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Brisbane Archbishop points to dire failings in way sex abuse allegations were handled -

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ELIZABETH JACKSON: The current Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane, Phillip Aspinall, says there've been "dire failings" in the way the church has handled allegations of sexual abuse.

The Royal Commission into Child Sex Abuse has spent the past week examining the conduct of Kevin John Lynch and Gregory Robert Knight, both of whom worked in Anglican schools.

It heard evidence that senior church figures failed to act on reports that the men were abusing young boys.

The abuse occurred during the tenure of Phillip Aspinall's predecessor, Dr Peter Hollingworth.

During his evidence, the former governor-general apologised to the victims of the paedophile teachers.

Mike Edwards reports.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: Dr Peter Hollingworth was being examined by the royal commission over his handling of abuse claims at St Paul's School while he was the Anglican archbishop of Brisbane between 1989 and 2001.

He was questioned over the conduct of school counsellor Kevin John Lynch and music teacher and convicted paedophile Gregory Robert Knight. Both worked at St Paul's during the 1980s and 1990s.

Dr Hollingworth told the Commission he was sorry for the boys who were molested by the teachers.

PETER HOLLINGWORTH: I'm appalled by the abuse you suffered at the hands of two school staff members from St Paul's school. I'm saddened about the way these matters were dealt with during my time as archbishop.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: In 2003, Dr Hollingworth became the first governor-general in a century to resign, leaving after an independent report found he had mishandled sexual abuse claims while Brisbane's archbishop.

His successor in the job, Phillip Aspinall, also gave evidence late yesterday.

Archbishop Aspinall is credited with introducing stricter and more transparent procedures for dealing with sex abuse allegations.

He told the Commission that there were "dire failings" in the response of the church to sex abuse allegations.

PHILLIP ASPINALL: It's absolutely appalling and explains, you know, the complete collapse of trust of the survivors in the institution of the church and the school.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: Anti-child abuse campaigners say Peter Hollingworth's apology is welcome. But they're still not sure whether he understands the magnitude and the impact of the abuse that took place during his tenure as archbishop.

HETTY JOHNSTON: I was happy to hear him make the apology. I think that was probably more important for him than it was for anybody else. But I think certainly he just doesn't get it.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: Hetty Johnston is the founder of Bravehearts, a child sex abuse advocacy group.

HETTY JOHNSTON: I don't think he actually really understands the sort of disaster that he presided over, or how responsible he was himself in it. I don't even know if that's out of any kind of meanness or... I think it's just ignorance and just... I don't know what it is, but it's - it's almost sad. If I wasn't so angry about it, it's almost sad.

In your view, how responsible is the archbishop for what went on?

Oh, he's entirely responsible. I mean, he was the man that - he was the top of the tree. When we had a new Archbishop in Phillip Aspinall, he changed everything straight away.

I remember the families that went to him and asked for help. I remember all the stories that were on the tele. I remember everything that went on.

And so whilst the apology was, I think, important, as I say, for Peter Hollingworth, it doesn't absolve him from the tragedy that he reigned over.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: That's Hetty Johnston from child abuse advocacy group Bravehearts, ending that report from Mike Edwards.