Adventist Church in Australia Responds to Sex-Abuse News Report

Written by: 
Published:
November 2, 2015

On October 31, The Australian reported that the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Australia admitted failures in a sex-abuse case involving teacher and soccer coach Daniel Kyei at Brisbane Adventist College. The article, "Seventh-day Adventists admit they failed teen victim," is now behind a paywall, but a cached version of the story can be viewed hereThe Australian also raised questions of whether Australian Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists president Jorge L. Muñoz misled Non-State Schools Accreditation Board officials, suggesting the issue was resolved when it was not. 

On November 3, after Spectrum picked up the The Australian's story in our news headlines bulletin, the Adventist Church in Australia published a response in Record, the official news magazine of the Adventist Church in the South Pacific. The response stated, "While the newspaper article omits critical facts, we have to ‘own’ what we have not done properly. This is a time to learn and to improve."

The Adventist Church in Australia's response to The Australian's report follows here in its entirety:

Wahroonga, New South Wales

The Australian ran a piece this weekend on a case of abuse at Brisbane Adventist College. We write to respectfully note that the article omits essential information.

Specifically, the article omits the facts that the teacher in question was suspended immediately by the school when the complaint was made, that an independent investigation was launched, that the teacher was terminated when the complaint was verified, that the case was reported to the police immediately and to the state teacher certification body in a timely manner. Thus, while not everything was handled as well as it should have been, these critical steps were followed. Readers have a reasonable expectation to know these essential facts when the case is reported.

The article also fails to include information that puts the Church’s response in context. For example, the reporter was told that the Church apologised to the family orally and in writing, and is in the process of providing a compensation package. He made no mention of these facts. 

The article also fails to make clear that Pastor Jorge Munoz was not president of the Church in South Queensland when the abuse was reported to the principal, and only became president eight months after these events.

The substantial deficiencies in the reporting do not mean that all aspects of the case were handled well by the Church. While some things were done appropriately (the teacher was suspended immediately, the appropriate authorities were informed, independent investigation was performed, the teacher was promptly fired), we are painfully aware that the Church mishandled critical aspects of the case—particularly in the way we communicated with the victim and the family. In an effort to ensure we do better prospectively, the Church commissioned an independent review. After receiving the independent reviewer’s report, a senior national leader of the Church, Pastor Ken Vogel, travelled to meet the family and give them an unreserved oral apology and to personally deliver a written apology. The Church deeply regrets the insufficiency of our response and the impact that has had. The Church is in the process of putting together a package of redress to the victim and her family, consistent with the guidance and recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse. And, maybe most importantly, the Church is committed to preventing abuse prospectively and to improving the handling of cases should they occur. Specifically, the Church is currently designing extensive changes to its systems and processes, to achieve greater expertise, independence, oversight and accountability.

“While the newspaper article omits critical facts, we have to ‘own’ what we have not done properly,” says Pastor Munoz, president of the Adventist Church in Australia. “This is a time to learn and to improve. I encourage church members to keep praying at this time, and for God to give us a boldness like never before to make sure we have good processes and procedures in place, and that we follow and implement them well. For me, what is most important are the lessons we can learn in order to make our churches and institutions true safe places for everyone, and most particularly for our children. I challenge leaders and members alike to show courage and use this as an opportunity to challenge everyone in our community to do much, much better.”

 

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