Newcastle Anglican Bishop Greg Thompson has welcomed a royal commission inquiry into the Hunter

By Joanne Mccarthy
Newcastle Herald
March 15, 2016

THE Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse will hold a two-week public hearing into Newcastle Anglican diocese in June to expose how more than 30 child sex offenders preyed on children for decades, and whether they formed a possible network with offenders from outside the church.

Newcastle Anglican Bishop Greg Thompson said he welcomed the hearing, from June 20, and hoped it would be held in Newcastle so that “the wider community can understand what’s gone on”.

“I welcome the opportunity for Newcastle to have this important inquiry into the church’s life and into serious matters that have been raised over many years concerning the abuse that took place.

"It provides the opportunity to understand the culture and conduct that allowed perpetrators to work in our church.”

The hearing comes after a tumultuous six years in which the diocese has named a number of former priests and a former “boy bishop” as sexual abusers, has defrocked others after hearings into sexual abuse allegations, has seen a number of youth and church workers convicted of offences, and has issued a number of formal apologies for the diocese’s “shameful” past.

The June 20 start for the royal commission hearing is almost exactly a year since Bishop Thompson delivered a landmark apology to the Hunter region, and later said the diocese believed more than 30 church perpetrators had lived “shadow lives”, and been protected by others.

“The bad apples didn’t just happen. There was a system that protected people and when victims came forward, they were not believed. It’s a scandal,” Bishop Thompson said.

The royal commission is expected to explore Anglican priests include Peter Rushton, who was trained at Morpeth college, sexually abused children for decades from the 1960s, and died in 2007 without being charged.

Rushton’s position on an Anglican board that from the 1980s considered child sex allegations against clergy is also expected to be explored. A Newcastle priest and colleague of Rushton’s, Eric Griffith, was convicted of sexually abusing a child in Bellingen in the early 1990s after he was moved there from Newcastle.

In 2013 the United Protestant Association said it believed an “organised ring” that included Anglican and Catholic clergy who “changed from week to week” visited a Wallsend children’s home and abused children.

A former Anglican employee told the Newcastle Herald he warned a senior Anglican clergyman in 1984 that “you’ve got a network of these bastards preying on altar boys”, but no action was taken.


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