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Damning verdict on response to child abuse in Australia

Posted on: February 13, 2017 4:30 PM
Related Categories: abuse, Australia, safechurch, safeguarding

[ACNS] Royal Commission examining allegations of child sexual abuse in Australia has delivered a damning verdict on a system which enabled a culture of abuse to flourish.

The report by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse comes after public hearings into how the Church of England’s Boys’ Society (CEBS) and the Anglican dioceses of Tasmania, Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney dealt with claims of abuse.  The hearings, in Hobart, Tasmania, were told of allegations of abuse by lay people and clergy associated with CEBS in the 1970s and 1980s.

The report concluded that most CEBS branches were able to operate in an autonomous and unregulated way. As a result, a culture developed in which attackers had easy access to boys and opportunities to sexually abuse them. It found the abuse often happened at camps, on sailing and fishing trips and on overnight stays at rectories and private homes.

The report also found that there were networks of sexual predators at CEBS who had knowledge of each other’s offending. A number of abuse survivors told the hearing they were shared by abusers or their abusers were aware of the conduct of other attackers.

The Royal Commission found that the CEBS National Council’s only formal response to the abuse was to revoke the national awards it had given to some offenders. It had considered making a formal apology for the abuse in 2008 and 2009 but decided against it.

The Anglican Dioceses of Tasmania, Adelaide and Brisbane held three separate inquiries into child sexual abuse but there was no investigation into whether there was an organised network of offenders or a culture which facilitated the abuse.

A number of systemic issues within CEBS, the Anglican Church of Australia and the dioceses of Tasmania, Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney were identified by the report. These included:

  • Child sexual abuse being treated as one-off offences or incidents of aberrant behaviour
  • Historically, allegations of child sexual abuse not being reported to the police in timely way or not at all
  • Limited sharing of information between dioceses about allegations of child sexual abuse
  • A lack of child protection policies and procedures within CEBS
  • Minimisation of offending
  • A focus on protection of the church, dioceses, CEBS and individual clergy

Read the report here