Royal Commission: Rabbinic Council member resigns in wake of Royal Commission findings

Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual AbuseA Melbourne rabbi has resigned from one of the most senior Jewish bodies in Australia in the wake of the child abuse royal commission. Rabbi Shimshon Yurkowicz was a trustee of Yeshivah Centre, which was strongly criticised by the commission for its failure to stop paedophiles preying on children.


The Rabbinic Council of Australia and New Zealand confirmed Rabbi Yurkowicz’s resignation.

The commission found many of the lead rabbis at Yeshiva Melbourne and Yeshiva Bondi, as well as synagogues and schools in Sydney and Melbourne followed “a pattern of total inaction” that was wholly inadequate. Commissioners also found a “marked absence of supportive leadership for survivors of abuse” and the incorrect application of Jewish law left those who spoke out criticised and isolated.

There is no suggestion Rabbi Yurkowicz was personally involved in any of the abuse. Victim advocate Manny Waks welcomed the news, saying it indicated the Orthodox leadership was trying to make amends. “Rabbi Yurkowicz in this case had the opportunity to apologise, to correct past wrongs and really didn’t take those opportunities,” he said. “There’s a sense that the religious leadership is finally taking responsibility for poor handling of this issue.”

Rabbi Yurkowicz also resigned from the Rabbinical Council of Victoria, he added. Read more here.

Readers may wish to consider Judaism and the Demands of Australian Law, which provides some background reflection to these matters.

Child Safe Organisation

The following was read out at a Public Hearing at the Royal Commission on 6 December 2016 – by Gail Furness, Counsel assisting the Royal Commission.

Child Safe Elements

In July this year, the Royal Commission published ten elements which should be present in a child safe institution. Those elements are:

  • a. Child safety is embedded in institutional leadership, governance and culture.
  • b. Children participate in decisions affecting them and are taken seriously.
  • c. Families and communities are informed and involved.
  • d. Equity is promoted and diversity respected.
  • e. People working with children are suitable and supported.
  • f. Processes to respond to complaints of child sexual abuse are child focused.
  • g. Staff are equipped with the knowledge, skills and awareness to keep children safe through continual education and training.
  • h. Physical and online environments minimise the opportunity for abuse to occur.
  • i. Implementation of child safe standards is continuously reviewed and improved.
  • j. Policies and procedures document how the institution is child safe.

Gail Furness – in speaking about Scouts Australia, also told the commission today,

Staff recruitment processes and procedures now require adults to undergo six forms of checks during recruitment. These comprise an interview, references, restrictions, a Working with Children Check, a police criminal record check, and the Scouts NSW index of member behavioural management files.

You can read the address of Gail Furness, SC, Counsel assisting the Royal Commission here:,-december-2016,-sydney

The Royal Commission’s final report will be handed to government in December 2017.


Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse