Anglican Church Accused of Using Taxpayer Funds to Pay Child Sexual Abuse Claims

Information on this page was reviewed by a specialist defence lawyer before being published. Click to read more.
Church glass

The Anglican Church has been accused of using taxpayer funds earmarked for aged care to meet its legal liability for historical child sexual abuse.


The quick history is this: In 2016, the Anglican Church Sydney Diocese shifted all of its historical child sex abuse liabilities into Anglicare as part of an internal restructure, when it created Anglicare Sydney by merging two entities – Anglican Retirement Villages and the Sydney Anglican Home Mission Society. 

Shifting responsibility

The Church’s stated reason for the move was that it would provide the organisation with more “scale” in the aged care sector.

However, the effect also enable the organisation to shift millions of dollars in liability for historical child sexual abuse away from Church and to the Aged Care arm of the organisation. 

Extent of liability for child sexual abuse

In 2020, the Church recorded its economic liability for child sexual abuse at $21.35 million, but it now records this sum at $40 million, and this figure is expected to rise given a sharp increase in complaints in recent times.

Anglicare makes the payments, not the Church itself

Anglicare Sydney has already paid out about $7.6 million for the Church’s liability for child sexual abuse, and the new structure allows the Church to state that none of this liability attaches to it.

And while many companies and other organisations restructure for any one of a number of reasons, the move has been seen by many as simply a way for the Church to shift responsibility away from itself and allow another entity to do its dirty work, rather than accept such responsibility, make changes and improve in a transparent way.

The move is also concerning because, as a religious entity, the Church is not required to pay tax and, more than this, receives millions of dollars in funding every year from the government – in other words, from hardworking Australian taxpayers.

Funded by the Federal Government 

Indeed, the organisation acknowledges in its financial report that it is “economically dependant” on funding from the Federal Government.

In the past financial year alone, the entity now responsible for paying out for child sexual abuse claims, Anglicare Sydney, received more than $248 million in funding, which equates to about two-thirds of its total revenue.

In the eyes of many, this boils down to the taxpayer funding the Church’s liability for child sexual abuse, rather than the Church itself having to pay for its own conduct.

Child sexual abuse complaints against the Anglican Church

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which delivered its final report in 2017, heard mountains of testimony from thousands of complainants who reported being sexually assaulted as children by various Churches in a range of settings – from the Church buildings themselves, to Church-run schools, orphanages and youth camps.

And while a large proportion of child sexual abuse complaints were against the Catholic Church and its entities, 1,115 were against the against the Anglican Church in respect of conduct from 1980 to 2015, involving 22 of the 23 Anglican dioceses in Australia. 

Those complaints were made by 1,082 alleged victims against 569 named and 133 unnamed Anglican Clergy and Teachers. And many feel this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Indeed, it is well documented that at Charlton Boys’ Home in Sydney, where hundreds of young boys were abused over decades — a large proportion never made complaints, and many passed away before the Royal Commission was held.

Transparency and accountability 

While it’s important that the Church accept responsibility for abuses, support and financially compensate victims, there is also a need for transparency about where those funds come from, considering that Anglicare has been vocal about what it has described as “inadequate government funding” in recent months. 

The organisation is one of Australia’s largest aged care providers. Anglicare Sydney alone operates around 23 aged care facilities, housing about 2,000 elderly residents. 

It recently admitted publicly that it has delivered substandard care to residents for which it laid the blame squarely at the feet of the Federal Government saying that the poor care standards were due to insufficient government funding. 

In fact last year, the organisation threatened to terminate more than 100 aged care jobs because its financial position was so precarious, despite its annual report showing more than $2 billion worth of assets. 

One Anglicare facility, Newmarch House in Sydney is now under scrutiny during the coronial inquest into the facility’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic when 19 residents lost their lives. 

Receive all of our articles weekly


Sonia Hickey

Sonia Hickey is a freelance writer, magazine journalist, and owner of 'Woman with Words'. She has a strong interest in social justice and is a member of the Sydney Criminal Lawyers® content team. Sonia is the winner of the Mondaq Thought Leadership Awards, Spring 2022.

Your Opinion Matters