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Three Royal Commission reports criticise Anglican responses to child sexual abuse claims

The three reports were released just over a month before the Commission's 'wrap-up' hearing into the Anglican Church

The Royal Commission found that Anglican leaders and institutions across Australia had failed to protect children from predators.

By Mark Brolly

February 20 2017The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has released three reports into Anglican institutions in the past week, criticising leaders and institutions for failing to protect children and young people in their care.

Reports and recommendations of the Commission's case studies into the responses to allegations of child sexual abuse of Geelong Grammar School; the Church of England Boys' Society (CEBS) and the dioceses of Tasmania, Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney; and Brisbane Grammar School and another Anglican school in the Queensland capital, St Paul's in Bald Hills, were released between 13 and 15 February – just over a month before the Commission holds its "wrap-up" public hearing into the current policies and procedures of the Anglican Church on child-protection and child-safety standards, including responding to allegations of child sexual abuse. That hearing will be held in Sydney from 17 March.

In Tasmania, Bishop Richard Condie initiated a process of Church discipline against one of his predecessors, Bishop Philip Newell, over his response to complaints of sexual abuse in the 1980s and '90s, as outlined in the CEBS report. Bishop Newell, who led the Tasmanian Church from 1982-2000, relinquished his licence to function as a priest after a meeting with Assistant Bishop Chris Jones a year ago, shortly before Bishop Condie was consecrated.

Bishop Condie, a former Archdeacon of Melbourne, said in a pastoral letter on 14 February that although Bishop Newell had the respect of many in the Diocese during his time in office, "given the serious nature of the findings in the Royal Commission report I have felt compelled to act in the matter" (see http://www.anglicantas.org.au/assets/Pastoral_Letter_Response_to_the_
Royal_Commission_Report_Feb_2017.pdf)
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"The discipline process involves an investigative period, where evidence will be examined and Bishop Newell will have an opportunity to put his defence," Bishop Condie said. "If the formal investigation recommends that charges be laid, the Church's disciplinary tribunal will be convened to hear the matter."

The Royal Commission's report on CEBS (see http://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/getattachment/64814c11-ff18-4fae-922a-e42b2d286422/Report-of-Case-Study-No-36) followed public hearings held in Hobart early last year that investigated the responses of CEBS and the four Anglican dioceses to allegations of child sexual abuse made against lay people and clergy associated with CEBS in the 1970s and 1980s, particularly the experiences of survivors of child sexual abuse perpetrated by convicted paedophiles Louis Daniels, Garth Hawkins, Simon Jacobs and John Elliot and alleged paedophile, Robert Brandenburg, who took his own life before charges against him came to trial.

CEBS, which has now changed its name in some jurisdictions to the Anglican Boys' Society and Boys' Ministry Australia, was a youth group set up by the Church for boys aged between six and 16 years.

"We find that there were networks of perpetrators in CEBS who had knowledge of each other's sexual offending against boys and who facilitated the sexual abuse of boys in or associated with CEBS," the report said.

"With limited input or oversight by the relevant parish, diocese or CEBS at a national level, and either limited or no policies on appropriate contact between boys and CEBS leaders, most CEBS branches could operate in an autonomous and unregulated way. CEBS focused on promoting physical activities and overnight trips for boys that were organised by CEBS leaders and other men socially connected to CEBS leaders. Within this environment, a culture developed in which perpetrators had easy access to boys and opportunities to sexually abuse those boys."

The report also criticised former Archbishops Ian George of Adelaide and Peter Hollingworth of Brisbane for their responses to allegations of abuse.

"The Anglican Dioceses of Tasmania, Adelaide and Brisbane have conducted three separate independent inquiries into child sexual abuse occurring within their own dioceses," the report said.

"There is no evidence before the Royal Commission that any investigation or inquiry has been conducted by any Anglican diocese or CEBS branch, or by the National Council of CEBS or the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia, into whether there was an organised network of offenders within CEBS, or a culture that facilitated child sexual abuse within CEBS, that crossed diocesan lines."

The report identified a number of systemic issues within CEBS, the Anglican Church of Australia and the four dioceses investigated, including child sexual abuse being treated as one-off offences or isolated incidents of aberrant behaviour; allegations of child sexual abuse not being reported to the police either at all or in a timely way; limited information-sharing between the dioceses about allegations of child sexual abuse; a lack of child protection policies and procedures within CEBS; a lack of consistent record-keeping about complaints in CEBS; minimisation of the offending; a focus on protecting the reputation of the Church, dioceses, CEBS and individual clergy; and links not being made at a national level in the Anglican Church regarding the possibility of a network of perpetrators within CEBS.

Geelong Grammar Principal Mr Stephen Meek wrote to parents and other members of the school community on 14 February over the report into his school, again apologising for the failure of the school in its response to abuse of some students over many decades and for the "wrongful conduct by some of its former staff". Mr Meek's letter can be read on Geelong Grammar's website at https://www.ggs.vic.edu.au/School/Our-School/Policies-and-Reports/Royal-Commission/Royal-Commission.

He wrote that the school had begun responding to matters raised by Counsel assisting the Royal Commission, Mr David Lloyd, and was now studying the findings of the final report.

"Earlier this year we established a Recognition Committee as a way of consulting with our community and to ensure that we are in a better position to support those who have suffered in the past," Mr Meek wrote. "Consequently, we appointed a Survivor Liaison Coordinator (Renee Handsaker) and she has been providing outreach and support to survivors of historical child sexual abuse, as well as former and current staff.

"Every year we complete a comprehensive review of our child protection policies to ensure all policies reflect the School's zero tolerance of child abuse and comply with changes in legislation as they come into effect. For example, our policies have recently been updated to reflect the new Child Safe Standards that were introduced in Victoria on 1st January 2017... Our policies are supported by robust practices, where staff always put the child first and always listen to any concerns that students have.

"The School continues to provide the services of an independent counsellor (Pauline Ryan) for anyone in our community who would like counselling or support about this issue."

The Royal Commission heard evidence from 13 former Geelong Grammar students who said they were sexually abused by staff at the school between 1956 and 1989. The mothers of two former students also gave evidence. Two survivors and their mothers reported the abuse to the school at the time it was occurring but they told the hearing that no action was taken by Geelong Grammar and the perpetrators remained at the school.

Five former Geelong staff members – Graham Leslie Dennis, John Hamilton Buckley, Stefan Van Vuuren, Philippe Trutmann and John Fitzroy Clive Harvey (known as Jonathan Harvey) –have been convicted of child sex offences.

The Commission's report, which may be read at http://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/getattachment/f01013d8-a911-4f8c-93b8-09515a35ecaf/Report-of-Case-Study-No-32, criticised former Geelong Grammar Mr John Lewis, who led the school from 1980 to 1994, over his handling of allegations of abuse against Harvey.

"... Mr Lewis allowed Harvey to remain in a position where he had unsupervised access to students. Mr Lewis did not take any steps to prepare policies or procedures to protect the safety and welfare of the students at Geelong Grammar," the report said.

It also criticised another former principal, Mr Nicholas Sampson (2001-04), who had received a complaint from a staff member in 2004 that his brother had been sexually abused by Harvey between 1976 and 1978. Mr Sampson conducted an investigation and, at a meeting, told Harvey it would be best if he left the school.

"After the meeting, Harvey agreed to retire at the end of 2004. Harvey remained at the school for the remainder of 2004 and then retired," the Commissioners, Justice Jennifer Coate and Professor Helen Milroy, wrote in their report. "He was paid a full year's salary for 2005. Mr Sampson did not inform the police about the allegations and he did not make any report to the Victorian Institute of Teaching. We accept that Mr Sampson attempted to act in the best interests of BLF (the victim) by securing Harvey's resignation without disclosing his identity. It is clear, however, that he should have notified the Victorian Institute of Teaching.

"Mr Sampson did not record in writing the real reasons for Harvey's departure from Geelong Grammar. We are satisfied that Mr Sampson should have made a documentary record of those reasons. No document was produced to the Royal Commission which recorded the true reasons for Harvey's departure from the school.

"Mr Sampson gave evidence that he would now approach a similar situation very differently. He emphasised the importance of using an external party to investigate allegations of child sexual abuse. We accept Mr Sampson's evidence about both of these matters."

The report said some survivors did not report sexual abuse at the time it was occurring because they did not think they would be believed or did not know to whom they could report the abuse.

"There was a culture at Geelong Grammar that was authoritarian, disciplined and 'devoid of pastoral care'.

"Other survivor witnesses did not report being sexually abused because they felt they would be ostracised or bullied if they did so."

Before 1994, the school had no formal systems, policies and procedures in place dealing specifically with child sexual abuse or designed to prevent child abuse, the report said. There were no specific systems, policies or procedures for taking disciplinary action against a staff member for child sexual abuse.

"Since becoming principal in October 2004, Mr Meek and the school have implemented new policies and procedures and updated existing policies and procedures aimed at ensuring the safety of children at the school.

"In 2015, Geelong Grammar updated its Pastoral Policies. It now includes detailed sections on the obligation to disclose sexual offences committed against a child, the mandatory reporting policy, guidelines for response to a claim of sexual assault and the initial response of staff to a student reporting or alleging sexual assault.

"Although policies are in place, there is no system to either monitor the success of the policies or capture how often teachers are reporting allegations in accordance with the policies and procedures."

On 15 February, the Royal Commission released its report into the response of Brisbane Grammar School at St Paul's School, Bald Hills (see http://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/getattachment/8112111f-0763-4447-8071-c6eb879fb386/Report-of-Case-Study-No-34).

The report said a public hearing in November 2015 heard from a number of former students of the schools that they had been sexually abused by the late Kevin Lynch, a teacher and later counsellor at Brisbane Grammar between 1973 and 1988 and a counsellor at St Paul's from 1989 to 1997, and Gregory Robert Knight, a teacher at St Paul's between 1981 and 1984.

It criticised the responses of two former principals of the schools, the late Dr Maxwell Howell (Brisbane Grammar) and Mr Gilbert Case (St Paul's), to claims of abuse and the Diocese of Brisbane for promoting Mr Case.

"In 2000, the Anglican Diocese of Brisbane appointed Mr Case to the position of executive director of the Anglican Schools Commission," the report said. "This role involved liaising with various Anglican schools throughout Brisbane to develop, implement and improve their policies to deal with allegations of child sexual abuse.

"Mr Case was appointed to this position by a committee in circumstances where two members of the committee (Dr Peter Hollingworth and Mr Bernard Yorke) were aware of allegations that Mr Case had been told about Mr Lynch's sexual abuse of students and that Mr Case had not taken any action in response."

The report also criticised Dr Hollingworth over remarks he made in a press release in 2000 about students abused by Lynch.