Dilworth School media statement in relation to charges against persons formerly connected to the School

We encourage any Dilworth Old Boy to contact a confidential Listening Service if they would like to discuss their experiences with an independent clinical psychologist.  Please contact: assist@dobsupport.com We fully support any Old Boys wanting to contact the Police and the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care about any experiences from their time at Dilworth.  
 

Monday 14 September - 4:20pm:

 

Media conference statement  

Aaron Snodgrass:

Thank you or attending this afternoon.

I am Aaron Snodgrass, Chairman of the Dilworth Trust Board.

Today, criminal charges were laid against persons formerly connected to Dilworth School, relating to allegations of historical sexual abuse.

We have been fully engaged with the Police throughout their inquiry into these alleged incidents.

Over the last one hundred and fourteen years, some 5,200 students have passed through the gates at Dilworth, including myself.

Regrettably, there are members of our Old Boy community who suffered abuse during their time here.

Mostly, this historical abuse was physical and emotional, such as bullying and excessive corporal punishment but, sadly, also sexual abuse. This should never have happened.

We deeply regret what has occurred in our past and the detrimental effects on our Old Boys who suffered abuse in our care. We are truly sorry.

The School’s processes for dealing with allegations of abuse have evolved and improved progressively, particularly over the last 25 years.

In 2018, as the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care was being established and the findings of similar inquiries were finalised in Australia, the UK, Ireland and Canada, the Dilworth Trust Board took a leadership role in improving its processes around alleged abuse.

We commissioned an independent review, by leading psychologists and experts, of the School’s student care and wellbeing policies and programmes. 

We implemented all of the review panel’s recommendations to make our school the safest possible environment for our students and we’re confident our student welfare framework is best practice. 

Last year I wrote to all Old Boys and parents apologising for historical abuse, but also outlining what we have been doing to lead the way in providing a safer school environment so the young men in our care can reach their full potential, as envisaged by our founder.

We established a confidential, free Listening Service for Old Boys if they want to discuss their experiences with an independent clinical psychologist.  

And, if they need further support, more counselling can be arranged with a psychologist at no cost. 

We also offered support to any Old Boy who wanted to share their experience at Dilworth with the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse or make a complaint with the police. 

Dilworth has engaged with the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse and we will continue to do so.  We believe the Inquiry is a once in a generation look at how we can ensure students in our care can enjoy their education in a safe environment.

The Board has actively sought to have any suppression of Dilworth’s name waived in connection with the proceedings currently before the court, and I’d like to share our reasons for taking this step. 

Primarily, we felt it was important to be able to discuss this issue, and our response to it, openly with our school community, and name suppression would have made this practically impossible.

We also sought clinical advice, and this supported our intent to be transparent as a means of encouragement to any other survivors of abuse to come forward.

So, to any Old Boy that suffered abuse while at Dilworth I want you to know that if you engage with our Listening Service, you will be listened to, believed and receive the professional support you need.

Finally, I want to make it clear that the charges currently before the court relate to historical incidents of alleged abuse of former students. None of the individuals charged continue to be connected to Dilworth School.  

The Board has full confidence in the School’s student welfare framework and current employees, led by our headmaster Dan Reddiex. 

I’d like to ask Dan now to make a statement on behalf of the School.

 

Dan Reddiex:

Good morning/afternoon

My journey at Dilworth is still in its infancy, having been appointed as Headmaster in 2019.  Even in the short time I have held this privileged position the special character, mission and spirit of our school and community has left its mark on me.

Naturally, as a father, an educator and a human being, the recent charges of allegations of historical sexual abuse are both appalling and deeply saddening.

I cannot comprehend the trauma or pain those who have suffered abuse must have endured. And for this hurt, we are truly sorry.

So, I want to be absolutely clear.

The Dilworth School I know and lead today has zero-tolerance for abuse of any kind.

The health, safety and wellbeing of our students is our single greatest priority and responsibility.  We know that a safe environment is instrumental to our students flourishing personally and academically.

To this end we are constantly reviewing best practice, incorporating input from independent expert advisors and applying learnings from international inquiries and the latest research.  These reviews have driven significant change including:

·      The adoption of policies, processes and protocols that focus extensively on preventing abuse of all kinds.  All of which have been shared freely with other schools.

·      The training and education of staff and students around these processes and protocols, reinforcing that abuse in any form is not tolerated.  

·      The creation of a dedicated committee to oversee our abuse prevention and response programmes.

·      Safety improvements to our buildings and the monitoring of movements around Dilworth School.  

·      Creating a culture where students are encouraged to speak up and speak out against abuse, knowing that the adults are listening and will act.

·      Being the first New Zealand school to seek Child Wise accreditation.  This certification is based on the 10 guiding principles that came out of the Australian Commission of Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.  Accreditation is attained when these fundamental principles are being applied in practice. 

With the advent of these charges and allegations relating to historical sexual abuse Dilworth School chose to waive name suppression.  The purpose in doing so was to acknowledge our past and provide ourselves the platform to speak openly to our school community about historical issues and to assure them of the safety of their children in the Dilworth of today. 

There is no denying the issue of historical abuse has cast a dark shadow over our school, but it need not and it will not define us.

I am hopeful and expectant that the enduring legacy of these historical issues will be a safer school community and a richer student experience.

We will continue to support those in our community who have been affected by abuse while in our care.

We will take all necessary steps to ensure that this chapter in our past is never repeated.

My energy and efforts will be centred on our current cohort of students and those who are awarded Dilworth scholarships in the years ahead.  It is incumbent on my team and I to ensure their Dilworth journey is a remarkable, fulfilling and life-changing one.

That is why I am here.

That is what we are committed to.

We are unable to comment further at this time and on the advice of counsel we won’t be taking questions as the matters are currently before the courts. 

Our focus now is on the wellbeing of our current students, supporting our Old Boys and our wider Dilworth community. 

Thank you. 

ENDS

 ​​​​

Monday 14 September - 12:20pm: Media statement from Aaron Snodgrass, Dilworth Trust Board Chair

Dilworth School media statement in relation to charges against persons formerly connected to the School  

We understand that criminal charges have been laid against persons formerly connected to Dilworth School relating to allegations of historical sexual abuse.  As the matters are currently before the courts, we are unable to comment on specific details relating to these charges or the criminal proceedings.  

The Dilworth Trust Board is saddened some of our Old Boys have suffered abuse while in our care and we apologise to any Old Boys who have been affected by abuse of any kind at our school.  The Board considers all forms of abuse, including physical, emotional and sexual abuse unacceptable. 

Dilworth has sought not to have the school’s name suppressed in connection with the proceedings as we want to discuss our response openly within our school community and Old Boys. 

The current Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care and learnings from similar inquiries overseas were pivotal in the School’s decision to proactively address historic abuse with our Old Boys and our wider community.  

In 2018, the Dilworth School Trust Board commissioned an independent review by leading psychologists and experts from New Zealand of the school’s student care and wellbeing, education systems, policies and programmes and make recommendations to enhance the safety for our current students, including: 

·      Commissioning an independent clinical psychologist to advise the Board and prepare a set of protocols, which have been peer-reviewed by independent experts both here and in Australia. The protocols set out best-practice abuse prevention and outline processes to follow should a former or current student come forward with a complaint about physical, emotional or sexual abuse;   

·      Appointing a special management committee to oversee and implement the programmes and institutional culture required to give effect to the protocols; 

·      Forming a panel of independent, expert clinical psychologists (the Panel), to provide responses and support as required by any current or past students;   

·      Making safety improvements to our buildings to ensure that all movements around the Dilworth campuses are monitored, as well as updated our existing policies and processes; 

·      Providing specific educational training for staff and students on the protocols reinforcing that abuse in any form, be it physical, emotional or sexual, is not tolerated or permitted at Dilworth; and 

·      Becoming the first school in New Zealand to apply for Child Wise accreditation, a new initiative based on the 10 principles that came from the Australian Commission of Inquiry regarding Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. 

We have reached out to all our Old Boys and have made support services available to them through the School, including access to a confidential, free Listening Service and counselling for those wanting to discuss their experiences with an independent clinical psychologist.  

 We encourage any Dilworth Old Boy to contact this confidential Listening Service if they would like to discuss their experiences with an independent clinical psychologist.  We fully support any Old Boys wanting to contact the Police and the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care about any experiences from their time at Dilworth.  

These are historical allegations and none of the individuals charged continue to have any connection to Dilworth School. The Board has full confidence in all of Dilworth School’s current employees. 

Our attention will be centred on the wellbeing of our current students, supporting our Old Boys and our wider Dilworth community. 

ENDS 

September 14, 2020