Uniting Church responses to past inquiries into abuse of children in our care

Uniting Church in Australia Values Statement in relation to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

The Uniting Church believes that God has given us the gift of the Spirit to "constantly correct that which is erroneous" in our life (Basis of Union, Para 18). Therefore, we will not hide from the truth, however painful that may be, and we will seek, with compassion and humility, to address whatever issues and challenges may emerge for us. We will say "sorry" to anyone who was sexually abused when in our care and, in consultation with those so affected, actively seek for ways to make amends for what happened in the past and identify how we can best offer support into the future. In all of this we are guided by the Word of God, remembering the teaching of the Apostle Paul: "Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable... think about these things" (Philippians 4:8).

From the beginning of our life together as the people of God within the Uniting Church in Australia, we have sought through prayer, and a spirit of consensus, to discern what it means to confess Jesus as Lord and Head over all things (Basis of Union, Para 3). At the time of Inauguration, the Assembly spoke to the nation in a statement that has guided and encouraged us ever since to be a church that honours Christ in all that we say and do. The statement declared, in part, that "we affirm our eagerness to uphold basic Christian values and principles, such as the importance of every human being, the need for integrity in public life, and the proclamation of truth and justice... We pledge ourselves to seek the correction of injustices wherever they occur" (Statement to the Nation, National Assembly, June 1977).

To adopt such a stance in the life of our nation means that we must be willing to examine our own motives and behaviour and be open to accept the close scrutiny of others. In that regard the Uniting Church welcomes the decision of the Federal Government to establish a Royal Commission on the sexual abuse of children in both public and church institutions, and pledges itself to cooperate fully and honestly with the process the Commission will implement. The sexual abuse of children is criminal behaviour that is totally abhorrent and unacceptable.

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Presbytery and Synod of South Australia statement regarding the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

The Uniting Church in Australia, Presbytery and Synod of South Australia welcomed the decision of the Federal Government to establish a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Royal Commission) and pledges to cooperate fully and honestly with the Royal Commission.

The Uniting Church in Australia has issued a Values Statement in relation to the Royal Commission.

The Uniting Church in Australia National Assembly has convened a National Engagement and Response Task Group to the Royal Commission. All Synods of the Uniting Church in Australia have established Task Groups to work with the National Task Group on Royal Commission matters. The purpose of the Task Groups is to strengthen the capacity of the Church across its Councils, Agencies and schools to engage openly and positively with the Royal Commission.

Links

Purpose:

The Uniting Church in Australia, Presbytery and Synod of South Australia is committed to doing all that it can to provide fair, consistent and compassionate redress for past sexual abuse committed towards children in our care.

This procedure has been developed for addressing complaints regarding allegations of past sexual abuse that have occurred in Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of South Australia (Uniting Church SA) congregations or bodies within the Property Trust or congregations of the Methodist Church, Congregational Union or Presbyterian Church of Australia prior to Union. It does not apply to complaints that have allegedly occurred in separately incorporated organisations associated with the Uniting Church SA.

The procedure facilitates the implementation of the National Framework for Interim Redress Measures approved by Assembly Standing Committee on 21 December 2015 and is to be read in conjunction with this framework.

It is the Church’s first preference to have any application for redress resolved by using this procedure without limiting the Survivor’s right to use legal processes at any time. This procedure is not applicable to situations where the Survivor has current legal proceedings against the Uniting Church.

Principles:

  • The Uniting Church SA recognises that some Survivors of past sexual abuse have not received the support and care that they rightly deserved
  • The Uniting Church SA acknowledges that complaints and/or allegations of past sexual abuse are serious. All complainants will be welcomed and treated with the respect deserved. A compassionate response will be the first priority in all cases of alleged abuse
  • The Uniting Church SA is committed to procedural fairness for all those who lodge allegations/complaints of past sexual abuse
  • All applications will be reviewed in the shortest time practicable
  • The staff who have access to the application and all details surrounding that application will be limited to those required to respond to it

To read more:

UC SA Procedures for the Implementation of the National Framework for Interim Redress for survivors of past (childhood) sexual abuse

Uniting Church in Australia Assembly National Framework for Interim Redress for survivors of past (childhood) sexual abuse.


Apology to victims in relation to the Senate Inquiry into Children in Institutional Care, "Forgotten Australians"

From the beginning of the 20th century the Uniting Church, and its predecessor denominations, the Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational Church's have been responsible for providing care for children.

The Methodist Church provided care through the Magill Children's Home, which was formed in 1904 and changed its name to Lentara in the 1950's, and the Kate Cocks Babies Home formed in 1935. Support was also provided to the Protestant Children's Home in Morialta by the previous denominations. The Uniting Church continues to care for children through the work of UnitingCareWesley.

The Senate Inquiry into Children in Institutional Care heard from many people around Australia who were residents in institutions, and its report, 'The Forgotten Australians', details many cases of severe abuse experienced by children. It also describes the trauma experienced by children who were cut off from their families, and grew up in harsh and unloving conditions.

The President of the Uniting Church in Australia has issued a public apology to any who were abused in Uniting Church institutions, and this has been supported by the Moderators in all Synods. In 2004 the South Australian Synod of the Uniting Church considered the senate report and its findings and made the following decisions:

FORGOTTEN AUSTRALIANS

That the Synod affirm the significance of the Senate Inquiry into Children in Institutional Care and the findings documented in its report "Forgotten Australians", and, in consequence:

1. Acknowledge with sorrow that some children in our institutions experienced:

  • neglect of their social, emotional, spiritual and physical needs;
  • physical violence, sexual or emotional abuse perpetrated by staff who should have been trustworthy;
  • emotional and social trauma and on-going harm;

and apologise unreservedly to these people.

2. Apologise unreservedly to the families of those who experienced abuse in our institutions for the trauma they experienced.

3. Acknowledge those faithful staff who strove to provide secure, safe and loving environments for children and young people in care.

4. Note that through the Children, Youth and Family Advisory Committee of UnitingCareAustralia, UnitingCareis reviewing current practice for handling past abuse allegations and complaints within the agencies in order to advise on the development of a consistent and transparent process, and report back to the full Synod in 2005.

5. Request existing child, youth and family service agencies that currently provide, or have provided institutional or out-of-home care in the past:

a. To issue their own statements, acknowledging the pain and suffering of some residents of their agency's services and expressing deep regret and sorrow that this has been their experience.

b. To ensure best practice in facilitating client access to records and in the provision of support to those affected.

c. To ensure high standards and clear procedures for the provision of quality out-of-home care services to children, young people and families.

6. Request the Federal Government, in the light of the evidence presented within the "Forgotten Australians" report and the recommendations made:

a. To issue a national statement of acknowledgment and apology.

b. To consult with State Governments, Churches and Agencies regarding the establishment and management of a national reparation fund.

c. To develop comprehensive and consistent national standards and accreditation processes for the provision of institutional or out-of-home care, which builds on existing State standards and regulations.

7. Request the Government of South Australia, in response to the "Forgotten Australians" report:

a. To issue a statement of acknowledgment and apology.

b. To co-operate in the establishment of a national reparation fund.

c. To participate in the development of national standards for out-of-home care for children and young people. (S04.42)

To see thePolicy and Procedure for Adressing complaints of past child abuse by former UCA SA employee, please select this link.

If you wish to report an incidence of abuse or inappropriate behaviour you can contact the Safe Church Committee using the contact details to the left on a desktop or below on mobile.