SEVEN cases of “inappropriate behaviour” in the Bendigo Diocese have been reported to the local Anglican bishop in the past nine years.
Bishop Andrew Curnow said the incidents were reported to him, then handed to the Director of Professional Standards, separate to the church, who considered whether to take further action. Bishop Curnow said he believed one incident had then been reported to police.
It’s understood all of the complaints related to sexual incidents, but Bishop Curnow said only one incident was related to an illegal matter involving a child. Bishop Curnow, who took up the position in 2003, said he supported the Royal Commission into child abuse recently announced by the federal government.
“We believe it’s the best way forward, not only trying to get very clear national standards, and not just with churches, but all organisations dealing with children and people who could be at risk,” he said. “People who felt they couldn’t come speak to the church directly, this may be a catalyst for more people to come forward.”
Mr Curnow said the reported incidents all occurred in the 1970s, and all involved multiple churches and offenders. “They’re more than 30 years old, none of them are current,” he said. “None of them are related to schools; they’re related to different parishes and different people.
“I’m only happy if the victims feel they’ve been listened to and their complaints dealt with fairly, and I think that has happened.”
Bishop Curnow said the complaints were made in Greater Bendigo and beyond, stretching as far as Mildura, the South Australian border, Woodend and Shepparton.
He said it was unclear why it was only alleged sexual assaults from the 1970s that had been reported.
“To my knowledge, and I stress, to my knowledge, they have been handled satisfactorily,” he said.
“I don’t get directly involved in cases because they’re handled by someone beyond me.
“We have no evidence to believe (sexual abuse) is widespread in the Diocese of Bendigo.
“But that’s not to say more people won’t come forward as a result of the Royal Commission.”
Bishop Curnow said there could be more abuse cases where victims went to straight to police that he was not aware of.