Friday, February 17, 2017

Statement by the Anglican Diocese of Adelaide on Royal Commission

The Anglican Diocese of Adelaide has issued a statement in response to a damming report by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Australia. 

A statement issued by Bishop Tim Harris said the report made for “shocking reading” and “the failures of the past have been “clearly identified.” 

Bishop Harris reaffirmed the diocese’s “sincere apology” to all who suffered and said the diocese was resolved that “such failings must never happen again.”

Here is the full statement:

The Anglican Diocese of Adelaide values and respects the work of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. We have carefully studied the recently released Report of Case Study No. 36: The response of the Church of England Boys’ Society and the Anglican Dioceses of Tasmania, Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney to allegations of child sexual abuse.

The report makes for shocking reading. The failures of the past have been clearly identified. We recognise that it has taken great courage for survivors of abuse to give evidence, and express our sincere hope that the report in some measure helps those survivors abused by Robert Brandenburg and other CEBS leaders on their journey of healing. We reaffirm our sincere apology to all who suffered as a result of such failures of trust, and the manifestly inadequate responses by church authorities at the time that worsened the sense of abuse and distress. There is much to be learned, and we are resolved that such failings must never happen again.

The Anglican Church in Adelaide has genuinely sought to reform our policies and practices on multiple fronts since earlier reports, and is committed to continually improving our processes concerning child protection and redress to survivors. This report helps us in our important work in this area.

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

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