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This page is written by John Pryor for Australian Adventists interested in Adsafe, the Australian Seventh-Day Adventist Church's response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The views expressed here are mine.

I firmly believe that the West Australian Conference needs to:

Jesus gave us two commandments in Matthew 22 (NIV)
36 'Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?'
37 Jesus replied: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
38 This is the first and greatest commandment.
39 And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.
40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.'
Just keeping the second commandment would keep our children and vulnerable people safe.

The Old Testament gave us 10 commandments.

Adsafe gives us 39 pages of policy and 49 pages of guidelines, both in legalese.

Winston Churchill: If you make 10,000 regulations you destroy all respect for the law.

For information on how my Church is implementing this at our Church, please see https://northbeach.pryor.net.au/adsafe.html

Introduction

Adsafe (successor to Safe Places) is the Adventist Church's response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. I believe it is a top-down, heavy-handed approach without sufficient support from our local West Australian Conference. We are required to approve and administer a 39-page policy document and another 49-page guidelines document written in legalese of which we had no input. These documents need to be simplified for implementation by lay people at the local church level.

The West Australian Conference has over 50 places of worship listed on their website but supposedly over 100 worship groups according to the Conference Secretary. Not sure why they are not all listed on the website. The Conference Secretary and Conference Administration Assistant are charged with administrating the Adsafe program in Western Australia. The Secretary (the Adsafe Responsible Person for the Conference) is a busy position and I imagine Adsafe would not take the majority of his time. The Administration Assistant (the Adsafe Compliance Assistant) also has other duties. The Conference needs add at least one full-time person dedicated to supporting Adsafe in its Churches/Congregations.

Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

This is what has sparked the response of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church and other Churches.

My nuanced observation from the title of the Royal Commission is that it is in regard to Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, not the sexual abuse per se.

The abhorrent child abuse was occurring but even more abhorrently, the institutions were found to be guilty of covering up such offences, particularly those of their employees (e.g. Pastors/Priests). Parent's complaints were too often ignored or handled with the view to making them go away. Pastors/Priests were deliberately moved to different locations/jobs and their offences were not reported to the Police by the Churches.

Here is the link for the Final Report - Preface and Executive Summary

It took place over 5 years, produced 17 heavy volumes of reports, and has its own web site: https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/

Wow! Where to start?

My key takeaways from this monumental report (in 17 Volumes produced over 5 years) are:

Documents

Following are some links relevant to our Church.
If you have others you would like added, please email info@pryor.net.au

It is compulsory for both the policy and guidelines to be approved for our Church Board for our Church to remain part of the Sisterhood of Adventist Churches.

From the policy document (Page 6 of 25):
In order to intentionally protect children and the vulnerable from abuse, and be admitted to membership, or maintain membership of the sisterhood of churches, local church congregations must comply with Adsafe child safe policies.

From the guidelines document (page 5 of 35):
The Church Board or equivalent (the Board) should complete the following tasks no later than 31 October 2020:
a) approve the Role Requirement Guidelines.
b) appoint an Adsafe Responsible Officer and an Adsafe Compliance Assistant.

Liability of Volunteer Board or Committee Members

Many (perhaps most) volunteers serving on a board (or committee) do not understand they can be held personally liable for the Board's (or Committee's Decisions). The truth is that when serving as an unpaid volunteer, you are vulnerable to prosecution and financial loss even if you think you are acting in good faith. Ultimately, it is the Courts that determine if you were acting in good faith, not you. In my opinion, volunteers are not paid so should not be at financial risk. It is my opinion; not the law.

As a sensible person, you should take the time to check for yourself what I say. After all, what credibility do I have? Perhaps you may trust a West Australian Government website on this. For independent references, see Liabilities of Board Members.pdf

Of course I am being alarmist? It is a low risk, high stakes game. Sure, the chances of it happening to you are low but what you stand to lose could be as high at $ 97,000,000 under Australian law. That is what the Commonwealth Bank successfully sued a volunteer chairman, Mr Maxelll Eise of the National Safety Council (https://www.afr.com/politics/chairman-ordered-to-pay-97m-19910704-k4h)
But more realistically it could be, for example, your home.

Even having an accusation against you being investigated by the Police (let alone a trial) and being found innocent is stressful enough.

The bottom line is that you need to take your obligations on a Board/Committee seriously.

Brad Thomas (Secretary of the West Australian Conference) in his email to me of 2021-07-04 wrote: You may wish to also note that there are insurance policies in place and provided for by the Corporate Church Structure that protect local church board members unless they are wilfully breaking laws etc.
Note that this is not total protection or, in my view, comforting. The interpretation of wilfully breaking laws is determined by the Police and Courts, not you or me. And I do not know what Brad means when he says etc.
As of 2021-08-01, I am still awaiting a copy of that policy to verify we are covered.

Last Updated on 2021-08-01