Stuart McMillan, President of the Uniting Church in Australia has issued the following Pastoral Statement in response to the Final Report to the government of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Five years after its announcement, Australia’s landmark Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has handed its Final Report to Government.
On this occasion I want to acknowledge the extensive and invaluable body of work produced by the Royal Commission and its staff, and remind all church members of our solemn commitment to child safety that is informed by the Commission’s work.
As Chief Commissioner Justice Peter McClellan AM warned at the Royal Commission’s final sitting, the sexual abuse of children is not just a problem from the past.
Justice McClellan said: “Poor practices, inadequate governance structures, failures to record and report complaints, or understating the seriousness of complaints, have been frequent.”
He went on to say: “If the problems we have identified are to be adequately addressed, changes must be made. There must be changes in the culture, structure and governance practices of many institutions.”
The Uniting Church in Australia will consider the Royal Commission’s Final Report carefully, reflect on its findings and recommendations, and implement measures to deliver the best quality of care, service and support for children.
At this time, I would again like to sincerely apologise to all children in our care who suffered sexual abuse in our church, whether it happened after our foundation in 1977 or before that, in our predecessor churches.
We are, and I am, deeply sorry that we did not protect and care in accordance with our Christian values for those children. I again want to acknowledge the impact that it’s had in the lives of those young people and their families, and to say that I am truly sorry.
We must never forget the courage of survivors who’ve come forward to tell their stories in public and in private. The Uniting Church will continue to work constructively with Government and other stakeholders for a truly national redress scheme, as the most equitable way to support survivors wherever they might be.
Our church’s commitment is that we will seek to make amends and strive to ensure others will not suffer as they have. Our prayers and a determined focus will be required if we are to build a robust culture of child safety.
With the collaboration of Synods and many others across our church, we have begun applying the learnings of the Royal Commission through a National Child Safe Policy Framework. The work of implementation will continue to be resourced into the future through the National Royal Commission Task Group and support staff, who will work to incorporate the recommendations of the Final Report in the weeks and months ahead.
I urge all church members to remain vigilant, to ensure that wherever you are in our church, agencies or schools, you are focussed on child safety. If you are a church member and would like information about safe church training, please contact your Synod or Presbytery.
In the years ahead, may God grant us the strength and wisdom to honour our pledge to be the safest church we can be for children, and for all people in our midst.
President, Uniting Church in Australia
Marrkapmirri means deep affection, love as with a brother or sister, in the Yolŋu languages of North East Arnhem Land.
Discussing these issues can raise difficult emotions and past memories.
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For the full text and including Prayers for personal use or corporate worship – see here