​Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr Philip Freier, today said that he welcomed the opportunity, on behalf of all Anglicans in the Diocese of Melbourne, to appear before the Parliamentary Committee inquiring into the handling of child sex abuse by religious and other non-government organisations.

In his concluding statement to the Committee today he spoke of the Church’s abhorrence for abuse, and his own experiences in dealing with both perpetrators and victims. He reiterated his apology for the pain and misery that such abuse has caused both victims and the broader community.  He also spoke of the courage of those victims appearing before the Inquiry and the value of their testimony as an opportunity for organisations such as the Melbourne Diocese to better understand and continue to evolve its processes for complaint resolution. Moreover, anything that can be done to prevent abuse in the future is to be strongly affirmed and implemented.

Dr Freier acknowledged the importance of the trust and confidence of the broader community in religious organisations and welcomed the Inquiry as a way in which that confidence might begin to be restored, accepting that both the Inquiry and the Royal Commission have impacted on the wider communities’ faith in the Church.

In presenting the Diocese of Melbourne’s testimony to the Inquiry he spoke of the importance of transparent, fair and efficient processes to deal with complaints and of the importance of an organisational culture which did not tolerate abuse in any form, particularly child sexual abuse, which is the focus of the Inquiry. Assisted by the Director of Professional Standards, an independent office established by the Diocese, Dr Freier outlined the development of protocols, procedures and legislation that had occurred since 1994 and the development of the professional standards practices of the Diocese which today govern the accountability of clergy and church workers.

In acknowledging some of the potential recommendations of the Inquiry, Dr Freier urged that the Committee continue to consider the victims’ best interests and that any proposed legislative response not diminish the ability of religious organisations to appropriately develop cultures of zero tolerance, which in his experience was essential in the prevention of abuse.  He welcomed the opportunity for accreditation and external audit processes to be adopted.

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