A statement made by the Dean of Melbourne, the Very Revd Dr Andreas Loewe, on the Third Sunday of Advent 2017:

The Season of Advent brings into focus the call to repent and turn to Christ, as we prepare for the festival of his coming into the world as a vulnerable child, born of Mary, and expect his coming again to be our own judge.

In the past week, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse presented its final report. More than 8,000 private sessions conducted by the commissioners enabled survivors of abuse to come forward and tell their story. We pay tribute to their courage, and repent for the times when we failed to hear their stories and prevent past abuse.

We thank the commissioners for their meticulous examination, and lament the part our own church played in turning a blind eye to abuse and failing to safeguard young and vulnerable people. We give thanks that for more than a decade the Anglican Church has worked assiduously to make our churches safe places for all, including providing legal frameworks to facilitate mandatory reporting of abuse, and training of staff and volunteers.

More than 2,500 cases examined by the Royal Commission have been passed on to the authorities, including the police. Working for justice is an important part of the message of Advent: as we await the return of Christ our Judge, we also need to ensure that wherever we are able we help to right past wrongs.

At our General Synod, and again in our own Synod, we set up the mechanism for joining a national redress scheme. Financial recompense can never undo the wrongs of the past, but it acknowledges the real cost of suffering and pain, and can help to contribute to the slow journey to healing and reconciliation which we now must begin.

The future safeguarding of our children and vulnerable people rests with all of us – I am delighted that the majority of our almost 300 volunteers and staff have now completed child safe training, and obtained and provided Working with Children’s Checks. I want to thank you for your diligence.

Many of you commented to me how much you benefited from the resources and training you received: together we can ensure that we can be vigilant and alert and ensure that we remain a safe and welcoming community for all.

In this final week of Advent, I pray that we each will be given grace and courage to share in the call to make our church, and the communities of which we are a part, places where the truth is told without fear and justice flourish, where repentance is offered and reconciliation may be sought.