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

Former bishop Roger Herft is expected to give evidence today.
Former bishop Roger Herft is expected to give evidence today.

Friday, August 12


The royal commission has ended for the day.

Newcastle Herald journalists Joanne McCarthy and Ian Kirkwood summarise today’s proceedings below.

Join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #shinethelight.


The royal commission has resumed after the lunch break.

Archbishop Roger Herft

Archbishop Roger Herft

The Anglican diocese received advice in 1996 from barrister Stuart Littlemore about defamation because of concerns that people lodging complaints of “sexual harassment… may make them liable to a suit for defamation”.

The advice allayed concerns about that risk, Archbishop Roger Herft said.

Herft has confirmed that the chancellor and deputy chancellor provide advice to the bishop, and “only where that advice is requested”.

The royal commission has produced a file note made by former diocese registrar Peter Mitchell from a meeting on May 13, 1998. Attending were Herft, Mitchell, Paul Rosser who was deputy chancellor at the time, and Deirdre Anderson who was chair of the diocesan sexual harassment monitoring committee.

Anderson told the meeting that “if a complaint is not reduced to writing then no further action is taken and this may mean that inappropriate behaviour goes undetected until such times as someone is willing to lodge a formal written complaint”.

Herft has confirmed that was the policy, but “it is not a good risk management strategy at all”.

Justice Peter McClellan: “Anderson is saying .. that your processes that you then had in place potentially left children at risk?”

Herft: “Yes, your Honour.”

McClellan: “That’s what she was saying to you?”

Herft: “I’m not sure of that.”

McClellan: “Ms Anderson is saying to you that that leaves children at risk?”

Herft: “Yes.”

Sharp: “Archbishop Herft, it is right that the chair of the sexual harassment monitoring committee was squarely drawing to your attention that there was a risk management problem here, correct?”

Herft: “Yes.”

Sharp: “And is it correct that you did nothing about that at the time?”

Herft: “Yes.”

Sharp has just asked Herft to say if Paul Rosser’s advice to Herft not to “accept the information or read any reports” about child sex allegations meant “Rosser was advising you to wash your hands of the matter”.

He "was advising you to wash your hands of the matter?"

Counsel assisting Naomi Sharp

Herft gave a lengthy answer, which prompted Sharp to ask again: “But isn’t it right that Rosser's advising you to try and avoid coming into possession of that information?"

Herft: “Yes, that is true.”

Justice McClellan said the legal advice related to concerns that someone might have made a complaint about a priest but did not want action against the priest, which left a dilemma for the bishop.

Herft agreed that was the basis of the advice.

The problem was the advice failed to account for the need to remove the danger of a child sex offender priest and the risk to children, McClellan said.

Naomi Sharp has produced a statement by Jean Sanders, the former chair of the diocesan committee for allegations of sexual misconduct from December 2001.

The royal commission has already heard that Ms Sanders is highly critical of the way the diocese dealt with child sexual abuse allegations at the time.

The diocesan committee policy document says access to allegation records is “restricted to the bishop, commissary or bishop’s representative and the chair of the committee”.

Christ Church Cathedral

Christ Church Cathedral

The information was stored in envelopes – the yellow, gold or brown envelopes we’ve heard so much about at this public hearing.

After another very lengthy answer from the archbishop about where envelopes and allegations were kept, he concluded with the statement: “So it would have been stored in some way, but I can’t answer the question as to how they were stored.”

Sharp: “So you are saying that as bishop of the diocese, you didn’t know how records containing allegations about sexual misconduct on the part of your clergy were stored?”

He said the material was stored in different places at different times.

Ms Sanders said the annual committee budget of $2000 was inadequate and “the size of that budget meant that the committee was only a token effort for dealing with issues of a sexual nature in the diocese”.

Herft: “I don’t think it was a token effort. It was, I think, a real desire to get it right, but we didn’t.”

Sanders said she received anonymous calls from mothers telling her there were priests in the diocese sexually abusing their sons.

Sanders: “They wouldn’t give me details or their names, but they told me their sons had been abused and it had destroyed their sons’ lives. Many said they still had faith in God but they wouldn’t go to church. I told Bishop Herft whenever I received these calls.”

Herft has just denied that this advice put him on “high alert” – and “I don’t intend this to be an excuse in any way” – but the Peter Mitchell fraud allegations left the diocese dysfunctional.

Sharp: “Is it right that very soon after receiving those allegations you reported the matter to police?”

Herft: “Yes.”

Sharp: “In a fraud matter?”

Herft: “Yes.”

Sharp: “What steps did you take, if any, when Ms Sanders made you aware that she was receiving these anonymous complaints from mothers that priests were sexually abusing their children?”

Herft: “I can’t remember, I cannot recall.”

Sharp: “Could it be that you did absolutely nothing when these allegations were raised with you?”

Could it be that you did absolutely nothing when these allegations were raised with you?

Counsel assisting Naomi Sharp to Archbishop Roger Herft

Herft said he “would have” told Ms Sanders to get more information, he couldn’t say exactly what he had said or done.

The royal commission has just heard that Herft received a second copy of all the envelopes with allegations.

Herft is now being questioned about Ms Sanders’ statement that on February 11, 2003 she received a call from a parishioner who said there had been a complaint to Bishop Holland in 1978 or 1979 about Peter Rushton abusing an altar boy at Wallsend.

Justice McClellan is now questioning the archbishop about what he did and the archbishop has given us a few more “I can’t recall” and “I can’t recollect” repsonses.

McClellan: “At the very least you have an allegation made by a priest that Father Rushton was abusing a priest’s son. You had that much, didn’t you?”

Herft: “As I said, your Honour, I can’t recall the exact detail.”

Sharp is now questioning Herft about Rushton and the pornography found by removalists at his house when he moved.

Sharp: “So by the time Ms Sanders reported to you about these allegations involving the priest’s son and an altar boy, you already had in your possession cause for concern about Peter Rushton because of his possession of pornography?”

Herft: Yes.

There was then a question and answer session about what Herft did or didn’t do about Rushton, where Herft answer “I can’t recall”, “I cannot recall”, “I can’t recall that, ma’am”, “No, ma’am, I can’t recall that.”

Herft has agreed that he could have withdrawn Rushton’s permission to officiate as a priest, but denied he “dropped the ball”.

He should have been more alert and “the people around me” should have been more alert, he said.

The royal commission has just heard that the Rushton porn “had been dropped into the diocesan office by someone from the removalists after they had moved Rushton between parishes”.

McClellan: “Did she (Sanders) tell you that?”

Herft: “I can’t recall that.”

Ms Sanders has told the royal commission in her statement that in August 2003 the diocesan council resolved that her committee would no longer deal with matters relating to child abuse and would only deal with complaints of harassment.

Sanders said during the three years she was head of the committee she dealt with 30 or so allegations, and only one referred to sexual harassment or misconduct involving an adult, and the remainder related to children.

Sharp: “Have we got any reason to doubt what she’s saying is correct?”

Herft: “I would trust Jean Sanders with that particular observation.”

Sharp: “You were also made aware of allegations that one of the most senior priests in the diocese for many years, Peter Rushton, had sexually abused children?”

Herft has just told the royal commission that there was “no one who came to me” to spell out the “horrific nature of what was taking place”.

Herft: “I look back every day to ask myself the question, how did I miss this?” 

Sharp: “Well how did you miss this?”

Herft: “I have no idea, ma’am.”

Herft has just denied reviewing the yellow envelopes with Graeme Lawrence, Robert Caddies, Keith Allen and Peter Mitchell.

Child sex offender priest Peter Rushton

Child sex offender priest Peter Rushton

Sharp: “Is there some reason why you weren’t involved in the review of the envelopes from time to time?”

Herft: “I don’t think there was any particular reason. I think again I trusted the persons who were involved in that to advise me if there was anythink in particular that I needed to take to the next stage.”

Sharp: “Didn’t you by this time, that is by 2003 at the latest, consider that you may have a serious problem with pedophilia in your diocese?”

Herft: “Again, ma’am, I did not see it in that light at that stage, no.”

Sharp: “I am just wondering why, in view of all the knowledge you did have, you didn’t take a very keen interest in what was in those yellow envelopes?”

Herft: “I mean the only reason I can give you is that the matters were being handled by the registrar, the legal representative and Jean Sanders, and that they would have kept me aware of matters being reported to the police, et cetera.”

Herft has just given evidence that it was raised with him, late in his tenure as bishop, by a senior diocesan staff member Bruce Hockman, that he had “some worries that the insurance companies had not been advised about whatever the matters were that were in these envelopes”.

Herft has just told the royal commission it was his recollection that he was “never involved in a review of the contents of the yellow envelopes”.

Herft is being questioned about a file note he made after a call from Keith Allen on 12 October 2010 to ask if he was aware he was the subject of a professional standards investigation for non-compliance of his duties while Bishop of Newcastle.

He said the call came from the blue.

Herft has just called Keith Allen “quite a busy body, I think, who liked to sort of interfere in lots of things and one had to keep him at bay, I think”.

Sharp: “Is it right that he telephoned you because the two of you had been involved in the review of the files concerning allegations of child sexual abuse?”

Herft: “No ma’am, that is not correct.”

Sharp has just produced a statement by Robert Wall, who was a leader of an Anglican youth camp. Walls says two boys approached them in 1994 or 1995, and said they had been “sexually interfered with” by Graeme Lawrence.

Wall says he, his wife and a Brother James met with Herft.

Sharp: “Wall said you seemed disinterested in what they were saying and more interested in standing up for Lawrence. They told you that the boys did not want to be named, and you said, if we didn’t come forward with names then this was defamation. You asked to know all of the details and asked for names and they weren’t prepared to disclose those names to you. They said you said to them that if they continued to complain about Lawrence, they would be facing legal action for defamation of character. They also said that they would not conduct youth groups if Lawrence continued as spiritual leader and they say they saw you take notes during this meeting. Did that meeting happen?”

Herft: “Yes, ma’am and I can’t recall all of it”, although he later denied recalling the meeting.

He said his records showed there was a meeting.

Sharp: “Are you saying you have absolutely no recollection of meeting with two youth group leaders who made allegations to you that one of the most senior priests in your diecese had sexually abused two separate boys?”

Herft: “I can’t recall that.”

Sharp: “No recollection whatsoever?”

Herft: “No ma’am.”

Justice McClellan then started asking questions about how Herft responded.

McClellan: “And were you on alert in relation to his behaviour?”

Herft: “The Dean at that stage held a very significant position, as you rightly observed, position in the diocese and in the wider community and for me to proceed with an allegation of this seriousness would have required some, I suppose, evidence would have been important for me to try to pursue the matter.”

McClellan: “The impression we have is that the Dean over many years has had a great deal of support in the diocese, is that right?”

Herft: “Yes.”

McClellan: “Putting it in blunt terms, he was the beneficiary of a significant power bloc within the diocese?”

Herft: “That could be accurate.”

McClellan: “And did you feel unable to effectively respond to that power bloc?”

“I felt that I needed some form of concrete evidence… I would be up against a significant power bloc.”

Sharp has just produced a letter from Herft to Mr and Mrs Wall in 1995.

It says: “Further to your meeting with me I have raised your particular concerns with the priest against whom the allegations were made and he has clearly informed me that as far as he is concerned he not aware of any indiscretion. If the matter is to be pursued further the person who came to you would need to follow the process formally and I enclose the necessary documents which set this out.”

Herft has just been asked if has “any memory whatsoever” of raising the allegations with Graeme Lawrence.

Herft: “I have no recollection of all the detals that they would have brought to my attention.”

Sharp: “Do you have a recollection of meeting with Graeme Lawrence in 1995 to raise with him the allegation that he had sexually abused a child?”

Herft: “I can’t – I cannot recall that particular meeting.”

Sharp: “Are you seriously suggesting to this commission that you have no recollection of raising an extraordinarily serious allegation with one of the most senior priests in this diocese?”

Herft: “I do not have a memory, and I can’t say otherwise ma’am.”

After that explosive exchange the royal commission has adjourned until August 29.


The royal commission has adjourned for the lunch break.


The royal commission has resumed proceedings with the tendering of various documents by countsel assisting, Naomi Sharp.

Archbishop Roger Herft outside Newcastle Courthouse on Thursday after a day of evidence at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse looking at Newcastle Anglican diocese.

Archbishop Roger Herft outside Newcastle Courthouse on Thursday after a day of evidence at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse looking at Newcastle Anglican diocese.

Archbishop Roger Herft is in the witness box about to give evidence.

Herft was Bishop of Newcastle from 6 May 1993 to 26 February 2005.

He has just given evidence that there were “very little records of any form or shape” relating to child sexual abuse when he first started, but “any matters of child abuse should be reported to the police”.

Counsel assisting Naomi Sharp: “Did you understand you had an obligation to report allegations of child sexual abuse to the police regardless of your view of the merits of that allegation?”

Herft: “The answer would be yes but I think there were some conditions attached to it in terms of the process of complaint.”

Sharp: ”What details did you consider you required before you considered you had an obligation to report these allegations to the police?”

Herft: “One was the name of the complainants would have to be known, certainly the name of the respondent (alleged offender) would have to be known.”

Herft said he did not believe he had an obligation to report to the police if he did not know the name of the complainant.

Herft has agreed that if he put a child sex allegation to a priest, it was possible the priest would not tell him the truth.

Sharp has put to Herft that it may not have been enough just to accept a priest’s word of denial.

Herft: “The view that I had of the priesthood was one in which the person who had made the commitment to sacred orders was of such a high calling and calibre that they would seek to tell me the truth and seek to be responsive to vulnerable people and so I had this deep belief that when one engaged with the clergy at whatever level, that there was this sense that there was a sacred bond in terms of their word.”

Sharp has just put to Herft that during his tenure at Newcastle the issue of paedophilia was “well on your radar”.

Herft: “I’m not quite sure of that particular statement.”

Herft said the notion of paedophilia within the church came as a surprise during his tenure at Newcastle after a report on child sex matters within the church in Tasmania.

Herft said there were “no handover discussions” between himself and outgoing Bishop of Newcastle Alfred Holland. There was “some sort of file note” from Dean Graeme Lawrence about his diary and parish events, and he was told finances were a problem as a result of the diocese being caught up in “overseas borrowing” issues.

Did Graeme Lawrence make you aware that there were any allegations that members of the clergy in the diocese, or laypeople associated with the diocese, had engaged in child sexual abuse?

Counsel assisting Naomi Sharp to Archbishop Roger Herft

Sharp: “Did Graeme Lawrence make you aware that there were any allegations that members of the clergy in the diocese, or laypeople associated with the diocese, had engaged in child sexual abuse?”

No ma'am, certainly not.

Archbishop Roger Herft

Herft: “No ma’am, certainly not.”

Herft said there was a “tenseness about the relationship” between himself and priest Peter Rushton, primarily because of Herft’s support for the ordination of women.

Priests like Rushton who were Anglo-Catholics and strongly against the ordination of women, objected to Herft presiding at the eucharist “because they would suggest that my hands were tainted by having ordained women”.

Herft: “We had this rather awkward position that, for example, in Peter Rushton’s parish I would not be allowed to preside at the eucharist. I would be allowed to preach but that would be the limit of my engagement.”

Sharp has put to Herft the priest Colvin Ford’s view that Graeme Lawrence, Bruce Hoare and Peter Mitchell were a “gang of three” who protected Peter Rushton.

Herft said he “didn’t see it at the time”.

Herft has denied knowledge of Bishop Richard Appleby’s evidence of a “caveat list” of problem priests. Herft said he had heard of the “black book”, but denied it contained material about clergy alleged to have sexually abused children.

Herft said it contained information about “troublemaker” priests who had acted inappropriately towards parishioners.

Herft said “I can’t recall it”, when asked if he had ever seen a “black book”.

Herft has just been shown the index file held by Newcastle Anglican diocese that was produced in evidence on Thursday, which includes reference to “sexual harassment – sensitive information in small envelopes in front of this black book”.

The index file includes information about clergy both in Newcastle and outside it. Asked if he had ever seen it he said: “Not that I can recall”, then in response to follow-up questions he said “I cannot recall seeing this document”, then “I can’t recall seeing this”, then “I can’t recall that.”

Sharp is questioning Herft about a diocese committee known as the Panel of Triers that dealt with clergy allegations that might cause scandal to the church.

The then Newcastle Bishop Roger Herft

The then Newcastle Bishop Roger Herft

During Herft’s tenure as Newcastle Bishop the diocese had a Clergy Discipline Ordinance in place that was developed in 1966 and was in effect until 2003.

In 1993 Herft put in place a sexual harassment policy that included “conduct of a sexual nature”. It included the statements that “every case of sexual harassment, whether simply innuendo or full scale rape, is of major concern”.

It goes on to say that the complainant “needs to know that they will be heard, trusted, respected and cared for”.

Sharp has just been asked why the policy, developed under his leadership, said the bishop or archdeacon should not be involved at early stages of dealing with complaints.

Justice Peter McClellan has just asked if he was thinking about “clergy and criminal activity when you were framing this approach to this sort of issue?”

Herft said no. He agreed that the policy was not prepared with child sex allegations in mind.

Herft has told the royal commission it appeared in writing in the sexual harassment policy that any allegations of child sexual abuse needed to be reported to police. Responsibility was left with “conciliators” across the diocese.

Herft said there was no reporting mechanism that he needed to be informed directly. He would find out eventually because allegations would go through a committee, the registrar and on to him.

Justice Peter McClellan has just asked if Herft was only likely to hear about child sex allegations once a year, or possibly once a few months. Herft agreed.

McClellan: “But don’t you think you needed to know immediately if there was an allegation that one of your priests had committed a crime?”

Herft: “Yes.”

McClellan: “I take it you didn’t put in place any steps to ensure that happened?”

Herft: “No, there weren’t.”

McClellan: “If one of your priests was accused of stealing money, would you have expected to have been told straight away?”

Herft: “I certainly would have expected to have been told both in terms of child abuse and in terms of that type of criminal activity, straight away.”

Counsel assisting Naomi Sharp has just put the “Principles and Procedures for Dealing with Accusations of Sexual Harassment” document to Herft, and there was nothing about child sexual abuse, or reporting child sexual abuse to the police.

Herft said it represented “a very naive approach”. 

The diocese’s 2004 Faithfulness in Ministry document – designed as a code of conduct for clergy – noted that “certain sexual behaviour constitutes child sexual abuse”, which drew gasps from the gallery about use of the word “certain”, rather than the document stating that all sexual behaviour constitutes child sexual abuse.

Herft has agreed the combination of policies “was not an appropriate policy framework for dealing with allegations of child sexual abuse”. He has told the royal commission he now recognises the committee he thought would be dealing with child sex allegations “would not have been able to”.

The royal commission has just produced a “Safety and Care” document prepared by the diocese. It is undated. It includes a report form requiring allegations of child sexual abuse to go to the parish priest or one of the “key contact people”.


The royal commission has adjourned for the morning tea break.


Michael Elliott is being questioned by a solicitor for Adamstown parish priest Chris Bird.

Elliott has criticised Bird’s risk management of defrocked priest and parishioner Graeme Lawrence and his partner Greg Goyette after diocese disciplinary proceedings against both men in 2010, and the loss of Lawrence’s Supreme Court appeal against the proceedings in 2012.

The royal commission has been told Lawrence refused to sign a risk management document, and Bird had put in place a risk management process, and had reported three times on that to the diocese.

Reverend Bird had allowed Lawrence to read at funeral services before 2014 and Goyette had been allowed to play the organ.

Elliott has just been questioned about a part of his statement in which he said a receptionist relayed a conversation she said Rev Bird had had with her after Bird declined to enter a lift that included Elliott.

Defrocked former Dean of Newcastle Graeme Lawrence

Defrocked former Dean of Newcastle Graeme Lawrence

Elliott alleges Bird said “I can’t get in the lift with him or I’ll be on assault charges” and “something about ram my head through the wall”.

Bird’s solicitor told the royal commission “I just make it abundantly clear Father Bird doesn’t agree he said these things”.

It looks like Perth Archbishop Roger Herft will be in the witness box shortly. Mr Elliott’s legal representative Mr Alexis is asking him a final four questions. We expect the archbishop will give evidence immediately after Elliott finishes his evidence.

Alexis has just produced an email from Bishop Brian Farran to business manager John Cleary, Bishop Peter Stuart and others about appointing Bishop Stuart as acting registrar for Monday, September 10 so that Bishop Stuart “will process documents” to defrock Graeme Lawrence. The royal commission has already heard evidence that Cleary strongly opposed Farran’s suggestion that he might consider an alternative to defrocking the priests, and would have been required to sign any documents.


The royal commission has resumed. Newcastle Anglican diocese professional standards director Michael Elliott is in the witness box.

Barrister Mr Heazlewood for former Bishop Brian Farran wants to question Elliott about the bishop’s actions after Justice Sackar dismissed an appeal in 2012 by former Dean Graeme Lawrence and others against their defrocking following child sex allegations.

Elliott sticks by his view that Farran took too long to act on the defrockings after the decision.

Elliott: “There seemed to be a significant delay, considering the length of time the Supreme court hearing went for, that that was an opportunity for Bishop Farran to have finalised the matters in his mind and I thought that he should have been ready to act immediately that decision was handed down.”

Heazlewood has told the court Farran was on leave and overseas from May 30 2012 to July 14 2012, covering some of the period. Farran defrocked priests Lawrence, Andrew Duncan and Bruce Hoare, banned teacher Greg Goyette from holding any Anglican church position and put priest Graeme Sturt on a five year suspension in September 2012.

In his statement to the royal commission Elliott said he emailed Farran on July 20, 2012 offering to brief Farran.

The email says: “This meeting would provide you with the opportunity to ask any questions of me relating to the matter and the precise conduct of the five respondents.”

Elliott has told the royal commission he was “concerned that Bishop Farran didn’t appreciate the full extent of the misconduct of the five respondents and I wanted to make sure he was properly briefed”.

The email continues: “We could also talk through the implications of the range of options available to you and what the likely consequences may be so as to enable us to better prepare in advance for any outcomes you arrive at.”

Bishop Brian Farran enters the royal commission hearing at Newcastle Courthouse.

Bishop Brian Farran enters the royal commission hearing at Newcastle Courthouse.

Elliott has told the royal commission he was “concerned that he was considering not following the recommendations of the board and I wanted him to be fully aware of what the implications of any course of action he might take would be”.

His email says: “Although I empathise with the difficult position you now find yourself in, I must say I do see this point in time as a great opportunity to strengthen the diocese of Newcastle for the long term through a continued no tolerance response to abuse.”

Elliott confirmed Farran said he would write to Lawrence, Duncan, Sturt, Hoare and Goyette, giving them until August 20 to respond to the plan to act against them.

Elliott received an email from diocese business manager John Cleary towards the end of August that Farran was seriously considering not defrocking Lawrence.

Heazlewood is now cross examining Elliott about his evidence on Thursday relating to Farran, including Farran’s decision not to defrock Graeme Sturt but to suspend him for five years.

The royal commission is considering a document written by Farran about his actions relating to Sturt.

“Sturt was weak and his conduct reprehensible but he did not engate in the sexual acts that the others did. I therefore determined that his actions, largely his passivity and subsequent concealment, arose out of his being dominated by Lawrence. I appreciate that this is an inferior form of victimhood, but it is victimhood, nonetheless.” Farran said.

Elliott has just told the royal commission he was offended by Farran’s description of Sturt as a victim.

Heazlewood: “That doesn’t mean he’s right or wrong or you’re right or wrong, does it?”

That doesn’t mean he’s right or wrong or you’re right or wrong, does it?

Barrister for Bishop Brian Farran

Elliott: “I think I was right and he was wrong.”

I think I was right and he was wrong.

Professional standards director Michael Elliott

That brought a laugh from the gallery.

There has just been a strong exchange between Heazlewood and Elliott over Farran’s failure to defrock Sturt and the reasons Farran gave in a document apparently sent to professional standards board president Colin Elliott (no relation to Michael Elliott).

Michael Elliott: “It’s offensive, this document and the position he took, it’s offensive to me, it’s offensive to (the victim) and his family, and others, and I think it’s an affront to my efforts for child protection within the church and so I may not have paid it a whole lot of attention because at this point in time I was very frustrated and annoyed.”

Heazlewood is now questioning Elliott about Elliott’s evidence that Farran and Graeme Lawrence lived together “many years ago” in the diocese of Riverina.

The royal commission has already heard offences against victim CKH occurred in the Riverina area between 1981 and 1984 from when CKH was 14 or 15. The allegations led to the disciplinary actions against Lawrence, Duncan, Hoare, Goyette and Sturt in 2010, which led to the Supreme Court case that dismissed an appeal by Lawrence and the others.

Elliott is now being questioned about how he felt when police declined to act on allegations against the men.

Elliott has told the royal commission he was disappointed, but he denied that the police “might have been compromised in some way”.

Heazlewood: “You’ve mentioned there were a number of people who were being investigated that had a lot of strong connections within the community of Newcastle?”

Elliott: “Yes.”

Heazlewood: “Did they extend to the police?”

Elliott: “There’s indications that that’s a possibility and perhaps even likely, but I think in this case it was more an issue of resourcing and prioritising for the police.”

Ms McLaughlin for Bishop Peter Stuart.

Elliott has just confirmed that whenever information had come to Bishop Stuart warranting Elliott’s involvement it was immediately forwarded on.

The royal commission has before it a document that appears to be a file note written by Michael Elliott about a meeting held on January 29, 2013 – only a few weeks after the royal commission was established – with Bishop Peter Stuart, solicitor Keith Allen and business manager John Cleary.

Bishop Peter Stuart

Bishop Peter Stuart

The document notes there were 27 brown envelopes on hand in the diocese that contained details of past complaints, that convicted child sex offender Anglican youth worker James Brown had an association with child sex offender priest Peter Rushton and “they were part of an organised paedophile network that was largely centred around the Cessnock area”.

A solicitor for defrocked priest Andrew Duncan is now questioning Michael Elliott.


Good morning. It’s Joanne McCarthy back for day nine of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse public hearing into Newcastle Anglican diocese’s responses to child sexual abuse allegations over decades.

The hearing has coincided with the release this week of more than 2000 leaked incident reports by staff at Australia’s detention centre for asylum seekers on the Pacific island of Nauru.

They detail asaults, sexual assaults, self-harm attempts and child abuse between May 2013 and October 2015, with more than half the reports involving children, although they made up only about 18 per cent of those in detention during that time.

I wrote this in 2015:

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

Wrap up of day eight:

  • Newcastle Anglican diocese professional standards director Michael Elliott was in the witness box all day giving evidence.
  • Elliott told the commission he received allegations from CKH about Graeme Lawrence, Andrew Duncan, Bruce Hoare, Greg Goyette and Graeme Sturt on October 7, 2009 and reported them immediately to police. Police investigated and asked Elliott to put a church investigation on hold.
  • The commission heard that there were threats against Elliott and there was support the defrocked dean of Newcastle, Graeme Lawrence, received from people in high places.
  • Elliott also stood by his belief that former registrar Peter Mitchell had “tampered” with one of the yellow envelopes in the church’s abuse files.
Professional standards director Michael Elliott.

Professional standards director Michael Elliott.

This story Live coverage: Day nine of the Newcastle child sexual abuse royal commission first appeared on Newcastle Herald.