'Profound disappointment': Anglican dioceses fail to agree on sex abuse policy

The Anglican church has failed to achieve a nationally consistent approach to child sexual abuse due to lack of consensus between its 23 dioceses, a royal commission has heard.

The inquiry into how the church has responded to child sexual abuse was told a national body was established to develop child protection standards that were enacted by the general synod in 2004.

Not all dioceses have adopted the Professional Standards Commission's models or have only partially implemented them over the past 13 years, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse heard.

Garth Blake SC, a Sydney barrister and chairman of the church's Professional Standards Commission, told the hearing the inaction left him "deeply" troubled.

"Part of the strategy ... of the Professional Standards Commission has been to try and develop best-practice policies," he said.

"What we have seen over the past 13 years is that they have not been picked up by all dioceses and that's a matter of profound disappointment to me.

"We have made a lot of progress but the fact that there is this fragmentation has led to ... different standards of care around what should be core minimum standards."

Data released by the royal commission shows almost 1100 people alleged they were sexually abused as children in Anglican institutions, with 22 out of the 23 dioceses identified in the report.

The data shows 64 complaints of child sexual abuse related to alleged incidents in the 2000s and 18 related to alleged incidents in the 2010s.

Commissioner Robert Fitzgerald told the hearing the lack of consensus among the dioceses was "almost inexplicable".

"It seems astonishing that the Anglican church is still not not capable of putting aside relatively minor differences to come to a common approach," he said.

Audrey Mills, a member of the Anglican Professional Standards Commission told the hearing that dioceses retained autonomy under the church's constitution.

"Diocesan autonomy is something which each diocese very much values, seeks to retain, and that has been a real barrier," she said. "It is almost embedded in the culture."

Ms Mills told the commission that a nationally consistent approach to child protection would be discussed at an upcoming meeting of the general synod.

"There has been a lot of change but there is still work to be done," she said.

Assistant Bishop of the diocese of Canberra and Goulburn Matthew Brain agreed there needed to be a common approach to alleged misconduct.

"This particular matter to do with child sexual abuse is of such moment we need to provide clarity around this particular issue and do it as soon as we can," he said.

The hearing before Justice Peter McClellan??? continues.

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The story 'Profound disappointment': Anglican dioceses fail to agree on sex abuse policy first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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