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LCA receives Royal Commission subpoena

The Lutheran Church of Australia has received a subpoena from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The ‘Notice to Produce’ relates to a Lutheran school.

The Commission has asked Executive Officer of the Church, Peter Schirmer, to produce the school’s policies and procedures from 2004 until the present time, and all records of known child sexual abuse at the school during that period. These extensive materials have been provided to the Commission.

‘No specific instances of child sexual abuse were identified within these materials’, said Liz Crawford, Director of the LCA Professional Standards Unit. ‘We will await any requests for further materials from the Royal Commission.’

The LCA has received only one ‘Notice to Produce’ out of over 900 issued by the Royal Commission so far.

‘This is not to say we won’t receive more, and we need to be prepared’, Mr Schirmer said. ‘This is a timely reminder that all LCA institutions and agencies, including congregations, need to have policies and procedures in place, and be diligent in implementing  them (including training ) and maintaining their records.

‘The LCA’s Professional Standards Unit, led by Liz Crawford, is working hard to assist the church in these areas. The policies aim to keep our members and visitors safe from harm and also minimise the church’s exposure to risk.’

New LCA policies, which include the areas of abuse and harassment, have been or will soon be approved by General Church Council and will be rolled out across the LCA shortly.

The Royal Commission released its Interim Report (Volumes One and Two) in June http://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/about-us/our-reports

Volume Two of the Report contains six case studies that relate to the Lutheran Church.

‘While pseudonyms have been used in Volume Two, we believe we have knowledge of all six matters and that in each case the church has cooperated with the police or the relevant authorities’, Ms Crawford said.

In early September Ms Crawford represented the LCA at the Royal Commission’s round table of faith-based organisations to discuss the issue of redress. The Commission is still in the consultation and research phase on this and many other issues. While no recommendations relating to redress  or any other matters within its terms of reference are imminent, it is likely that LCA agencies will need to enhance their child protection policies and procedures, including  the  recording of incidents and storage of documents for indefinite periods of time.

‘Australian church communities and the general public have been horrified to learn the extent of abuse of our nation’s children by people they should have been able to trust’, Mr Schirmer said. ‘There is little doubt that the Royal Commission will usher in a new era of child protection.

‘But we do not need legislation to persuade us to act. The harrowing stories of abuse reported to the Royal Commission are all the motivation we need. We must redouble our efforts to keep our children—and every person in our care—safe from harm, whatever that may cost us in dollars, time or effort.’

The LCA’s working group on issues relating to the Royal Commission will be providing recommendations to the church’s bishops and to General Church Council regarding policies, training, communication and pastoral care around the issue of child sexual abuse.

More information about the Royal Commission and the activities of the LCA’s working group, including a Summary of the Commission’s Interim Report Volume One.