The Anglican Bishop of Grafton, Bishop Keith Slater, resigned suddenly on Friday over revelations at the royal commission into child-sex abuse that he mishandled decades-old abuse cases at a children’s home in Lismore.
The resignation is being seen as the first major scalp of the royal commission.
One of the victims, a Gold Coast photographer, says he will pursue his longtime bid for justice as a result of his alleged physical and sexual abuse while he lived at the Church of England North Coast Children’s Home in Lismore during the 1950s and 60s.
He claims there were others in the church who also failed to act when they knew what was going on.
The Anglican Diocese of Grafton received a number of claims in 2006 about widespread abuse at the home between the 1940s and 1980s.
The commisssion heard that investigations to support the inquiry had revealed that Bishop Slater, who had led the diocese since 2003, failed to deal properly with the abuse.
The revelations included not referring details of complaints to police, and pressuring complainants to believe they had no options for financial compensation.
Bishop Slater said in a statement, reported by News Ltd, that he was ‘profoundly sorry’ and apologised to those concerned where his actions ’caused hurt and undue distress and pain’.
The bishop said he was ‘relieved that any outstanding matters are now being dealt with through the appropriate channels’.
News Ltd reported that Bishop Slater had for several years resisted claims the Anglican Church was legally liable for the abuse of boys and girls over four decades at the home.
But in his statement on Friday he acknowledged the abuse took place at the hands of ‘staff at the home, visiting clergy, members of holiday host families and other residents’.
Photographer Richard ‘Tommy’ Campion welcomed the bishop’s resignation saying he was pleased but that he ‘should’ve been removed from his position of trust years ago’.
Mr Campion told News Ltd ‘he’s been a thorn in my side, he’s ruined my life’ and that he had written a letter every week for 12 months to the bishop which went unanswered.
Mr Campion said he believed the royal commission would expose the truth about institutional sex abuse and that he did not have much trust or faith in the church.
‘I believe that they have to apologise to the royal commission and to the children, and that way they’ll be forced to finally tell the truth,’ he said.
The commisssion was told the diocese began settling claims with compensation in 2007 but Bishop Slater revealed on Friday that some further claimants, who came forward between 2008 and 2011, were told the diocese was ‘no longer willing to make financial settlement’.
In his statement the bishop said this was in breach of protocols established in 2004 which also stipulated that claims of sexual abuse should have been passed on to a diocese-appointed professional standards director to ensure complaints were managed and investigated in a way that provided support to complainants.
The diocese last night appointed Archdeacon Gregg Ezzy as its administrator.