Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in the Newcastle Anglican diocese day two | live blog

Commission hearing day two. Picture: Jeremy Piper
Commission hearing day two. Picture: Jeremy Piper

Follow what happened on day one of the royal commission here.

Wednesday, August 3 


Thank you for joining us for day two of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in the Newcastle Anglican diocese. We will be back with live coverage from 10am, Thursday, August 4.

You can follow and get involved with the conversation on Twitter by using the hashtag #shinethelight.

Day two wrap up

  • Pamela Wilson was a Wallsend parishioner who was made aware of Father Peter Rushton’s sexual abuse of a young boy. Bishop Alfred Holland was made aware of the matter, she told the commission that Holland said it was all lies and that Rushton would never do such a thing. Holland does not recall having this conversation.
  • Reverend Roger Dyer gave evidence about his time at the parish, he spoke out publically about the child sexual abuse including at the Synod in 2010. He brought a motion without notice and requested the diocese accept the negative impact of sexual abuse allegations upon the work of the ministry in that diocese. He told the commission there were attempts to stop him from speaking at the Synod by Paul Rosser, David Battrick, Christopher Bird and Stephen Pullen, archdeacon of Newcastle. 
  • Bishop Holland confirmed he had no knowledge of the child sexual abuse criminal proceedings against Stephen Gray during his time as Newcastle Diocese bishop. Bishop Holland was questioned about a character reference he produced for Stephen Gray to help him move on in life.

Herald journalists Joanne McCarthy and Ian Kirkwood give a quick three-minute wrap of today’s proceedings:


The second day of the hearing has finished. We will have a wrap up soon.

Return to Bishop Holland giving evidence 


Mr Watts, legal representative for Keith Allen is now questioning Bishop Holland. The questions will be in relation to Stephen Gray.

Holland is describing Gray’s “sexual difficulties”.

Mr Watts, legal representative for Keith Allen

Mr Watts, legal representative for Keith Allen

Watts: “You don’t mean that he was gay, do you?”

Holland: “Oh, no, no, no, no, not at all.”

Watts: “The fact is that you did appoint him to Wyong?”

Holland: “Yes I did, not knowing about those sexual problems.”

A letter has now been tendered from Keith Allen on the letterhead of a firm he was a partner in, addressed to Bishop Appleby.

Watts says it appears that Holland replied to that letter, even though it was addressed to Appleby.

Holland says he was approached by Allen to write a reference for Gray, but he had never seen this letter before.

Watts said that at the time Holland was writing the reference, he must have understood that Allen was representing Gray in criminal proceedings.

Holland said he only understood that when Allen had suggested that he put at the bottom of the reference “I would ask that you would consider this reference when determining this matter” and that he then presumed it was a sentence hearing. Holland says he did that at Allen’s request.

Once again, Holland has denied that Mr Allen told him about the child sex charge. 

Watts: “I’m putting to you that Mr Allen made you aware of the nature of the criminal charge that Stephen Gray was facing and that is the basis for why he said you should de-licence him?”

Holland disagrees once again.

Watts has asked Holland what his memory is like now? Holland is unsure how to answer that question.

Watts has asked Holland why he would have travelled to Wyong if he was leaving “the Gray matter” to Keith Allen.

Watts has asked Holland if when he was speaking to Mr Allen, he offered to go to court personally to give evidence on behalf of Stephen Gray. Bishop Holland denies that claim.

Watts questions Holland’s de-licencing of Gray, and asked whether Holland was aware that Gray was apparently working in Victoria for the church. However, Holland said he was not aware and the last he heard was that Gray was “mowing lawns, something like that” and that Holland never took “any more interest in Stephen Gray”.

Watts pushes the question again, asking Holland if he knew Stephen Gray was being dealt with by the court in relation to a charge of having homosexual intercourse with a person under 16?

"I did not know it had involved child sex abuse,"

Bishop Holland.

Watts: “It is the case that when Mr Gray had been dealt with by the court, you became aware from either reading correspondence or speaking to Mr allen, that it was his view that Newcastle diocese should write to all Australian bishops advising them not to employ the former rector of Wyong without contact with the Newcastle diocese first. That happened, didn’t it?”

Holland: “Oh right. That’s possible, I don’t know.”

Holland adds at the end:


“The harming after child through sexual abuse is in my opinion an ugly and grotesque thing and there is some evidence in the New Testament prepatrators are beyond redemption,"

Bishop Holland.

Barrister for Paul Gray, CKA and CKG, O’Brien is questioning Bishop Holland.

He has been asked about the Sugarloaf Youth and Community Association, which was opening in February 1984. Holland told the commission he had to memory of the centre.

O’Brien asks if anyone had raised concerns about the conduct of Father Arthur Bridge. Holland says no.

O’Brien says the conduct was raised to Holland by CKY directly in late 1984. Holland says he had no knowledge of that.

Holland: “Arthur Bridge eventually left the diocese and he applied to be received into the Roman Catholic Church”.

A letter has been produced.

Letter is dated 25 September 1984, and CKY has resigned under protest after a meeting with Holland, Arthur Bridge and the parish council.

O’Brien: “Does that letter remind you that CKY was indeed a licensed lay person within the Anglican Church?”

Holland: “If you say so.”

The letter advises Bishop of CKY’s resignation under protest as a Synod representative for the parish and eucharistic assistant to the church. O’brien asks if Holland remembers why CKY was resigning. Holland tells the commission he can not remember.

Holland continues to push that he has no memory of any of this.

O’Brien: “I want to suggest to you that this meeting came out of concerns raised by CKY with your auxiliary Bishop Richard Appleby in relation to the conduct of Arthur Bridge?”

“Do you recall ever having any discussions with your auxiliary bishop about Arthur Bridge’s conduct within the church?”

Holland says “he might have done,” but he can’t recall them now and had no memory of them.


Bishop Thompson’s Barrister Gyles is questioning Bishop Holland.

Bishop Holland said he sought Keith Allen’s advice after Stephen Gray absconded from Wyong parish.

Bishop Thompson’s Barrister Gyles.

Bishop Thompson’s Barrister Gyles.

Holland did not agree that there were a range of sanctions available to him to deal with Gray. He removed Gray’s licence, but did not depose.


"What I was told was that there had been a wild party in the rectory, it had been a gathering of homosexuals, and it had turned nasty and they trashed the rectory. That's what I thought it was all about,"

Bishop Holland.

He is being questioned about the one occasion Keith Allen gave him advice, in relation to Reverend Stephen Grey.

Holland: “I said to him ‘What do you think we should do?’”

The bishop told the royal commission Mr Allen said he should remove Mr Grey’s licence.

“Then he said something like ‘You don’t need to worry about this. I’ll look after it and you need not be concerned’,” Bishop Holland told the commission.

Bishop Holland said he was not aware Mr Allen was acting for Mr Grey as a lawyer in a criminal case in which Mr Grey was accused of child sex allegations.

A NSW Police document was tendered as an exhibit indicating a report of “homosexual intercourse with a male over 10 to 16”.

The document is dated February 12, 1990 and relates to Stephen Hatley Grey.

Sharp: “I’ll suggest to you this is a police report created on 12 February, 1990 that records an allegation of Stephen Grey committing the act of homosexual intercourse with a male 10 to 16 years. You say you weren’t aware of the nature of the allegation at that time?”

Holland: “I only knew that there was some sexual difficulties with Grey when I saw the letter from Bishop John Reid from Sydney who in that letter said he had spoken to me beforehand about Grey’s sexual difficulties.”

Bishop Holland denies knowledge of this letter. Justice McClellan is questioning Holland’s denial of knowledge about Stephen Grey, because Bishop Reid’s letter refers to an earlier conversation about Grey’s problems with his sexuality.

Holland: “I have no memory of it and I’m really saying if I haven’t got a memory of it, I didn’t have that conversation with him.”

"I informed you in good faith that I believed that his [Grey] problems with his sexuality had been resolved. This tragedy has now struck,"

Bishop Reid wrote in his letter to Bishop Holland.

Sharp: “Bishop Holland, you would accept there is a difference between something not happening and you not remembering it?”

Holland: “In theory, yes, possibly, but not about this particular issue.”

“I have no memory of him saying that to me.”

Tendered is a confidential letter from Holland to Keith Allen on May 31, 1990, in which Holland says “Is this the sort of thing you want or would you like to guide me into other areas that I could write about?”

Another document is tendered. It is a draft letter from Bishop Holland to Mr William Keith Allen, solicitor acting on behalf of Stephen Gray.

Tendered is a draft written reference for Stephen Gray, in which he starts “I am happy to provide one.”

The letter makes it clear Holland knew Keith Allen was a lawyer, representing Stephen Gray.

Holland: “I thought it was a general reference for Keith - sorry, for Gray, in order to start a new life and I wrote it in that sort of spirit.”

Justice McClellan: “So are we to understand that you asked what were the criminal proceedings?”

Holland: “I did not, no.”

McClellan: “So you were prepared to write a reference without knowing what the criminal proceedings were all about, is that right?”

Holland: “Yes, I think so, but I didn’t, I really didn’t know when i wrote this letter, i didn’t know there were criminal proceedings taking place.”

Further in the draft letter, Bishop Holland says “Until this incident that he had been charged his record at Wyong was exemplary”.

Holland told the royal commission he thought Gray was in trouble for trashing the rectory.

Ms Sharp is now tendering the final version of this letter written by Bishop Holland, addressed to Keith Allan, solicitor acting on behalf of Stephen Hatley Gray.

“All I knew I was trying to give Gray a reference that would help him settle back into secular life,"

Bishop Holland.

Holland: “I think I was probably moved more by a desire to help Gray in his future life.”

Ms Sharp has suggested Holland was “perfectly aware” that Stephen Gray had been charged with a criminal offence.

"Bishop Holland, are you suggesting that as the leader of your diocese you wold write a letter for one of your priests without having any understanding of what that letter was to be used for and what it was the priest was alleged to have done?"

Ms Sharp.

Sharp: “Isn’t that seriously remiss of a person in the position of the bishop of a diocese.”

Holland: “it could be said so, yes.”

Sharp: “well, it is seriously remiss, isn’t it?”

Holland: “Yes, I think probably I should have taken more care.” 

Justice McClellan: “The effect of what you’re telling us is that Mr Allen didn’t tell you the whole story, do you understand?”

Holland: “That is probably so, yes.”

McClellan: “The effect of what you’re saying, do you appreciate this, is that he deceived you, do you understand that?”

Holland: “I hesitate to say so, but I think that must be the case.”

A letter addressed to Bishop Richard Appleby written by Keith Allen, regarding Stephen Hatley Gray has been tendered.

The letter refers to a Gosford District Court matter. The letter reads:

Former assistant bishop Richard Appleby .

Former assistant bishop Richard Appleby .

“We believe that there will be no press present when the matter is dealt with. Counsel acting have asked whether it is possible that you could give a written reference for him.”

Naomi Sharp is now questioning Bishop Holland.

Ms Sharp asks if Bishop Holland is suggesting that his assistant bishop at the time, Bishop Appleby failed to notify him of the matters relating to Gray.

She has just asked Bishop Holland if he has been advised to say he has no memory of events he is being questioned about.

Holland has just repeated his denial that he knew anything about Gray’s child sex offences.

Sharp: “I suggest to you that you knew perfectly well that you wrote a character reference for him for use in those proceedings.” 

“No, I’ve made all these decisions myself. I haven’t seen this letter before,”

Bishop Holland.

Holland: “No, I did not.”

Sharp has asked Bishop Holland once again if he is telling the truth. Bishop Holland said he was telling the truth.

Holland has just been shown Stephen Gray’s resignation letter, dated February 11, 1990.

Sharp: “Have you ever been made aware of a suggestion that Stephen Gray’s letter of resignation was deliberately dated to precede the police report of his misconduct even though he did not resign until after the police matter had been reported?”

Holland: “I only know now that the police report was on the 12th, this letter was on the 11th.”

Sharp: “Does it strike you as remarkably coincidental that the letter of resignation is dated one day before a report is made to the police about Rev Gray’s misconduct?”

Holland: “No.”

He is now being questioned about Rev Dyer’s evidence, he was told Rushton was moved to the Maitland parish because “things had become hot for him” in Wallsend.

Sharp asked Bishop Holland if Peter Rushton was moved from Wallsend to Maitland because of allegations of child sexual abuse. Holland replied “no, absolutely not”.

A future witness at the royal commission, CKR, will say she lived at Morpeth College in 1979 while her husband was undertaking theological studies. She will say that while she was there there were rumours about priests “who might fancy little boys”.

Bishop Holland denied hearing about any rumours in relation to this.

Sharp has brought back the statement of Pam Wilson, who alleged Holland rang her after she raised concerns with others about Peter Rushton and James Brown. Mrs Wilson alleged a priest and his wife came to him in 1980 and 1981 and alleged Rushton sexually abused their little boy.

Counsel assisting Naomi Sharp during day two of the Newcastle royal commission.

Counsel assisting Naomi Sharp during day two of the Newcastle royal commission.

Sharp: “Do you agree that those people did make that report to you?”

Holland: “No, I do not agree.”

Sharp: “Do you say that that assertion is completely wrong?”

Holland: “Yes.”

A file note between Mr Allen and John Cleary on February 11, 2015 was produced.

Sharp: “It’s recorded Allen is intending to obtain a medical certificate for former Bishop Alfred Holland, that he is in no fit state to give evidence to the royal commission.”

Holland: “Yes, I read that.”

Sharp: “Did you have any conversation in 2013, 2014 and 2015 up to now about a medical certificate with Mr Allen?”

Holland: “No I did not.”

Sharp: “Do you see that the second dot point is that Allen has previously advised as Hollands legal adviser that he would be advising Holland to say he cannot recall anything.”

Holland denies this and says that he only saw Allen as a friend and sent him a Christmas card.

An email is produced from Bishop Holland to Bishop Farran dated 20 October, 2010.

Sharp asks Holland once again if he was telling the truth. Holland says he was.

Holland has again denied having a conversation with the priest and his wife about Rushton sexually abusing their child, or others.

“It has quite taken the wind out of my sails because Rushton was a punctilious priest, known and respected widely throughout the diocese, and popular among his fellow priests I have, hither to, had a sense of pride that the diocese seemed to have a clean sheet about abuse, unlike other places. Perhaps, you will keep me informed if further allegations are made? Again, my thanks for keeping me in the loop,"

Bishop Holland wrote in his letter.

Holland is once again asked if he is telling the truth, he says he is.

Sharp: “And it is your evidence that you never, during your tenure as bishop, heard any suggestion whatsoever as to any allegations that Peter Rushton sexually abused children?”

Holland: “That’s right.”

Sharp: “Do you accept that in view of the prolific sexual offending of Peter Rushton during your tenure as bishop, the fact that you had no inkling about it means something was seriously remiss in the management of your diocese?”

Holland: “No. I had no knowledge at all that there were any of these allegations.”

Reverend Roger Dyer gives evidence


The hearing is back on after a short recess.

Dyer is now being questioned about the minutes of the second day of the 2010 Synod. Dyer said his motion was moved, but the minutes do not show a record of it. “It was seconded by another priest. I think there are many people in this room who would verify that that speech was made,” he said.

Reverend Roger Dyer has concluded his evidence.


Mr Dyer has asked for a short recess which has been granted.


Counsel assisting Naomi Sharp is questioning Dyer about standing orders for Synod regarding notices of motion. The motion read:

“No member shall bring any subject under consideration of the Synod unless it appears on the first day’s business paper or supplementary list or unless by permission of a two-thirds majority..”

Dyer had earlier given evidence that there was a strong vote supporting him raising his notice of motion, in which he wanted to raise the issue of child sexual abuse in the diocese, including Rushton and the need to support professional standards director Michael Elliott.

Counsel assisting Naomi Sharp.

Counsel assisting Naomi Sharp.

The royal commission has just shown the minutes of the Synod, which starts:

“The Newcastle Herald has carried prominent stories on three successive days this week publicising serious allegations against a high profile priest of this diocese who died in 2007, and by implication suggesting the existence of other members of the clergy engaging in similar activities. Further, in yesterday’s story, the allegation was made that the diocese has known about these allegations for decades.”

Dyer said “the elephant in the room” was the fact that Rushton was not named.

Reverend Roger Dyer outside the courthouse on day two of the royal commission in Newcastle.

Reverend Roger Dyer outside the courthouse on day two of the royal commission in Newcastle.

The minutes went on to note Bishop Farran’s address to Synod:

“I have acted to assure both the people who have related heir accounts to me (some of whom praise God are still worshiping members on the Anglican Church) and the wider community that we are a transparent church and that we will not keep shameful secrets. As a jesult priest-psychologists once wrote, ‘we are as sick as we are secret’”.


Bishop Peter Stuart’s Barrister McLaughlin  is now questioning Mr Dyer.

Mr Dyer has admitted that he was bullied by Bishop Stuart once in his office and once on the foreshore of Newcastle beach.

McLaughlin  for Dyer: “I’m going to suggest to you there was no bullying and harassment (from Bishop Stuart) and the topic of those conversations was primarily about your health and wellbeing?”

Bishop Peter Stuart’s Barrister McLaughlin .

Bishop Peter Stuart’s Barrister McLaughlin .

Dyer: “That is not correct.”

Mr Dyer agreed that after the two meetings “there was actually a positive relationship”.

McLaughlin makes My Dyer aware of an email exhcange between Mr Dyer and assistant Bishop Peter Stuart. The document was tendered immediately before the start of proceedings after lunch.

The email is from Mr Dyer to Bishop Stuart and states “I have had time to think about our conversation 29th July and I note the following: that you use used the term ‘psycho therapeutic health’ regarding my levels of anxiety. You asked whether i was currently taking any ‘psycho therapeutic drugs...I believe that because of the general line of our discussion and your specific questions and concerns, it would be wise for me to get an independent psychiatric assessment. I will arrange that immediately.”

Dyer is now being questioned about an email in which he described “the spirit of openness and trust” of his meetings with Bishop Stuart, and whether that accorded with his description of “aggressive” meetings.

Bishop Stuart wrote an email to Dyer in response, in which he stated: “My primary concern yesterday was your pastoral health and well being. I am concerned, lest there be any misunderstanding that we are clear that the complex pastoral issues in any parish including Wallsend, will often take a long period to work through”.

Dyer said he was not aware that Bishop Stuart later recommended to Bishop Farran that Reverend Dyer return to work.

Reverend Dyer has told the royal commission that diocese business manager John Cleary said the diocese was trying to get rid of him, but he had no other conversation with anyone else along those lines.

Reverend Dyer is now being questioned about the 2010 Synod meeting and why he felt he was being stopped from speaking about child sexual abuse and Peter Rushton.

He agreed “the elephant in the room” that hadn’t been discussed in Synod was Rushton, given that the Newcastle Herald had run articles in which the diocese acknowledged Rushton was a child sex offender.

"No presumption, I was told that there was no room for me in that diocese,"

Mr Dyer.

Dyer is being asked by Ms David why he felt he was being thwarted from speaking.

Dyer: “There was running from seat to seat in the body of the Synod between Father Bird.. and Battrick and there was a fair bit of noise from them and a person who I now learn is Mr Rosser, the Chancellor, sort of all said ‘No’.”

Dyer: “Archdeacon Pullen .. was trying to stop me from going up the stairs.”


We are back from the lunch break. Rereverend Roger Dyer is continuing to give evidence, and is answering questions from Barrister for Bishop Farran, Mr Hazlewood.

Dyer was asked why it was so important that an allegation that he had verbally abused someone at an aged care facility, and a finding that it was not substantiated after an investigation, was made public.

Dyer said an allegation against a priest strikes to the heart of their ministry, and “needs to be given episcopal support that you are conducting yourself properly”.

"You must appreciate that if a priest is moved from interstate, that person has no home to go to, they are in an incredibly vulnerable situation if their licence is removed or revoked and they have no where to turn,"

Ms Dyer.

Dyer said the bishop’s private support needed to be made public.

Moving on to questions about Peter Rushton.

Dyer said that by late 2007, after Rushton died, he was aware of rumours and hearsay that Rushton had sexually abused children. He was aware, and had contact with, a victim called CKV. 

Mr Hazlewood has asked Dyer why he wanted Bishop Farran to act on the allegations. Dyer said he had been laughed at and mocked in his own parish because he had taken the stand of seeking the bishop’s permission for the interment of Rushton’s ashes.

Mr Dyer said Bishop Farran could have removed Father Catt’s licence to officiate. 

"I had an absolutely horrid time merely for raising that and I was under so much pressure you can't imagine,"

Mr Dyer.


The commission is breaking for lunch. Here is a recap of what has happened so far this morning:

  • Pam Wilson, a Wallsend parishioner gave evidence about her contact with Father Peter Rushton in the 1970s.
  • Bishop Alfred Holland denied being told by a priest that his child had been sexually abused. He said the relationship between a bishop and his clergy was one of trust in each other and that he assumed that if the work was going on, there was nothing wrong.Holland said he only knew Rushton was a serious child sex offender because of media reports.
  • Mr Dyer said he had been trying for a long time to get Bishop Farran to acknowledge in the diocese the sexual abuse by Peter Rushton. After Dyer spoke out about the child sexual abuse allegations, Bishop Stuart said “there was to be no place for me within the diocese”.

You can join in the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #shinethelight.

Some reactions on social media:

Reverend Roger Dyer gives evidence


Barrister for Bishop Farran, Mr Hazlewood, now questioning Dyer.

Dyer has just confirmed in 2011 he was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.

Mr Dyer says he wrote to Bishop Farran asking that the parish delay the ministry program but no conversation was had about this with Mr Dyer. He said it was discussed in his absence.

Dyer was asked by Mr Hazzlewood, if he was struggling with his workload at the time,

He has told the royal commission that Bishop Farran “made his displeasure with me known”.

Mr Dyer said a sign had appeared at the church asking people to come forward with any allegations of abuse on behalf of priests. 

Dyer talked of an internal investigation that occurred after the sign went up at the parish asking people to come forward with child sex abuse allegations.

He said there were then allegations in the parish that he had verbally abused people at the aged care home.

Barrister for Bishop Farran, Mr Hazlewood.

Barrister for Bishop Farran, Mr Hazlewood.


He is now being questioned by barrister Mr Booth representing former Newcastle Anglican Chancellor Paul Rosser, QC.

Mr Booth is asking Rev Dyer about the 2010 Synod meeting where Dyer brought a motion without notice, close to the conclusion of the Synod, and where he alleged there was an attempt to stop him from speaking by a group including Mr Rosser.

Booth has put to Dyer that he was stopped from speaking because it was a breach of standing orders to put a motion before the Synod, without notice.

"I was coping with the workload, but I wasn't coping with the undercurrents and the issues of sexual abuse,"

Mr Dyer.

Dyer has agreed “that could well be the case”.

Booth: “Maybe you were emotionally attached to this motion because of the elephant in the room?”

Dyer: Oh, that would be an understatement.


Barrister Mr Booth representing former Newcastle Anglican Chancellor Paul Rosser, QC.

Barrister Mr Booth representing former Newcastle Anglican Chancellor Paul Rosser, QC.

Mr Dyer is being questioned by a barrister for a child sex victim, CKA.

Mr Dyer befriended Father Allan Cole who introduced him to one of the clergy, CKC.

Justice McClellan asked Mr Dyer if he had formed a view, without being told by CKC that there was misbehaviour.


Anglican priest Roger Dyer is now giving evidence.

In 1996-97 Mr Dyer was a priest at the parish of Nhill. He came in contact with a priest called Stephen Hatley Grey.

Grey told Mr Dyer Grey told him things about his child sex activities.

Mr Dyer said he was not aware that Rushton was promoted to be the archdeacon of Maitland.

He told the hearing that he believed he was a different “ilk of priest” from those who trained at Morpeth.  He said that while he holds to the Catholic faith, it was in regards to creed and practice at worship for him.

Mr Dyer tells the commission of one instance where he was told that a family had been “absolutely destroyed” by Rushton where the three children were turned against each other and parents against children because one of them had alleged that Rushton had interfered with him.

Mr Dyer is giving evidence about a conversation he had with a victim of Rushton’s.

Sharp was asked if a priest, CKW, had also engaged in sexual activity with people. Dyer responded and said that he had appeared in the rectory and came up behind victim, CKV, with an erect penis and rubbed it over his back.

Mr Dyer tells the hearing that within the first six months of his time at the parish, he saw that there was awry in CKV’s life and CKV broke down after Rushton’s death.

Women who cleaned Rushton’s house told Mr Dyer about finding condoms in his house and laughing that he was “celibate”.

“I would have to say that Rushton was generally revered by the congregation that had survived in Wallsend. He was very highly regarded,” Mr Dyer said.

"Roger, it was only masturbation,"

Mr Dyer.

A prominent undertaker, John Murray, “made it clear that he was very well connected with Dean Lawrence and the powers that be in Newcastle”.

Mr Murray wanted Mr Dyer’s consent to disperse Rushton’s ashes in the church.

Mr Dyer said he had grave concerns about that and suggested Mr Murray get Bishop Farran’s consent.

"There was a rumour about Rushon sending love letters to children who were servers or being prepared for confirmation,”

Mr Dyer

Mr Dyer said he went away on holidays and Father Christopher Bird and others contacted Mr Dyer’s warden. “They interred his ashes… and none of us had any knowledge it was going to happen.”

Mr Dyer talked about Father Bird’s membership with the Society of the Sacred Cross, whose members want to be reunited with the Roman Catholic Church.

“They are absolutely opposed to women participating within the life of the church. They’re just a very exclusive little group,” Mr Dyer said.

Mr Dyer said he believed Peter Rushton was a member.

Mr Dyer was asked if he raised allegations about Rushton with anyone. Mr Dyer says the parish was nominated to become involved with a program, but Mr Dyer remembers telling Father David Batrick that the parish was not ready.

Roger Dyer giving evidence at day two of the royal commission.

Roger Dyer giving evidence at day two of the royal commission.

Mr Dyer told Father David of the sexual allegations and assumed he would communicate them to the then Bishop Farran. 

Mr Dyer said Bishop Farran came to see him in 2008.

“I said how irregular I found it for a priest to be interred in the church building and he replied that he didn’t find that unusual. He expressed his own desire to be interred within the cathedral,” Mr Dyer said.

Asked if he spoke to anyone else senior in the diocese about Rushton and others, Mr Dyer said: “No, and I must confess I had just come from a difficult patch in the diocese of the Murray and did not want to get involved in another bun fight in the church with a bishop.”

When a healing service was held at St Luke’s Church at Wallsend, Bishop Farran did not mention Rushton by name, “and only preached about abuse of power”, Mr Dyer has told the royal commission.

Sharp to Dyer: “Was it your perception that Bishop Farran was not prepared to acknowledge publicly the abuse by Peter Rushton at that time?”

Dyer: “Yes, I believe so.”

Mr Dyer says that he knows now that Father Batrick was acting against him.

"This parish is not ready, there has been serious sexual abuse which is gradually being uncovered,"

Mr Dyer.

The commission heard about how Mr Dyer knew Bishop Peter Stuart. Mr Dyer said that his warden at the time, CKV, had told him what happened while Mr Dyer was on leave including that they had started accepting payments from the diocese and that it would be best if he would cease his work as a priest.

Dyer has told the royal commission he experienced “pressure” coming from Bishop Farran and others.

Dyer said he felt he was “being seriously undermined within the parish”.

As a result, Mr Dyer spoke out publically about this. One time was at the Synod in 2010, where he brought a motion without notice and requested that the diocese accept the negative impact of sexual abuse allegations upon the work of the ministry in that diocese.

"I had been trying for a long time to get Bishop Farran to acknowledge in the diocese the sexual abuse by Peter Rushton and to take steps towards healing,"

Mr Dyer.

The continued pressure placed on My Dyer made him go on sick leave.

Reverend Dyer has told the royal commission there were attempts to stop him speaking at the 2010 Synod.

He said Paul Rosser, David Battrick, Christopher Bird and Stephen Pullen, archdeacon of Newcastle, tried to stop him from addressing the Synod.

He said Mr Pullen attempted to physically stopped him from going up the stairs to present the motion, at which point he called Mr pullen “the Bishop’s boy” and pushed him to one side.

When he spoke, he was given a standing ovation. After leaving the Synod one of the clergy said to him that they thought he had seen a very brave man fall. 

Dyer said he phoned a former assistant Bishop of Newcastle, Bishop Graeme Rutherford, seeking his guidance and support for a new appointment.

“He told me to leave the country,” Dyer said.

"I faced a pretty aggressive interview, a very aggressive interview, at the hands of Bishop Stuart. I was told that I wasn't performing properly, that the records indicated that I was not getting the parish going properly. At one stage he said that he was concerned what I might say with no reference to any subject,"

Mr Dyer.

Dyer has told the royal commission Bishop Stuart said “there was to be no place for me within the diocese”.

When Mr Dyer went to the Diocese of Bathurst, he was subject to rumours that implied he had committed criminal acts in the Diocese of Newcastle. The commission heard he was undermined by senior members of the Anglican Church because of their connections and relationships with those who had tried to cover up the allegations in Newcastle. Mr Dyer said this led to a situation where he was asked to resign and forced to go onto a small salary continuance policy.

Early in 2013, before he was placed on salary continuance, he made applications to several dioceses including Canberra-Goulburn, Bendigo, Ballarat and Sydney. One told him that there was no place for him.

Dyer said he felt “totally alone and alienated” in 2014 after a discussion with Michael Elliott.

“I asked Michael whether he agreed with bishop Farran’s assessment of me that I was ‘high maintenance’ and he said he did agree, and further to that he said I “Didn’t get on in parishes’.

Given the work we had done, this was “crushing,” Dyer said.

“By speaking out I have lost the opportunity to exercise my vocation which is devastating to me. I cannot get another paid position.”

“It is my firm belief that the Anglican Church has been adversely affected across Australian by the actions of paedophiles,” Dyer said.

 Mr Dyer was asked if he would give any information of the vice squad detectives who are saird to have behaved in an inappropriate manner. However, Mr Dyer said he lived in fear and terror to this day.

“A personal observation of mine is that the priests involved in paedophilia in the Newcastle diocese is they were all connected with Morpeth college,”

Mr Dyer.

Bishop Holland gives his evidence


"I have been ostracised and my reputation and credibility have been damaged. By speaking out I have lost the opportunity to exercise my vocation which is devastating to me,"

Mr Dyer.

There are issues getting documents to Mr Holland in Sydney, the commission will stand down his statement and move on to another witness.


Herald journalist Ian Kirkwood has written a piece on what has happened so far during day two of the hearing, you can find it here.

"Most significantly, I am saddened that the demise of the Anglican Church and the crisis it is in as a consequence of its failure to acknowledge and act in child sexual abuse matters,"

Mr Dyer.


The hearing is taking a morning adjournment.

Watch some of the questioning of Bishop Holland below.


Sharp is now questioning Holland about Suzan Aslin’s evidence from Tuesday’s royal commission hearing.

Mrs Aslin said in 1979 she received a phone call from Holland and she discussed with him her concerns about Brown and Rushton fostering boys from St Alban’s Children’s Home.

Holland denied making the call.

Sharp asked asked Holland if Professor David Frost made him aware of concerns that Mrs Aslin had expressed about Peter Rushton and James Brown fostering boys. Holland denies that ever happened.

Sharp: “Well I suggest to you that it did and you are not telling the truth to this commission.”

Holland pauses and stutters in his response and says “I did not make a call to Mrs Aslin”.

Sharp asks Holland if Mrs Aslin’s account was a figment of her imagination. Holland replied with: “Well, I can’t speculate on that, can I? I don’t know. But it didn’t happen to me.”

Justice McClellan has asked what Holland would have done if someone did come to him with allegations that the priests were fostering boys from the home.

Holland: “If there had been no allegations  against them, i would have assumed they were making - doing an act of mercy, to look after homeless boys.”

McClellan: “If you had been told they were fostering boys from the home, would you have thought it part of your responsibilities as bishop to ensure that the arrangements that were in place were appropriate?”

Holland: “I’m sorry to keep repeating this, but I would not have made any inquiries of a priest fostering boys if there had been allegations of sexual abuse against him.”

McClellan: “If you were in the position of bishop today, and it came to your knowledge that two of your priests were living in circumstances where they were fostering boys from a home, would that raise any concerns?”

Holland: “I’m not sure.”

Sharp has asked if Holland believes Rushton sexually abused a large number of boys? Mr Holland apologies for “not following”.

Sharp: “As you sit here today, do you believe Peter Rushton sexually abused a large number of boys while he worked in the diocese of Newcastle?”

Holland: “Today, yes, I suppose the answer to that is yes...Only because I’ve watched some of the media and the media says that these things happened, and I just assumed that they must have happened.”

Sharp: “As you sit here today, do you believe Peter Rushton sexually abused a large number of boys while he worked in the diocese of Newcastle?”

Holland: “Today, yes, I suppose the answer to that is yes.”

Bishop Alfred Holland giving evidence during day two of the royal commission.

Bishop Alfred Holland giving evidence during day two of the royal commission.

Sharp has asked Holland if Bishop Richard Appleby ever raised child sex allegations with him involving priests.

Holland: “No.”

Sharp has asked if Holland had any involvement with St Alban’s Children’s Home at Cessnock.

"Given the fact that there is so much talk in the media of child sexual abuse and I seen two men fostering two boys, I would have had a suspicion that, that was not a thing that could be appreciated,"

Mr Holland.

Holland: “No.”

Sharp: “At any time during your tenure as bishop, did you become aware of allegations that sexual abuse was rampant at St Alban’s?”

Holland denies ever being informed of allegations of child sexual abuse against priests that he had licensed.

Holland: “Oh absolutely not, no.”

Bishop Alfred Holland has just repeated that he did not receive one child sex allegation involving a priest in Newcastle Anglican diocese during the 15 years he was bishop from 1978, and while a number of child sex offender priests were in the diocese.


Bishop Alfred Holland is about to give evidence via audiovisual link.

Bishop Holland was Anglican Bishop of Newcastle between 1978 and 1992.

Mr Holland says he has not spoken to Keith Allen since Mr Holland left Newcastle except for sending one Christmas card.

Counsel assisting Naomi Sharp has asked what role Mr Allen played in the diocese.

“A member of the diocesan council. He may have been a trustee. He was also chairman of the Anglican development fund.”

Bishop Holland denied receiving advice from Mr Allen, apart from one occasion.

Bishop Holland has denied discussing the royal commission with Mr Allen.    

Rushton appointed archdeacon of Maitland in 1983 by Holland.

Counsel assisting Naomi Sharp. Picture: Jeremy Piper

Counsel assisting Naomi Sharp. Picture: Jeremy Piper

Holland appointed Graeme Lawrence Dean of the Christchurch Cathedral in 1984 - a position of leadership within the diocese.

Naomi Sharp: “Is it correct if there was a complaint of misconduct against a priest,it would be dealt with on an ad hoc basis?”

Holland: “Yes, that would be right.”

​Mr Holland told the hearing that that if there were two priests allegedly involved and if one was the abuser and other was a victim, he would have automatically brought the two priests in and discussed the matter with them.

“I couldn’t possibly have left something of that go by, but it didn’t happen,” he said.

Holland denied being told by a priest that his child had been sexually abused.

Naomi Sharp: “Is that the truth, Bishop Holland?”

Former Newcastle Bishop Alfred Holland.

Former Newcastle Bishop Alfred Holland.

Holland: “It is the truth. It is the truth.”

Sharp: “While Rushton was priest in charge of Wallsend and archdeacon, did you ever become aware of any suggestion that he had behaved in a sexually inappropriate way with boys?”

Holland: “No.”

Sharp: “were you aware Peter Rushton would foster boys from St Alban’s from time to time?”

"He [Peter Rushton] was a very popular priest. He was at Wallsend when I arrived. he seemed to be competent and well respected,"

Mr Holland.

Holland: “No, I wasn’t”

Sharp: “Were you aware that from time to time Rushton had young boys living with him at the rectory?”

Hllland: “No, I wasn’t.”

Holland was asked if allegations against Rushton came as a complete and utter surprise.

Holland: “It did. I think the first I heard was media reports about 2010, I think, and I was shocked and horrified.”

“I have no recollection of any allegations of child abuse being made at any time,"

Mr Holland

Justice McClellan has just started asking Holland questions.

McClellan: “You licensed rushton which allowed him to have access to children?

McClelland: “Do you accept any responsibility in having failed to exercise your management responsiblities effectively?”

Holland: “I don’t acknowledge responsibilities because I didn’t know any allegations had been made against Rushton.”

McClellan: “But do you think you should have been in a position to know what a person such as Rushton might be doing?”

Holland: “Well, I’m not sure. There were 70 parishes in the diocese of my time and 80 priests. I didn’t have a close relationship with many of them and I certainly didn’t have a close relationship with Rushton.”

Holland has admitted he had a direct management relationship with Rushton.

McClellan: “That’s the point Bishop you see. You knew nothing, yet we know of course that he was engaged in multiple, multiple, criminal acts, don’t we.”

Holland: “What I’m trying to say is that the relationship between a bishop and his clergy was one of trust in each other and I trusted the priests to do their work because of the promises that they made to God, not to me, and I just assumed that if the work was going on well, there was nothing wrong.”

Holland said he only knew Rushton was a serious child sex offender because of media reports.

Sharp: “Do you agree that something was seriously wrong in your management of the diocese given that you say you had no inkling that Rushton was sexually abusing children?”

Holland: “No, I don’t think that follows.”

Holland has repeated his denial of being told by a priest that Rushton had abused the priest’s child.

“I wouldn’t have sat and done nothing about it,” he said.

Sharp: “We have evidence that he did come to you and make this disclosure to you. Are you sure, you deny, that disclosure was ever made to you?”

Mr Holland said he “absolutely denied” that any disclosure was ever made to him. He said that if he knew there were allegations against Rushton, he would never have appointed Rushton to any role.

Holland said his checks of Rushton before appointing him to the archdeacon’s position were into his competency, and he did not check on his personal life. It would have been “an abuse of his natural rights”.

Holland said he granted a licence to James Michael Brown to be a lay preacher in the diocese, although he never met him. Holland isn’t sure if he issued the licence on Rushton’s recommendation. Brown is in jail on a 20 year sentence after sexually abusing 20 boys.

Scripture teacher, school teacher and pastohral care trainer Pam Wilson speaks


"I knew nothing about allegations made about Rushton,"

Mr Holland.

Day two of the hearing has started with witness Pam Wilson speaking.

Pam Wilson is a Wallsend parishioner giving evidence about her contact with Father Peter Rushton in the 1970s.

Mrs Wilson was a scripture teacher, teacher and pastoral care trainer.

"I just believed he was a good man," she said.

In the 1980s Mrs Wilson had contact with a priest and his wife and a discussion about their son.

The wife described what happened when she found her little boy on the bed in their house.

"He described to the best of his ability what Father Peter had done."

James Michael Brown.

James Michael Brown.

Mrs Wilson said the parents told her their son had been interfered with by Rushton.

Mrs Wilson said they had gone to see Bishop Alfred Holland.

"They told me Bishop Holland didn't believe them. Bishop Holland said it was lies and Rushton would never do a thing like that. I was horrified when I heard this. I thought bishops shouldn't be like that. I spoke to them a few times over the next few months and I decided to write a letter to Bishop Holland."

"He was curled up like a ball and he was crying,"

Ms Wilson.

Mrs Wilson said she received a phone call from Peter Rushton.

He told her he knew she was going to write a letter.

He said to me: “I want you to destroy it immediately because if you don’t you’ll get a solicitor’s letter sent to you quicker than you can turn around.”

In 1981 Ms Wilson moved to Waratah parish and got to know the Munns family.

During her time there, the priest, Munns and Ms Wilson had a conversation where Munns asked “you think Rushon is a homosexual don’t you?” Ms Wilson replied, “Yes”. He said, “you’re wrong, he’s a pedophile”.

Mrs Wilson said reading about the church’s acknowledgement that Rushton was a child sex offender in a Newcastle Herald article in 2010, “Made headlines for Anglicans”.

Mrs Wilson said she left the church.

"Well, evil rides around the church,"

Ms Wilson


The current bishop of the Anglican Diocese Greg Thompson left this message to the Diocesan community last week.


Newcastle Anglican Bishop Greg Thompson was at day one of the hearing.

Newcastle Anglican Bishop Greg Thompson was at day one of the hearing.

Welcome to day two of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in the Newcastle Anglican diocese. We will be live blogging throughout the day again with regular updates from Joanne McCarthy and Dominica Sanda. 

You can join in the conversation on Twitter by using the hashtag #shinethelight.

Day one recap:

  • There was a full court room for the first day of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in the Newcastle Anglican diocese with lawyers and members of the public standing.
  • Today’s hearing focused on Father Peter Rushton and St Alban’s youth worker James (Jim) Michael Brown
  • Evidence was given by victims Paul Gray and Phillip D’Ammond and Suzan Aslin, the mother of an abuse survivor
  • Abuse survivor Mr Gray broke down in tears as he told the comission that on many occasions father Peter Rushton would cut Mr Gray’s back with a small knife and smear his blood on his back – which was symbolic of the blood of Christ –  as he continued to rape him
  • In an emotional speech, Mr D’Ammond told the commission Jim Brown would take him out during the day to do normal things like going shopping and working on his hot rod, but at night Jim would assault Mr D’Ammond
  • Mrs Aslin and her son Ian went to dinner at Jim Brown’s house, where Mrs Aslin found stacks of pornographic magazines under Mr Brown’s bed
  • Counsel assisting Naomi Sharp said it was expected that former archdeacon Colvin Ford would tell the commission that he perceived that Rushton was protected by the gang of three.
This story Live coverage: Day two of the Newcastle child sexual abuse royal commission first appeared on Newcastle Herald.