Anglican Church "deeply ashamed" of responses to child sexual abuse

17 Mar 2017

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The Royal Commission public hearing into the Anglican Church of Australia in Sydney (AAP)

SBS World News Radio: It's been revealed more than 1,000 complaints have been made alleging child sexual abuse in the Anglican Church in the last 35 years.

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It's been a momentous day for many who suffered sexual abuse as children and those who have supported them throughout the years.

The highest levels of the Anglican Church were at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse hearing in Sydney to witness the release of data showing claims of abuse.

It was revealed that between 1980 and 2015, 1,082 people alleged incidents of child sexual abuse in 1,115 reported complaints made to 22 Anglican Church dioceses.

569 alleged perpetrators were identified.

Counsel Assisting the Commission Gail Furness told the hearing the average time between abuse and reporting of the incident was 29 years.

"Where the gender of people making a complaint was reported, 75 per cent were male and 25 per cent were female. The average age of people who made complaints at the time of the alleged abuse, was 11 years of age for both girls and boys."

The Anglican Church of Australia has admitted its failures in the past.

It made a landmark apology to survivors of abuse in 2004, and now senior members are trying to impress that there is further appetite for change in the church.

Australia's most senior Anglican, Archbishop of Melbourne Philip Freier, said he was shocked at the Church's failings, but that he accepted them.

"We are deeply ashamed of the many ways in which we have let down survivors, both in the way we have acted and the way we have failed to act."

His dismay has been echoed throughout the Anglican community.

Anne Hywood is the General Secretary of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia.

She has acknowledged the church did not adequately protect children in its care.

"It is clear there were times we did not act as we should and we allowed harm to continue. We did not believe those who came forward and we tried to silence them."

For those fighting for the survivors of abuse, there is frustration over factions within the Church.

Many are blaming the disharmony for contributing to the many years spent covering up the abuse within the church.

One of those people is the former Bishop of Newcastle, Greg Thomson.

An abuse victim himself, and fresh from yesterday's resignation announcement, he is now openly blaming the church's hierarchy for not having what he calls "a galvanised national response".

"I think it's been undermined by tribal interests, vested interests in keeping the jurisdictions of not allowing someone else to come into our territory to tell us what to do."

Archbishop Freier praised Greg Thomson's contribution to helping victims of abuse, but acknowledged he'd been criticised for speaking out against certain members of the church.

"I think that's part of the things that he's experienced and I find that profoundly regrettable."

 

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