Media release: Update on Presbyterian Church investigation into claims of historic abuse in Dunedin

27 March 2024

Please attribute the below to the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand (PCANZ) Assembly Executive Secretary, Rev Wayne Matheson.

In November 2022 the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand released a media statement on very concerning allegations that had come to its attention when the Church appeared before the Royal Commission into Abuse in Care.

That appearance by the Presbyterian Church was on 19 October 2022. Earlier that day, the Commission had heard from some of the Presbyterian Support organisations, including Presbyterian Support Otago (PSO).

Presbyterian Support Otago was questioned by the Commission regarding a witness who alleged that when she was child residing in PSO’s Dunedin Glendining Presbyterian Children’s Homes in the 1950s she was the victim of a paedophile ring involving Presbyterian church parishioners.
This utterly distressing information came as a complete shock as the Church did not know of these heart-breaking allegations prior. We first heard of them via the Royal Commission.  

The sexual abuse of children is completely abhorrent and is a crime. It is damaging and devastating abuse of trust.

In response to these very troubling allegations, the Church acted. It undertook an independent investigation into the claims of a paedophile ring involving Presbyterian church members in Dunedin – parishioners, ministers, staff.

In November 2022 the Church’s Council of Assembly appointed Kirsty McDonald, KC to lead this independent investigation. It has been an investigation that could not be rushed.

Kirsty McDonald has now reported to the Church. Regrettably the investigation has neither been able to confirm or deny the allegations made. The Church acknowledges how incredibly upsetting this non-conclusive outcome must be for the witness who made the allegations. We assure you that we will continue to investigate if and when further information comes to light. 

For reasons of confidentiality, we are unable to share further details of this investigation.

We ask that anyone with any information related to this matter to please share it, contact the Police or email the Presbyterian Church’s Complaints and Disputes Manager or free phone 0800 244 357. If you prefer to share information with the independent investigator directly, you can phone the Complaints and Disputes Manager who has a confidential process whereby you will not have to identify yourself. 


Notes to the reporter:
•    Read the Presbyterian Church’s media release from 4 Nov 2022 concerning the investigation here.
•    The PCANZ encourages anyone who has experienced abuse involving the PCANZ to contact it, see our Historic Abuse website page and our Complaints website page.
•    Presbyterian Support Otago is an autonomous entity from the Presbyterian Church with its own management structures. Presbyterian Support New Zealand is a federation of seven Presbyterian Support organisations, all managed and operated separately from the Church.