Anglican Church denies sacking St Paul’s principal Paul Browning over child sex abuse compensation disagreement

Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC [Sydney, Australia]

September 14, 2023

By Kenji Sato

The Anglican Schools Commission has denied claims it fired a popular school principal over disagreements about how to compensate child sex abuse survivors.

Key points:

  • The commission has attributed a “drift in alignment” and disagreements as reasons for the decision
  • Some parents have said they will refuse to send their children to school if the decision to sack Dr Browning is upheld
  • Dr Browning has written to families to thank them for working in partnership with staff

Anglican Schools Commission (ASC) chair the Right Reverend Jeremy Greaves says a “broken relationship” led to the sacking of Paul Browning, principal of St Paul’s School at Bald Hills in Brisbane.

Dr Browning had planned to raise money for child sex abuse survivors by monetising a learning tool, Realms of Thinking, before the commission rejected the idea.

He has been a prominent advocate for abuse survivors, having assisted the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Students turned up to school on Thursday with their uniforms turned inside out in protest, demanding that the commission reverse its decision.

‘Disagreements’ over running school

In a letter to parents, Mr Greaves said he would not explain the specific reasons behind the sacking, saying it would not be appropriate to do so.

He said the church and Dr Browning had had a number of “disagreements” over how the school should be run.

“Essentially it was about recognition of the fact that the relationship between employer and employee had broken, making Dr Browning’s employment untenable,” he wrote.

“For some time there had been a drift in alignment between the leadership of the school and the ASC.

“Disagreement around policy and procedures along with other more fundamental differences in purpose and vision for the school contributed to this.”

Mr Greaves said Dr Browning had been told in March that his contract would not be renewed.

On August 18, the commission also abolished the school council, which had been in favour of extending Dr Browning’s contract for another five years.

Mr Greaves declined to talk with the ABC.

‘Best job in the world’

Dr Browning, in a letter to parents on Wednesday, said he had been told by the commission that Friday would be his final day at the school.

“I would like to thank all the families who have chosen to send their children to this school,” he wrote.

“Your belief in us and your desire to work in partnership with the staff to educate your children has resulted in a wonderful, rich and culturally diverse community.

“To the students: you are the reason I love coming to work each day. You constantly bring joy to my life.

“I only needed to get out of my office and wander into the classroom or stand on the crossing on a Friday afternoon to know that I had one of the best jobs in the world.”

Dr Browning has declined to comment to the ABC.

Parents stand by principal

Annabelle Donovan, whose daughter attends the school, said the community was shocked by the commission’s decision.

She said many parents had said they would refuse to send their children to St Paul’s if the decision to sack Dr Browning was upheld.

“He’s an amazing principal, he stands by what he believes in, he’s a forward thinker, he doesn’t have a fixed mindset, he’s embracing change,” she said.

“A principal can make or break a school, and St Paul’s has been turned around by Dr Browning.”

Apology given for historical abuse

Dr Browning has previously apologised for the school’s historical inaction over counsellor Kevin Lynch and music teacher Gregory Knight, who sexually abused boys at the school.

Lynch worked at Brisbane Grammar School and St Paul’s, where he abused more than 80 boys between 1973 and 1997.

Knight, who has been convicted of indecently dealing with boys in Queensland and the Northern Territory, abused children at schools in several states and was sacked by Brisbane Boys College before moving to St Paul’s, where he sexually abused another student.