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More than 1,000 people alleged incidents of child sexual abuse to Australian Anglican dioceses over 35 years, Royal Commission told

More than 1,000 people alleged incidents of child sexual abuse in complaints made to 22 Anglican dioceses in Australia over the 35 years to the end of 2015, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was told on Friday.

Gail Furness, SC, senior counsel assisting the inquiry, said that 1,082 people alleged incidents of child sexual abuse in 1,115 reported complaints to the 22 Anglican dioceses between January, 1980, and December, 2015. The highest number of complaints – 371, or 33 per cent – were received by the Diocese of Brisbane, a figure Ms Furness said should be seen in light of a requirement from the diocese that all Anglican schools within its jurisdiction report complaints of child sexual abuse to them. The Diocese of Adelaide received the second highest number of complaints over the period – 155 – and the Diocese of Melbourne the third highest – 89.

Seventy-four percent of all complaints involved alleged child sexual abuse that started in the period between 1950 to 1989 with 25 per cent of first alleged incidents taking place in the Seventies. Three-quarters of complainants were male and the average age at the time of the alleged abuse was 11 years while the average time between the alleged abuse and the date a complaint was made was 29 years.

Some 569 alleged perpetrators were identified of which 247 were ordained clergy and 285 were laypeople while the religious status of 37 was not known. Ninety-four percent of alleged perpetrators were male.

Ms Furness also told the commission that 459 complaints to Anglican dioceses resulted in a payment with the total reaching $31 milllion at an average of $67,000 a payment.

Meanwhile, in a statement released last Friday, Archbishop Philip Freier, primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, said Anglicans had been “truly shocked and dismayed” at the scope of the church’s failure to tackle child sexual abuse and the “depth of the survivor’s pain and suffering”.

“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,” he said. Archbishop Freier also expressed his “personal sense of shame and sorrow at the way survivors’ voices were often silenced and the apparent interests of the church put first”. 

Archbishop Freier said that since the Anglican Church of Australia apologised for its failures in 2004, the church had improved in many areas but was “striving still”, welcomed guidance and assistance, and eagerly awaited the Royal Commission’s recommendations. “There is a pronounced appetite for change inside the Anglican Church. We are determined to apply best practice so that the church is a truly safe place for children.”

The news comes a month after the inquiry was told more than 4,400 people had alleged incidents of child sexual abuse to the Catholic Church in Australia between January, 1980, and February, 2015.

The Royal Commission is due to report to the Australian Government late this year.


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