In 1994 the Wood Royal Commission into the NSW Police Service was given a specific reference to investigate and report on paedophilia and pederasty in New South Wales. The churches came under the spotlight in the Commission’s investigations, and were in the most part found wanting in their failure to protect children from abusers in the church. The Presbyterian Church of New South Wales was commended for the policy already in place, known as Breaking the Silence.
Breaking the Silence was adopted by the General Assembly in 1997, and revisions were adopted in 1998. This represented a very significant step towards understanding and dealing with the problem of abuse within the church in New South Wales, the ACT, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia.
Since then there have been significant developments in child protection legislation, mandatory and voluntary reporting procedures, the participation of offices such as the Ombudsman in monitoring investigations of allegations, the involvement of government departments responsible for caring for children, such as Community Services, and the development of Commissions for Children and Young people in various States and Territories.
Breaking the Silence in its present form is intended to address these issues and provide all congregations, Presbyteries, organisations, and committees within the church with a comprehensive tool to meet our legislated obligations and the Presbyterian Church of Australia’s Code of Discipline.