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June 1, 2023

Anglican abuse register ‘dysfunctional’

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Hundreds of Anglican clergy accused of sexual abuse could potentially be missing from a national register kept by the church.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse heard on Wednesday that the register was not working.

And the church’s  Australian leader told the inquiry he was powerless to intervene in decisions made by the Grafton Diocese, where he said senior clerics ‘failed to treat [the church’s] procedures with anything but contempt’.

During the last day of the commission’s hearings into treatment of victims at the North Coast Children’s Home, the Anglican Primate, Dr Phillip Aspinall, said he was not ‘like a CEO of the Anglican church in Australia’ and he was not able to intervene in diocesan decisions.

The bishop recommended the establishment of  ‘a uniform, mandatory compensation scheme’ that would make determinations and set penalties on all cases involving churches, government departments and community groups.

Earlier, Martin Drevikovsky, general secretary of the Anglican Church of Australia, said a large number of files had still to be processed and that historical information needed to be entered on the church’s dysfunctional abuse report register.

The register was set up by the Anglican church as a central repository of information about complaints and findings of abuse. It can be accessed by each diocese when someone applies for a job.

In a statement to the commission, Mr Drevikovsky said the Sydney Diocese was reviewing 600 files which had been referred to a lawyer.

Commission chair Justice Peter McClellan also referred him to a statement he had submitted to the hearing saying the Sydney Diocese was reviewing between 70 and 100 files.

‘This is giving me a confused picture, but it sounds to me like there might be hundreds of potential persons who need to be considered as to whether or not they should go on the register,’ Justice McClellan said.

Mr Drevikovsky explained that all dioceses had been asked to review files in response to the Royal Commission and he understood that the Sydney number had been culled and they expected 100 files to contain information that would need to go on the register.

There were also hundreds of files being reviewed in Melbourne and about 50 in the Grafton diocese, which is at the heart of the inquiry because of its handling of abuse claims at a children’s home in Lismore.

He said there were 129 names on the register and they expected to add up to another 40.

The commission also heard how the computerised national register which was expected to be fully operational a month after it was set up in 2008 has still not functioned effectively five years on.

The professional standards directors around the country were said to be very unhappy with the national register as it operated and avoided using it.

The process meant that each director had to review files and upload them onto a netbook. The software was not user friendly and the system often collapsed.

Directors refrain from putting information on the register if police were involved and confidentiality is needed.

– with AAP

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