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.
This statement applies to all persons holding a position of authority within the church, and all congregations, presbyteries, organisations, and committees within the church. It is our commitment to dealing with abuse within the church.
This policy statement relates to abuse as defined in Breaking the Silence. It does not apply to any other forms of abuse, grievance or personal injury claim.
The following constitutes the church’s Code of Conduct for behaviour for a person in a position of authority within the church:
Where specified provisions cannot be followed in an emergency, the circumstances of the emergency and the actions taken should be reported to and approved by the supervising body. Where the actions taken are not approved they will be considered to be a breach of the Code of Conduct.
Any breaches of this Code of Conduct for any reason will be reported to the appropriate supervising body as soon as possible. The supervising body will then report the matter to the CPU.
Breaking the Silence 2015 replaces all existing policies and processes in place in the church. This includes previous editions of Breaking the Silence and any policies and processes.
Breaking the Silence acknowledges that some organisations, such as schools, pre-schools, childcare centres and hospitals, within the church may wish to establish or have already established policies and procedures for dealing with and preventing abuse. These organisations may seek to become an approved organisation and thereby be exempt from the provisions of Breaking the Silence.
Breaking the Silence applies to anyone with a position of authority within the church, paid or unpaid, and to all those who work with children and young people. Breaking the Silence applies in the Presbyterian Church of Australia in the State of New South Wales including the Australian Capital Territory, in the State of Western Australia, in the State of Tasmania, Presbyterian Inland Mission and APWM.
The Conduct Protocol Unit has been established by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in New South Wales as an expression of the Church’s commitment to providing all congregations, presbyteries and affiliated organisations with the best possible support, advice and resources in relation to abuse matters more broadly.
The CPU serves the Presbyterian Church of Australia in:
The CPU receives complaints and allegations of abuse and misconduct within the Presbyterian Church and affiliated organisations and has oversight of handling and responding to these complaints.
The CPU also ensures churches are compliant with child protection requirements by delivering and providing support regarding BTS training.
The CPU team comprises of the following positions:
Director, Jon Flood
Responsible for working with churches and ministry organisations by supporting, training, providing advice on matters of abuse and overseeing compliance to child protection requirements.
Administration Manager, Courtney Chan
Responsible for all administrative matters including the Working with Children Check and SRE authorisation, and BTS compliance.
Training and Communications Manager, Elissa Donnellan
Works to update, revise and deliver Breaking the Silence training and improve communication between churches and CPU. Elissa also assists with administrative tasks related to WWCC verification and SRE authorisation.
Case Manager, Vera Buvcevska
Provides support and advice on matters of abuse. Vera is also a trained Social Worker.
The Presbyterian Church of Australia’s General Assembly met in September 2019 and has issued the following formal apology to victims of sexual abuse in the Church:
With deep sorrow the Presbyterian Church of Australia apologises to all who have been affected by sexual abuse through their involvement in the Presbyterian Church of Australia.
Sexual abuse of a child is appalling and wickedly violates Christ’s words, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
It is a breach of trust to those who have taken part in church activities, to their families, and to the wider community. We regret the hurt caused when our response as a church has denied or minimised the pain that victims have experienced or caused them to experience further pain.
The Presbyterian Church has taken steps to respond to child sexual abuse.
The Presbyterian Church of Australia in NSW is served by The Conduct Protocol Unit (CPU) and is fully committed to Breaking The Silence.
If you or someone whom you know has been the victim of sexual abuse in the Church, contact the CPU on 96909325.
Please be assured that you will be heard and that your confidentiality is assured.
THE CHURCH’S RESPONSE
Policy & Code of Conduct
Conduct Protocol Unit
SERVICES WE PROVIDE
RESOURCES & TRAINING
Make a report
Who needs to report
What is reported
Who to contact