more to this bizarre case.


Koch commenced his article by highlighting the fact that “a teacher who confessed to being a senior Ku Klux Klan official has been jailed for eight years after helping a teenage student to dump the murdered body of his older brother, who had threatened to expose the links to the racist organisation”.

If my local evening news had approached their broadcast in the same succinct manner as Koch with the KKK aspect included then I certainly wouldn’t have gone back for a second serve of my Thai chicken curry, such would’ve been the bitter residual taste from that news angle. After my experience with the Klan in my hometown still raw in my mind from my successful decade-long E.S. “Nigger” Brown Stand campaign, I would’ve felt nauseous and slept uncomfortably that night with the knowledge that those cowardly men, who had a penchant for wearing punctuated white pillow cases over their heads, were still active in my community.

Koch reported that McNeil confessed to police that he was the Imperial Kluk or the Ku Klux Klan, which he said was also known as supreme KKK chaplain.

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About the Author

Stephen Hagan is Editor of the National Indigenous Times, award winning author, film maker and 2006 NAIDOC Person of the Year.

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