Diocese' love of money failed sex victims, commission hears
DRIVEN by a desire to protect church money, the Anglican Diocese of Grafton "comprehensively failed" victims of child sex abuse and in some cases, damaged them further, the royal commission has heard.
Sweeping reforms to the structure of the Anglican Church are likely after the senior barrister tasked with bringing evidence before last year's North Coast Children's Home inquiry released a damning assessment of its ability to deal with child abuse survivors and discipline the perpetrators.
The landmark inquiry uncovered haunting accounts from former residents of the Lismore home and raised serious questions about the Grafton Diocese response to a group compensation claim and its treatment of the victims involved.
Counsel Assisting the Commission Simeon Beckett found that despite having "sufficient assets to meet the claims of the abused former residents", the Diocese chose to protect its finance rather than provide victims with "appropriate redress".
He went further to say many of the former residents were "treated so poorly that the effect of what should have been a redress scheme, in fact, did more damage to them".
He also found the Diocese had failed to follow protocol which meant the Primate of Anglican Church was unable to direct Bishop Keith Slater to "ensure a fairer and more compassionate approach" to the victims.
The inquiry exposed an internal disciplinary system within the Church, which Mr Beckett found was "so legalistic and cumbersome that some senior members of the Anglican Church are reluctant to depose a member of clergy even where the person has been convicted of serious sexual offences against a child".
In his final submission to the commission this week, Mr Beckett listed 59 findings against the Church and six recommendations for widespread change to its national reporting system and professional standards structure.
The findings were particularly critical of former Grafton Bishop Keith Slater.
In a submission made to the commission on his behalf, Mr Slater's lawyers maintained that while he did not "seek to deflect or minimise the obvious blame which can be attributed to his admitted failures", he continued to "express deep regret and remorse for the hurt occasioned by his personal failings as well of those of the Church".
Mr Beckett acknowledged that the Grafton Diocese had taken "some steps" to improve responses to historic claims of child sex abuse since Bishop Slater was encouraged to resign.
He noted that the group claim was under review and past assessments were being "revaluated".
All complaints raised during the commission have been referred to police and at least one member of clergy could face disciplinary action.
Mr Beckett said it was "too early to tell whether the changes will be sustained and effective to meet the needs of persons who have suffered child sexual abuse".
The commission is expected release it's findings within the next three months.