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Inquiry launched into Dunedin paedophile ring claims

Author
Daisy Hudson, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sat, 22 Oct 2022, 1:47pm
Glendining Presbyterian Children’s Homes, pictured in 1950. Photo / Evening Star
Glendining Presbyterian Children’s Homes, pictured in 1950. Photo / Evening Star

Inquiry launched into Dunedin paedophile ring claims

Author
Daisy Hudson, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sat, 22 Oct 2022, 1:47pm

An investigation has been launched into claims of a historical paedophile ring operating among Dunedin’s Presbyterian Church community.

The allegations came during a Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care hearing earlier this week, when Presbyterian Support Otago (PSO) chief executive Jo O’Neill was giving evidence.

The hearing was told how one survivor alleged she had been passed around a ring of paedophiles comprised of Presbyterian Church parish members while she was a child residing at PSO’s Glendining Presbyterian Children’s Homes.

O’Neill also recalled reading mentions of a paedophile ring situation relating to a case raised in 2020.

Commissioner Paul Gibson asked if, in the intervening two years, PSO and the Presbyterian Church had jointly investigated what had happened to children in their care.

They had not, O’Neill said.

That appears to have changed.

In response to Otago Daily Times questions, Southern Presbytery moderator Anne Thomson said the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand had, via its complaints and disputes manager, opened an investigation.

“Southern Presbytery was not made aware of any claims of abuse before today, and has not been contacted directly by anyone wishing to lay a complaint,” she said this week.

The church, its presbyteries and congregations were “deeply concerned and saddened by the statements that have been made and by the trauma carried by those who made them”, she said.

 “At all levels the church has responded to requests for information from the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care.

“Care for children is an area where the church strives for robust practices of training, screening and support for all involved.”

Presbyterian Support organisations are separate entities to the church.

PSO ran two care facilities, Glendining Presbyterian Children’s Homes in Dunedin’s Andersons Bay, and Marama Home in Lawrence.

It has received six complaints about abuse, all at Glendining. Three related to 1950 to 1960, and three between the late 1980s and 1991, when the facility closed.

The complaints were made between 2004 and 2019.

At this week’s hearing Ms O’Neill accepted that going to church would have exposed the children to potential abusers, and also that it was likely many more survivors might not have come forward.

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