Greater transparency wanted over agreement

A support group for survivors of sexual abuse by priests wants more transparency over an agreement struck with the Catholic Diocese of Dunedin.

But the call by Dr Christopher Longhurst, representing the New Zealand branch of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (Snap), has also triggered an acrimonious exchange with another support group.

Published in Otago Daily Times

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Man continues fights against church

A Melbourne man is fighting to hold the Catholic church accountable for three clerics and a teacher who sexually violated him as a boy in Otago. Marc – RNZ won’t use his surname – has come back to New Zealand to give evidence and to beg the Royal Commission to weigh in on his second bid for some kind of justice. Phil Pennington reports.

Listen the the story

By Morning Report
Published in Radio New Zealand
11 October 2019

Catholic bishop of Palmerston North Charles Drennan expected to resign

The Catholic bishop of Palmerston North is expected to resign after less than eight years in the job.

Stuff understands Pope Francis has been asked, or will be asked on Friday, to accept 59-year-old Bishop Charles Drennan’s​ resignation. The reasons for the resignation are not known.

Drennan has been the only bishop on the support group known as Te Rōpū Tautoko, which was set up to manage co-operation between the Catholic Church and the Abuse in Care Royal Commission.

Published in Stuff

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Confidentiality clauses: Bishops ‘lack moral leadership’

New Zealand’s Catholic bishops have been accused of lacking moral leadership as church groups decide whether to waive confidentiality clauses in compensation agreements reached with abuse survivors.

Survivor advocates say bishops’ silence on the issue, as the Royal Commission of Inquiry into historic abuse gears up for public hearings, goes against recent edicts by Pope Francis directing senior clerics to build trust with survivors by being transparent and ensuring victims’ voices are heard.

Published in Radio New Zealand

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Royal Commission: Calls for commissioner Paul Gibson to step down

The commissioner embroiled in the latest scandal at the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care says he won’t be stepping down.

Paul Gibson is responsible for the group of sexual abuse survivors who advise the Royal Commission as it investigates historical abuse of children in state and church care.

Yesterday it was revealed that a partner of one of the advisory group members is a convicted child sex offender and has attended gatherings alongside members of the group.

Published in Radio New Zealand

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Sex offender in inquiry meetings: Minister says her hands are tied

Warning: This story discusses issues related to rape and sexual violence.

Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin says she is “horrified” that a child sex offender attended meetings of the inquiry into state abuse of children but that there isn’t much she can do about it.

Newsroom reported on Tuesday that the Royal Commission into state abuse of children allowed a convicted child sex offender into three meetings with survivors.

The man is the partner of one of advisory group members and was attending as a support person. The commission was told that the man needed to notify police ahead of any travel.

Published in Stuff

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Child sex offender’s presence at abuse inquiry ‘sickens’ panel members

Warning: This story discusses issues related to rape and sexual violence.

A member of a survivors’ group advising the Government’s abuse in care inquiry has skipped its latest meeting after revelations her partner is a convicted paedophile.

The Royal Commission of Inquiry into state of faith-based care appointed 18 people, themselves victims of abuse, to a survivors’ advisory group early this year.

Published in Stuff

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Sexual Violence Court pilot shows trial time reduction

A report evaluating the pilot of New Zealand’s first Sexual Violence Court says pilot cases are proceeding to jury trial about a third faster on average than previously.

The evaluation also says that most complainants feel the pilot’s trials are managed in a way that does not cause them to feel retraumatised by the process.

The pilot has been running in the District Court at Auckland and Whangārei since December 2016 for all serious (Category 3) sexual violence cases to be heard by a jury. The pilot set out to reduce pre-trial delays and improve the court experience for participants.

Published in New Zealand Law Society

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Family of George Pell victim ‘beyond disappointed’ at High Court appeal

Pedophile cardinal George Pell has lodged a special leave application with the High Court to try to challenge his convictions for sexually abusing choirboys.

The 78-year-old pedophile remained behind bars on Tuesday as his lawyers lodged a special leave application with Australia’s highest court.

A spokesperson for the High Court confirmed it had received the application through its Melbourne registry, “requesting leave to appeal a decision”.

Published in SBS

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Childhood horrors laid bare as survivors talk of sexual abuse

Tears have taken up residence behind Grant West’s bright blue eyes.

He is 57 years old, a burly Kiwi living in Australia with bleach-tipped hair and a crumpled leather jacket.

By his estimate, he was sexually abused by 60 to 80 men by the time he turned 18. Just two of them faced justice.

His first abuser was his mother, he says. He was 4.

Published in Stuff

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Underfunded mental health services to get funding boost

The government has announced it is boosting the funding of more than 20 existing underfunded mental health services.

It is also allocating $30 million for the creation of new front-line services that will start operating early next year.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Minister of Health David Clark made the announcement in Auckland this morning.

Published in Radio New Zealand

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Catholic Church admits liability for paedophile Gerald Ridsdale’s crimes

The Catholic Church has accepted legal responsibility for the sexual abuse of a nine-year-old boy by notorious paedophile Gerald Ridsdale in a significant case which could open the floodgates for victims seeking compensation.

After denying any knowledge of Ridsdale’s offending before the boy was raped in a confessional box at Mortlake in 1982, lawyers for the church on Friday accepted an amended statement of claim from the victim in the Supreme Court – in effect admitting legal liability for his crimes.

Published in The Age

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Report shows $630 million government funding shortfall for community social services – Press release

The government is underfunding social service providers delivering services that are essential to the wellbeing of New Zealand children, families, whānau and communities by an estimated $630 million a year, an independent study has found.

The study found that the government funds social service providers for less than two thirds of the actual costs of delivering the essential services they are contracted to provide, often for some of New Zealand’s most vulnerable people.

Download the Press Release (PDF)

By Social Services Providers Aotearoa
2 September 2019

Health authorities urged to target growing male suicide

Warning: This story deals with the topic of suicide.

Health authorities are being urged to target a growing number of young men dying by suicide.

Figures released on Monday show 112 of the 685 people to die by suicide in the year to June 2019 were men aged 15 to 24.

More than three in every 10,000 young men aged 20 to 24 died by suicide, and men of all age groups made up 68 per cent of suicides.

Victoria University lecturer Dr Chris Bowden said the high rate was due to the “invisibility of men in previous suicide prevention”.

Published in Stuff

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Suicide rates rise to highest-ever level

Warning: This story deals with the topic of suicide.

The number of suicides in New Zealand has reached its highest-ever level, with 685 people dying in the year to June 30.

That compares to the 2018 road toll where 377 lives were lost.

Published in Stuff

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Kristina Keneally blasts Melbourne archbishop for claiming George Pell is innocent

The Labor senator Kristina Keneally has blasted Melbourne’s Catholic archbishop for his response to Cardinal George Pell losing his appeal against child sexual abuse convictions.

Keneally, herself a prominent Catholic, said she was gobsmacked that Archbishop Peter Comensoli‏ had maintained that Pell was innocent and had questioned whether his victim was mistaken. “It’s distressing for so many reasons,” she told Sky News on Sunday.

Published in The Guardian

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‘He was a witness of truth’: why the judges decided Cardinal George Pell was guilty

On Wednesday, Cardinal George Pell lost his appeal to overturn a conviction of child sexual assault.

Chief Justice Anne Ferguson, Justice Chris Maxwell and Justice Mark Weinberg of the Victorian supreme court published their reasons in a 323-page judgment, along with a seven-page summary.

Ferguson and Maxwell found that the jury’s initial verdict was not unreasonable, while Weinberg, in dissent, said it should be overturned. Below are the excerpts that best summarise why and how that judgment was reached.

Published in The Guardian

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New paper – Circumcision: A controversial topic

In response to concerns expressed within our survivor community, and to foster a more informed understanding of male circumcision as it presents in our contemporary society, MSA commissioned the attached literature review titled “Circumcision: A controversial topic.”

This paper also references another discussion on the ethical considerations of circumcision titled “Genital Autonomy and Sexual Wellbeing”, which has been included in our web Research archive to further inform our readers.

Download the PDF

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Study: The Freedom to be, the Chance to Dream

A study examining the importance of preserving the values and ethos of user-led peer support and self-help in the context of new policies to professionalise peer support.

There is a renewed acknowledgement of the role of peer support in mental health with new government policies calling for the appointment of peer support workers within mental health services. While this is a welcome move, there is also a danger that the values and ethos of peer support, based as it is in self-determination, reciprocity, empathy and shared experience, might be lost given its professionalisation, especially in the context of decreasing resources within the NHS. The report ‘The Freedom to be, the Chance to Dream: Preserving User-led Peer Support in Mental Health’, commissioned by the mental health charity Together and written by Alison Faulkner and Jayasree Kalathil, is based on a consultation with mental health service users and peer support services and their views on these new developments.

Read the full report.

Published in Survivor Research

New child sex charges laid against Cambridge equestrian Andrew Williams

A 52-year-old man charged with the rape of young girls and making recordings now faces seven additional charges as a police investigation continues.

Equestrian Andrew Alan Williams was arrested in May along with his partner Laken Maree Rose, 29, and was charged with indecent assault and unlawful sexual connection with a child.

Williams appeared in Tauranga District Court on August 8 and has been charged with seven additional charges relating to two new, alleged victims. One is a three-year-old.

Published in Stuff

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Priests accused of sexual abuse turned to under-the-radar group

DRYDEN, Mich. — The visiting priests arrived discreetly, day and night.

Stripped of their collars and cassocks, they went unnoticed in a series of tiny Midwestern towns as they were escorted into dingy warehouses and offices. Neighbors had no idea some of them might have been accused sexual predators.

For nearly two decades, a small nonprofit group called Opus Bono Sacerdotii has operated out of unmarked buildings in rural Michigan, providing money, shelter, transport, legal help and other support to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Catholic priests accused of sexual abuse.

Published in Press Herald

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Former Gloriavale member convicted of child sex abuse

A former senior member of Gloriavale Christian Community has been convicted of child sex abuse, the Herald can finally reveal following a long legal battle against court suppression orders.

The man, who has permanent name suppression, pleaded guilty earlier this year to representative charges that he indecently assaulted and had unlawful sexual connection with a young person under the age of 16.

He sobbed in the dock at Christchurch District Court on May 16 as he was sentenced to six months home detention.

Published in NZ Herald

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‘Clearly been a stress element’, Sir Anand Satyanand explains after stepping down from Abuse in Care Inquiry

Sir Anand Satyanand has played down claims that his resignation as chair of the Abuse in Care Inquiry is a sign something is not working with the inquiry.

Yesterday Sir Anand, a former Governor-General, resigned from the inquiry, effective in November.

Speaking on TVNZ1’s Breakfast today Sir Anand said it was simply time for him to step down. Yesterday he was appointed chancellor of the University of Waikato.

“I heard the radio story this morning that this is a crack and a problem,” Sir Anand told Breakfast.

“It’s none of those things … the build up is completed … I’ve made a judgement call that this is a good time for me to step down.”

Sir Anand went on the acknowledge that there had “clearly been a stress element” when listening to accounts of survivors of abuse, but he had experienced similar stress during his professional life.

In a statement yesterday Sir Anand said: “The Abuse in Care Inquiry is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change how New Zealand cares for children, young people and vulnerable adults.

“I am sure, when implemented by Government, this inquiry’s recommendations will see children and young people supported to thrive in safe environments, not abused or neglected.”

The Government is expected to appoint a new chair of the Abuse in Care Inquiry by November.

Published in One News Now
7 August 2019

Data Summary: Child Sexual Abuse (PDF)

This data summary is one of six produced by the New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse (NZFVC) in 2017. The other five data summaries are concerned with Family Violence Deaths, Violence Against Women, Children and Youth Affected by Family Violence, Adult Sexual Violence, and Child Sexual Abuse and Adult Sexual Violence – Perpetration by Gender. This data summary is a collation of publicly available information about sexual abuse and has been sourced from self-report surveys and administrative data sources.

Download the PDF here.

Published by New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse
June 2017

Twenty-plus school teachers struck off after sex-crime convictions over five years

More than 20 teachers have had their registration cancelled after being convicted of sex offences in the past five years.

And more than 330 have had allegations of sexual misconduct made against them.

This year alone, five teachers have been struck off and 82 have faced or are facing allegations.

The Teaching Council provided the number of sex-offending teachers to the Herald under the Official Information Act after a Herald investigation into a teacher who sexually abused children over an almost 30-year period.

By Anna Leask
Published in NZ Herald
11 July 2019

Woman arrested after investigation into sexual allegations at Marlborough Boys’ College

A 37-year-old woman has been charged following an investigation into sexual allegations at a Blenheim school.

Police said the woman, understood to be a former teacher at Marlborough Boys’ College, would appear at the Blenheim District Court on Monday charged with sexual connection with a young person under 16 and intentionally exposing a young person to indecent material.

Published in Stuff

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Alison Mau: State care abuse inquiry’s gang connections the latest hurdle for vulnerable participants

OPINION: Important ideas often stumble on the detail, something the Royal Commission of Inquiry into historical abuse in state care is fast finding out.

A potentially life-changing concept that would hear survivors’ stories without fear nor favour, is finding itself hobbled by the near impossible task of keeping all comers happy and safe.

Published in Stuff

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Family and Sexual Violence Service Provider Update

Kia ora koutou,

Welcome to our newsletter which provides news about the Ministry of Social Development’s work programme to strengthen family violence and sexual violence services.

In this update you’ll find information about:

Psycho-social court support pilot completed

The psycho-social court support service piloted in Auckland over the last 12 months has been completed.

The pilot service provided through Auckland HELP offered psycho-social support and specialist trauma-care and expertise for survivors of sexual violence going through the criminal justice system.

Malatest International evaluated the pilot. The key findings from the evaluation are summarised below.

The evaluation showed the pilot provided survivors with:

  • a sense of empowerment to persevere through the court process
  • an understanding that they were believed and heard
  • psycho-social skills to physically and mentally cope with court processes before, during and after trials.

The pilot provided criminal justice system stakeholders with:

  • a value-for-money service within the criminal justice sector
  • opportunities to better focus on their core responsibilities and tasks within the court system, in the knowledge the court support pilot provided their clients with the support they needed.

The delivery of the pilot highlighted that:

  • although Auckland HELP is based in central Auckland the pilot’s services extended to clients living across and outside of the region
  • the pilot delivered a range of service components for clients throughout all stages of the criminal justice system from service referral through to trial preparation, trial, verdict and any necessary follow up support
  • the delivery of service components and client pathways are complex and non-linear, with continuous support being provided despite potential trial complications like delays, mistrials and appeals.

Feedback from interviews

Quotes from interviews include:

  • “It’s not just about preparing them for [how] the trial is going to be… but also addressing… their experience, what they’re feeling, what they’re going through… Having someone that’s validating and normalising that and also helping prepare them and give them some very tangible skills that they can use while they’re at the court…” (HELP staff)
  •  “A victim was in the stand for three days in the end, and the victim’s mother was needing a lot of support as well and so [CSC] took care of all of that… she’s valuable and really useful at trial… We had a lot going on ourselves, so it meant… we knew the victim and her family were taken care of and [CSC] did a fantastic job there.” (Justice sector stakeholder)

We are currently working to finalise this report with the Malatest team. Once the report is finalised we will publish it on our website.

Find out more about the pilot

Support for the sexual violence services sector

An independent working group has now completed its report on a project to ensure providers are well-supported to respond to the needs of people affected by sexual violence.

Since our last update in May, two more sector working group meetings have been held, where work was completed on the group’s recommendations.

The project’s sponsors – MSD and ACC – have now received the working group’s report which identifies several recommendations to strengthen the support for the sector.

MSD and ACC will now work together to determine the next steps for consideration at a cross-agency government working group later this month.

A further update will be provided in August.

We would like to take this opportunity to again thank the sector working group representatives for their valuable contribution to this project.

Find out more about this project

Upcoming visits to sexual violence providers

We signalled in the last newsletter that we want to visit currently contracted sexual violence service providers to talk about the recent Budget announcement.

In May the Government announced the allocation of $90.3 million to MSD to strengthen support for adult victims/survivors and perpetrators of sexual violence, and their families and whānau. The focus of the funding in the new financial year (2019/20) will be to ensure service continuity.

The meetings will provide an opportunity to reflect on what has been working well, what providers might like to see change, and discuss the opportunities available with increased investment.

We have sent invitations to providers to meet with members of our team between late July and mid-August and are in the process of confirming details.

If you have not received an invitation but are part of the sexual violence sector and interested in contributing to this discussion, please get in touch with us. Email us at and we can arrange to meet with you.

Find out more about the 2019 Budget funding

Safe to talk – finalist in Spirit of Service awards

The national sexual violence helpline – Safe to talk Kōrero mai ka ora – is a finalist in the public sector’s Spirit of Service awards.

Safe to talk provides free, confidential information and support for people affected by sexual violence. People can get advice and support from trained specialists and can be connected to support services in their community.

The Spirit of Service Awards, which are run by the State Services Commission, are an opportunity to celebrate outstanding public services and public sector initiatives delivering great outcomes for New Zealanders.

Between February 2018 and May 2019 Safe to talk connected with over 5,700 people through over 9,800 phone calls, webchats, texts, SMS messages or emails.

Feedback from people who have used Safe to talk is overwhelmingly positive. The first evaluation has shown that Safe to talk is making a difference for people.

People using the service like that they are in control of the process. It creates a space for people to open up and disclose what has happened to them and, when they are ready, be referred to support in their local community so they can continue their journey of recovery. They determine their journey, and when they want to reach out to other frontline support services.

The awards will be announced in September.

Family violence funding approach developed

Over the past year we have been working with providers, communities and other government agencies to develop a new approach to how we fund family violence services.

We have been focused on developing an approach which looks to a future where providers are sustainably-funded and services are whānau-centred, outcomes-focused and integrated.

We heard from people about what needs to change in the current system, in particular to allow services to go beyond crisis management to support long term recovery, helping to enable communities everywhere in New Zealand to eliminate family violence for the next generation.

The themes of what we heard have been incorporated into a new approach, which is now available on the MSD website.

MSD is a member of the wider cross-government Joint Venture to develop new ways of working across government, and with iwi and communities, to reduce family violence and sexual violence through an integrated response.

This funding approach is part of, and will remain responsive to, the work of the Joint Venture.

We will continue to keep you updated.

Update for providers of elder abuse services

Community Law Waikato will be running workshops for providers of Elder Abuse Response Services (EARS) across New Zealand over the next couple of months.

The workshops will focus on legal information and will provide a platform for providers to discuss legal issues and seek advice.

The workshops are intended to complement providers’ existing legal networks and offer an opportunity to providers who have limited access to local legal support.

Community Law Waikato has been contacting EARS providers to determine who is interested in attending the workshops and what content would best meet their needs.

EARS legal helpline

As noted in April’s update to providers, Community Law Waikato is running a helpline which provides legal advice and support to EARS providers.

To access this service, please dial the following phone number followed by the extension:

  • 0800 law hub (0800 529 482)
  • Extn: 212 (or 216 if 212 if unavailable)

The helpline is open 9am to 6pm Monday to Thursday and 9am to 4pm Fridays. You can also leave a message on the weekends.

Please note this service is for EARS providers only; the general public and clients are not able to access legal support through this helpline.

Enhancing elder abuse services

Over the last couple of months, we have been consulting with a number of EARS providers to get an understanding of databases and data practices. From August we will be having more in-depth discussions regarding data practices and opportunities for future data use.

As mentioned previously, our team is looking at how we can further enhance elder abuse services. We are currently finalising a current state report about elder abuse in Aotearoa, with a focus on EARS. We will keep you updated on progress.

New Family Violence Act takes effect

The second phase of changes to strengthen family violence laws took effect on 1 July.

The main changes are:

  • modernising the definition of family violence
  • providing principles to guide decision-making
  • improving the visibility of family violence in the justice system: section 16A of the Criminal Procedure Act 2011
  • naming Family Violence Agencies and removing legal barriers to information sharing between agencies
  • extending Police Safety Orders and increasing support for the bound person
  • improving access to Protection Orders, Property Orders and Safety Programmes
  • protecting victims from offenders on remand: sections 168A and 168B, Criminal Procedure Act 2011

Phase 1 took effect in December last year and strengthened criminal law with three new family violence offences: strangulation/suffocation, assault on a person in a family relationship, coerced marriage or civil union.

Other changes in phase one made it easier for victims to give evidence by a video recording made before a court hearing and give priority to victim safety when deciding to grant bail.

A third phase of implementation will embed two longer-term changes.

Find out more about the changes on the Ministry of Justice website

If you have any queries, about sexual violence service development, please contact us at For queries about the family violence work programme, please contact us at

By Ministry of Social Development
10 July 2019

Whitewashing the truth of why men kill themselves

Imagine the outcry if a man was appointed head of a leading domestic violence prevention organisation? So how come the federal government has just proudly announced a woman, Christine Morgan, as National Suicide Prevention Officer? This is just the latest move by a government determined to deny the fact that suicide is overwhelmingly a male problem, with six out of eight of our daily suicides taking the lives of men.

By Bettina Arndt
Published in Financial Review
10 July 2019

Peer support reduces carer burden

In a world first, La Trobe University research has shown how peer-led support programs for family and friends who provide regular support to an adult diagnosed with a mental health condition can significantly improve carer well-being.

Published in MedicalXpress

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Disparities in police proceedings and court sentencing for females versus males who commit sexual offences in New Zealand

This study investigated whether there are disparities in the way in which police proceed against females and males who commit sexual offences. We explored whether there are discrepancies in the severity of court sentences handed down to female and male sexual offenders. Using police and sentencing data, we compared the proportion of females and males who proceeded to court action once charged with a sexual offence and, separately, the severity of sentencing handed down to both genders. In terms of police decision-making processes, compared to males, a smaller proportion of females proceeded to “court action” for their offences. Furthermore, the severity of sentences handed down to males was greater than those handed down to females, both generally and when the sexual offence could be directly matched. These findings are discussed in the context of gender differences in how these crimes are processed and implications for justice, intervention, and community safety.

For the full article, see Tailor & Francis Online

By Tess Patterson, Linda Hobbs, Nadine McKillop & Kelley Burton
28 March 2019