As the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse held its formal opening in Melbourne, Archbishop Philip Freier said that the Anglican Church of Australia was already gathering material that might be needed by the Commission.

In his Ad Clerum (see below) on 4 April he said that in November last year, when the establishment of the Commission was announced, the General Synod Standing Committee asked Anglican dioceses, schools and social welfare agencies to begin reviewing cases, policies and procedures in preparation for any requirements the Commission might have. Standing Committee had also set up a national Royal Commission Working Group, which includes Melbourne’s Registrar, Mr Ken Spackman.

Standing Committee welcomed the establishment of the Commission and the opportunity it provided for the Church to review its policies, Archbishop Freier continued.

At its opening, the Commission Chair, Justice Peter McClennan, said that as a result of initial enquiries, notices had already been served on “particular bodies” within the Catholic Church and its insurer, the Salvation Army, and the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions for relevant documents.

There were approximately 60 institutions that fall into the areas to be covered by the Commission, he said. They range from churches to schools, child care centres, recreational bodies, state-run residential children’s homes, and government departments and non-government organisations that organised and supervised foster care arrangements.  

Justice McClennan said that the Commission’s start-up costs had already reached $22 million, and running costs “will continue to require the commitment of very significant sums of public money”. With at least 5000 abuse survivors expected to want to tell their stories, it was unlikely it would be able to complete its task by the end of 2015. An interim report is due by June 30 next year. 

The six commissioners will now begin a series of private meetings with survivors before the first public hearing is held later in the year.

Archbishop Freier’s Ad Clerum statement:

Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
You will know that a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, announced in November last year, held its first sitting yesterday in Melbourne.

The General Synod Standing Committee (GSSC) meeting on 17 November 2012 passed a resolution in response to the announcement: reaffirming the commitment of the ACA to the physical, emotional and spiritual safety and welfare of the children in its care; repeating the apology made in October 2004 by the 13th General Synod to all children who have been sexually abused by clergy and church workers of the ACA; welcoming the announcement of the establishment of the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse covering organisations including churches; and welcoming the opportunity the Royal Commission will bring for the ACA to review its policies and procedures to protect children from harm.

The GSSC established a Royal Commission Working Group (RCWG) to assist the Commission in preparing for whatever is required.   The Royal Commission Working Group membership includes the Melbourne Registrar, Mr Ken Spackman. The Standing Committee further resolved that Anglican dioceses, schools and social welfare agencies should conduct reviews of cases and policies and procedures in anticipation that information from such reviews would be required by the Royal Commission.

Our care for the victims of child sexual abuse is paramount at this time which is certain to be difficult for all those whose lives have in any way been affected by any instance of such abuse.
 

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