Warning: This story contains graphic details of sexual abuse.
One of the Australia’s most senior Anglicans, the Archbishop of Perth, Roger Herft, received complaints about a priest involved in a paedophile ring but allegedly failed to formally report him to police, according to an Anglican Church insider.
A confidential note showed Archbishop Herft had received a complaint about Father Peter Rushton’s abuse when they both worked in the Hunter region of New South Wales in 2002, Australia’s public broadcaster ABC, which had a copy of the note, reported.
Archbishop Herft wrote that the complaint “left me in an unenviable position” because “Father Peter had my licence [to be a priest] and if he reoffended I would be held liable as I now had prior knowledge of his alleged behaviour”.
Newcastle diocese director of professional standards Michael Elliott said there was no record of Archbishop Herft contacting police about allegations regarding Rushton.
Archbishop Herft said it was inappropriate for him to respond to media because of the Royal Commission hearings in Newcastle into church child sexual abuse.
In 2010 the Anglican Church revealed Rushton was a notorious paedophile.
Victims have come forward to say they were raped and sexually assaulted by him and other abusers.
One victim, Paul Gray, said his godfather Rushton was the “kingpin” in two paedophile rings.
Mr Gray, now in his 60s, was taken to St Albans Boys Home in the Hunter Valley.
“The worst part with all the abuse that Father Peter did with me, he took me to the boys home in Aberdare away from where I lived and he left me with three men,” Mr Gray said.
“And I remember calling out to him to not leave me there and he did, and I was taken there many times.
“The man who ran it I used to call the gatekeeper.
“He used to lock you in the room and other people would come in and out of that room but sometimes he would come in that room as well.”
Rushton and his lover Brother Jim Brown infiltrated St Albans Boys Home in the Hunter Valley, becoming board members and taking boys home for weekends.
They also fostered orphans, including Phil D’Ammond, who saw many other boys at Jim Brown’s home.
“There was never someone not there and they were always young guys. Like, between 12 and 14, 15,” Mr D’Ammond said.
“We were all drunk and we were all smoking hash and dropping acid and yeah, it was sick.”
Another survivor, Mick Brown, was part of the Church of England Boys Society camps in the 1970s.
He said he was brutally raped by numerous youth workers there who took them “spotlighting” at night, looking for animals.
“Instead of looking at the trees we were more or less made to do sexual acts,” Mr Brown said.
“One of the worst things that happened at Yondaiya, I had my backside split open.
“It was one of those youth workers – my clothes were taken from me, they were burnt.”
At the heart of the camps were Anglican priest Rushton and Brother Jim Brown.
Paul Gray was also a member of the Church of England Boys Society and was taken camping by Rushton, where he was stalked by other paedophiles through the bush in a terrifying game of hide and seek.
“[Rushton] took me to Yondaiyo. There was another boy there, I could hear the other boy and they just let you go and run to try to get away,” Mr Gray said.
“When you’re a little kid and you’ve got a choice of either jumping over a cliff or people abusing you – that haunts your mind for the rest of your life because you feel you should have jumped.”
Rushton trained at Morpeth College along with other paedophiles.
“When abusers are identified and criminally convicted they can be tracked back to having trained at Morpeth at Saint John’s Theological College,” Michael Elliott said.
“So there was obviously some failing there and around recruitment and screening.”
In 2009 the church’s own research revealed the college could be the origin of “some kind of network” for paedophiles.
The figures showed one quarter of convicted paedophile priests graduated from Morpeth, ABC reported.
The research was for a national report on sex abuse in the church but the “Morpeth issue” never made it into the final document.
Alfred Holland was the Bishop of Newcastle during most of Rushton’s time.
In the 1980s, five people told the bishop that Rushton had abused the five-year-old son of another priest.
ABC said he has been told that Bishop Holland refused to believe them without photographic evidence.
“People who complained were dismissed and sent away and not believed,” Mr Elliott said.
Church volunteer Susan Aslin was another who complained to Bishop Holland about Rushton and Brother Brown and their involvement in St Albans Boys Home.
“I found that there was a young boy of 16 [who] was about to leave St Albans Boys Home. He was going to move in with Jim Brown,” she said.
Ms Aslin got a message to Bishop Holland who rang her at home.
“He appeared to be appalled that this was happening and he also said he would look into it and take steps,” Ms Aslin said.
It was three decades before Jim Brown was brought to justice – he was jailed in 2012 for abuse against 20 boys, including Mr D’Ammond.
Ms Aslin said police told her that when they interviewed Bishop Holland about Brother Brown, he denied ever speaking to Ms Aslin.