31 Oct 2018

School name change bid could create inquiry into sexual assault cover ups

5:29 pm on 31 October 2018

A bid to change a Dunedin school's name may lead to an independent inquiry into sexual cover ups by its namesake.

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Photo: RNZ / Tess Brunton

Kavanagh College is named after the late Bishop John Kavanagh who sent a predatory priest to Australia instead of contacting the police.

The college's Board of Trustees discussed the allegations in a closed meeting on Tuesday night.

In a letter sent on Wednesday afternoon, chairperson Trevor Thomson said the board recommended an independent inquiry into Bishop Kavanagh's knowledge and handling of abuse.

The recommendation was sent to Dunedin Bishop Michael Dooley.

"Bishop Michael has now responded to advise us of his commitment to listen to the victims and survivors of sexual abuse within the church, to acknowledge past failings and to ensure that present structures and practices are safe," Mr Thomson said.

"Within the context of the need for the church to examine institutional failings, Bishop Michael has also advised us of his commitment to seriously consider whether or not the handling of sexual abuse during Bishop Kavanagh's term as Bishop warrants a change of name for the college."

The name was changed back in 1989 when the local Catholic intermediate and high schools joined to form one school.

The Dunedin Diocese decided to name the school after the fourth Catholic Bishop Dunedin, John Kavanagh, he said.

Earlier this month, students, former pupils and abuse survivors met to demand a name change.

When RNZ asked Bishop Dooley when he would make his decision after the meeting, he said he did not know, but was committed to listening to those affected.