Sunday, 24 November 2013

Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses To Child Sexual Abuse: Anglican Rev. Pat Comben former Clarence Valley Councillor

The Northern Star on 22 November 2013, Page 6:

"REMARKABLE and distressing" is how a former Anglican chaplain has described the way she saw members of the Grafton Diocese respond to claims of child sex abuse.
Jennifer Woodhouse told the Royal Commission former Grafton Diocese registrar Pat Comben suggested "Grafton would be better off" if child abuse survivor Richard 'Tommy' Campion was offered up to $50,000 in compensation rather than the opportunity to tell his story to an independent panel of professionals.....
Ms Woodhouse described the first response as "caring and warm" but said she found it remarkable and distressing that by 2006, after Mr Campion had unearthed several other victims, Mr Comben appeared "more concerned about the finances of the dioceses than he did about the many people who had been abused at the North Coast Church of England Children's Home".

Evidence given to the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses To Child Sexual Abuse, between 18 and 21 November 2013:

** A. .....We walked in to an office, a fairly large office. We had a number of tables put together. The Reverend Comben, as I recall, when I walked into the room, was sitting on a chair with his hands behind his head and with his feet up, which I interpreted as being something of a machismo role that he was trying to play out.
I put my hand across the table and shook hands with him, although the orphanage boy and the Celt in me felt like kicking the chair from underneath him, quite frankly.
He was showing a level of disrespect that I'd not come across in negotiations previously. Certainly I was there representing 41 people who were in various states of decompensation, and to be met with that level of what I perceived as ignorance --
Q. All right. In terms of the negotiations that occurred over the days 19 and 20 December, did Mr Comben's behaviour change from that early episode you've just described?
A. No. Mr Comben's feet remained in a prostrate position throughout most of the conference.....
Q. Sorry, was that inappropriate or an appropriate - I didn't quite hear?
A. Well, the poker playing is a given part of any settlement negotiations, effectively. When it comes to matters like this, I felt that that wasn't necessarily the appropriate way to proceed. But the Reverend Comben came back at one point and said, "Look, I've been back to" - I forget who he had called; I think it was Bishop Slater - "and the maximum we can go for each of these individuals is $10,000", and that if we were not going to settle, then, in Clint Eastwood style, he said, "Bring it on", which again I felt was inappropriate, but was consistent with the previous references to Tommy Campion as being a ringleader and other derogatory remarks that were made throughout the course of the process.
Q. What did he mean by "Bring it on", to your understanding?
A. Oh, again, his macho bravado was taking over and he was effectively telling us to bring these matters before the court, because he knew that we'd have significant
difficulties if they were not going to waive limitation periods to allow us to properly explore these matters and have some real transparency.

** Mr Harrison told me that Reverend Comben had been very rude in that meeting, and said, in reference to the group of victims, that we "should have been happy to have had a roof over our heads".

** Q. What I am interested in is whether that was an issue - that is to say, the association between the Anglican Church and the North Coast Children's Home - prior to the group claims, namely, when [CH]'s litigation was being discussed?
A. Yes, my best recollection was that it was always being said by Grafton that it really wasn't their home, you know, that it was not an Anglican home.
Q. In that period prior to Mr Campion's claim, who was the main proponent, if you like, of that particular view?
A. Oh, Pat Comben.

** The diocese, through its registrar, Reverend Pat Comben, indicated to the media that the claimants had substantial hurdles to overcome. He also questioned the factual basis for some of the claims and said that the home was a great North Coast community facility.

** Q. So just returning to that issue, what were the main concerns of the claimants about that interview?
A.  I wonder if you could refer me to the exhibit itself?
Q.  Yes. Sorry, it's not on the screen. SJH-15.
A.  Well, there were a number of concerns.
Q.  Could we have the whole page, please, on the screen.
A.  It certainly wasn't an appropriate vehicle to be discussing these matters. This wasn't to be a trial by media. It was very much a self-serving article that Reverend Comben was trying to put out there, and he was also, in my view, trying to rally the community behind himself as if he was some knight in shining armour. He'd said in the fifth paragraph towards the bottom:
Increasingly I see these matters as being a challenge to the very community of Lismore.
They weren't. They were a very challenge to the Reverend Comben, not the community itself, in my view.

** 1 October 2006 media release distributed by Rev. Pat Comben:


The Anglican Diocese of Grafton has been provided with 600 pages of statements and documents containing allegations of abuse to 42 former residents of the North Coast Childrens Home.
It is understood that a number of the claims go back more than fifty years and cover matters including discipline in the home and sexual assaults.
Diocesan Registrar Rev Pat Comben said he was surprised at the amount of personal detail of the material while "substantial threshold legal and responsibility questions remain totally unresolved."
The Church has been asked by the claimant's solicitors to respond before the 20th October, a date Rev Comben says is unrealistic.
"It has taken the solicitors for the claimants almost twelve months to collect and collate this material and we will require time to properly assess it and respond," Rev Comben said.
"Our legal advice is clear that there are substantial hurdles to be overcome by the solicitors for the claimants.
"I would hope that these issues can be resolved before increased costs are borne by the individual claimants supplying further personal and medical information which may not be needed because no claim can be made.
"I am concerned that a number of people mentioned as alleged perpetrators are not and never were staff members of the home or even church workers.
"These individuals, many of whom are still living, named as alleged perpetrators have a right to state their response to the allegations and even have their day in court.
"There are also, I believe, substantial factual errors in the material given to us about the home and its management.
"Increasingly I see these matters as being a challenge to the very community of Lismore.
"We have a wide range of evidence that points to the home being a great North Coast community facility, run and 'owned' by the community, with tremendous support from individuals and service clubs.
"Some of the matters complained of might have been standard practice in Australia some decades ago.
"Some of the complaints being raised are a potential affront to all those individuals who willingly gave their time and money to a home that In their eyes did an essential and great job.
"The Church will do all it can to speed the matter up, but in view of the legal uncertainties will continue to contest the matters as presently put to us In the name of all former staff, the wider community of Lismore and the church itself," Rev Comben said.

1 comment:

John Fraser said...

Those following proceedings could be forgiven for thinking that there was some form of collusion between the different churches (religious groups).

Almost as if those charged with fewer offences were taking a leaf out of the religious group charged with the most offences.

But who would ever think that a religious group would be anything but christian ?