Abuse in Care: Church’s dedicated phone line not connected
On Thursday, Bishop of Auckland Ross Bay was questioned about the Church’s confidential phone line for raising any concerns or complaints, especially relating to claims of abuse.
He explained that when someone phoned the line it would be answered by a senior staff member, who would pass a note to himself to be actioned.
“Are you confident that if you dialled that number now you would get the diocesan manager?” Inquiry counsel Katherine Anderson asked.
“Yes,” responded Bay.
“I just want to test that, because would it surprise you to know when we have dialled that number it goes through to a number unobtainable?” said Anderson.
She asked Bay to take out his phone, dial the number, and put it on loudspeaker so the Royal Commission – being livestreamed – could hear.
“The number you have dialled is not currently allocated to a phone,” a recorded message said.
“I can only express I am highly embarrassed by that,” said Bay.
“It is of concern somebody seeking to reach out might receive that as their initial response,” Anderson said.
Bay said he agreed he didn’t know how long it had not been connected, and that they needed to improve their processes.
“There’s no question that one of the issues that we have recognised we need to address across the church as a whole is consistency of approach and redress.”
Earlier, Bay apologised on behalf of the diocese and thanked all survivors who had come forward and spoken of their abuse.
“I hope this process gives you the strength to share your suffering so that the Anglican church has the opportunity to not only make it right but also to learn from these instances of abuse and neglect.
“I apologise on behalf of the diocese to all those that have been in any way abused or neglected while in our care.”
In December the Commission heard of abuse endured in Auckland Anglican institutions, including at Dilworth College, and Saint Mary’s Home for Unwed Mothers, where young women had been forced to give up their babies for adoption.
Bay said Dilworth School was entirely an independent school, and he was unable to comment.
He specifically apologised to the women who shared their experiences at St Mary’s.
“I apologise for the lack of care shown in placing your daughter with a family that was not appropriate and who ultimately treated your daughter badly.”
Overall Bay said they had disclosed 18 complaints, and those 18 complaints relate to 12 different clergy in the period concerned.
There were separate complaints through other institutions also, including the Anglican Trust for Women and Children, but he was not certain about numbers.
Bay said his role of investigating complaints while also caring for the very pastors at the centre of them was “a difficult space to occupy” with “almost impossible demands”.
‘This is not how the church should treat survivors of abuse’
On Thursday the Commission also heard from Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch, Peter Carrell, who apologised to survivors of abuse, saying it was “unacceptable”.
One of those was Christchurch-born Ms M – whose name is legally protected – who in December spoke of how she and her late sister – who came to be known as Janie – were both raped and violently assaulted while in a foster family arranged through Anglican Social Services from 1969 to 1974.
Ms M was again sexually assaulted only years later, aged 16, by a reverend in a family who would go on to legally adopt her.
In both situations, authorities were aware of abuse, but made no efforts to intervene to protect the girls.
“I wish to apologise unreservedly for the placement that resulted in her abuse,” Carrell said.
“And for the failure to follow-up on the placement.
“I also want to apologise for the unacceptable experience Ms M had when she contacted the Anglican Church in 2010 and received no response.
“This is not how the church should treat survivors of abuse.”
Carrell said he was aware of 13 reports of abuse involving the Diocese, ranging from verbal harassment to rape.
Asked specifically about abuse at Christ’s College by Royal Commission counsel Simon Mount, Carrell said there had been “about 30” calls of at least “unsatisfactory experience of life at that school” by old boys.
He admitted there was no formal appropriate process for those former students to be sure their complaints would be addressed.
One of those survivors was Jim Goodwin, a former Christ’s College student who in December spoke of the abuse he suffered in the 1970s at the school, and lack of accountability from the church.
He previously said he accepted the Anglican church’s desire to improve, and hoped the Commission would ensure that happened.
“It is hard telling my story, but I feel privileged I have had the opportunity, and I want other people to come forward. I want to hear them.
“If telling my story encourages other people then that is great.”
• To register with the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care phone 0800 222 727 or email email@example.com. More information can be found online.
Where to get help:
• 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP) (available 24/7)
• YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633
• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
• KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757 or TEXT 4202
• NATIONAL ANXIETY 24 HR HELPLINE: 0800 269 4389
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
Published in Star News
18 March 2021