King’s School chaplain on leave amid historic ‘sexual abuse’ allegations in Australia

A chaplain at one of Auckland’s most exclusive schools is on leave amid allegations of “sexual abuse” involving a former student in Australia.

The chaplain “emphatically denies” the allegations, which have been referred to Tasmanian police, and has indicated he will fully co-operate with the Australian proceedings.

King’s School in Remuera is a private, religious primary school for boys charging up to $24,400 a year.

Its chaplain Father John Goodwin – a married father of two boys – has taught religious studies, provided chapel services and pastoral care at King’s for the last 12 years.

An email this week to the school community from headmaster Tony Sissons revealed that “by mutual agreement”, Goodwin was taking leave “effective immediately” after historic sexual allegations emerged linked to a school in Tasmania.

The email was to “inform you about a difficult situation that has arisen regarding a staff member of the school, and the actions the Board has taken to address it”.

“A civil writ has been issued in Tasmania by a former student against his previous school which was the former employer of our Chaplain, Father John Goodwin,” Sissons wrote.

“The allegations are of an inappropriate sexual assault on his part at an Australian school 20 years ago. This action is directed against the Australian school’s Trust Board and the Anglican Diocese.”

Sissons emphasised that Goodwin “emphatically denies the allegations” and that the school had “no reason to disbelieve him”.

“I personally have worked alongside Father John over a period of 14 years, and throughout the whole of that time I have never received a comment or observation which might possibly lead to a concern.

“Father John is a much-admired member of our community and the Board and staff want to show him the same care he has given to our community for 12 years.

“However, we also have a duty of care to our boys, and the School and the Board are compelled to take a range of actions as a result.”

Sissons said Goodwin was immediately taking a period of leave until the matter was resolved.

“John will not be living on school grounds and we are also providing appropriate care and support to the Chaplain and his family during this difficult time.”

Schools and other institutions were under “close scrutiny for historical failures to meet their obligation to protect and support young people under their care”, Sissons said.

“The Board has devoted considerable time and energy examining King’s School’s historical record and we have confidence that our school has acted appropriately in meeting its duty of care to our boys.”

Goodwin could not be reached.

In a statement, Sissons told the Herald the Australian proceedings involved historic allegations at an Australian school 20 years ago.

“This is a private civil suit and our staff member emphatically denies the allegations.”

The health and wellbeing of King’s students remained the school’s focus. The school had taken “swift and appropriate action” once it learned of the claims.

“Because these matters are now before an Australian court they are sub judice and no further comment will be made.”

In a statement, Anglican Bishop of Auckland Ross Bay told the Herald the diocese took such allegations seriously.

“As a result Mr Goodwin is stood down from all duties as is the appropriate response.

“Mr Goodwin has denied the allegations, and we also wish to ensure he is supported as he works through this with authorities in Australia.”

Goodwin, King’s School and the church would co-operate fully with the Australian proceedings.

Before taking up his role at King’s in 2008, Goodwin was chaplain for 10 years at Tasmania’s Hutchins School, an Anglican day and boarding school for boys from pre-kindergarten to Year 12.

Hutchins headmaster Rob McEwan said the school had received a civil writ from a former student claiming damages for sexual abuse by a chaplain in 2001, which was immediately reported to police.

“Child sexual abuse is an abhorrent crime and the School takes all matters of alleged sexual abuse seriously.

“The safety and protection of all students is our highest priority and … we have the highest standard of protection for the students in our care.”

A Hutchins School newsletter farewelling Goodwin in October 2008 said the school was saddened he and his family had decided to move to New Zealand after his decade of service.

“Father John’s sermons are never something you would want to sleep through – they are always interesting, often a little off-beat, sometimes dangerous (when he is demonstrating a point using a scientific experiment) and always have a strong and meaningful message.”

The school wished Goodwin the best and hoped to see him back in the future.

The New Zealand Anglican Schools’ website says Goodwin – known to pupils as “Father John” – teaches religious education, conducts Chapel services and is instrumental in pastoral care.

The parent of a former King’s School pupil said Goodwin was a “real character” who was known for his lively sermons and antics to liven up services. He was held in high esteem by the school.

“The King’s School community will be shocked. He is much loved there, and it looks like he was in Tasmania as well.”

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