THE Newcastle Club has been accused of attempting to mislead a child sexual abuse survivor about the membership of disgraced former Anglican Dean Graeme Lawrence only days after Lawrence's conviction for child sex offences.
The club said Lawrence had not been a member "for many years", in an email to Newcastle survivor Steve Smith on July 29, three days after Lawrence was found guilty of sexually assaulting teenager Ben Giggins at Christ Church Cathedral deanery in 1991.
Mr Smith said he was initially heartened by the club's response, until the Newcastle Herald advised that Lawrence was listed as a member in the club's 2015-16 Members Information Book.
The club later confirmed Lawrence's membership, which dated from 1985, ended only after shocking evidence at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in August and November, 2016 about Lawrence's protection of other Anglican child sex offenders, including notorious priest Peter Rushton.
Candidates for membership at "one of the oldest and finest private members' clubs" in Australia have to be over 18 and "of good reputation", the Members Information Book said.
Mr Smith said the club's response to him in July was "misleading and a fob-off to me".
"When they said 'for many years' I thought they were talking about 10 years or more. If he was still a member until the end of 2016, not even three years ago, I don't think many people would read that as 'many years'," Mr Smith said.
"They talk about members needing to have a good reputation, but Lawrence being defrocked by the Anglican Church in 2012 for sexually abusing a teenager wasn't enough to get him booted out of the Newcastle Club."
The club's 2015-16 membership included prominent Lawrence supporters such as lawyer and friend Robert Caddies and former Newcastle Lord Mayor John McNaughton.
During an explosive royal commission public hearing in Newcastle in 2016 commission chair Justice Peter McClellan accused Mr Caddies of leading "coordinated opposition" to the then Newcastle Anglican Bishop Greg Thompson after the bishop's public support for abuse survivors and the need for cultural change in the diocese.
Mr Caddies denied there was a "bloc" associated with the cathedral that sought to undermine the bishop but confirmed there was "very serious division" in the diocese after professional standards hearings in 2010 following child sex allegations against Graeme Lawrence.
A document seen by the Herald indicated Bishop Thompson was "not welcome" at the Newcastle Club and was "frozen out" by members who supported Lawrence.
On Tuesday Newcastle City Council is expected to formally withdraw a Freeman of the City honour granted to Lawrence nearly two decades ago.
Mr Smith and Mr Giggins thanked Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes for announcing the council would withdraw the honour on the day Lawrence was convicted of crimes against Mr Giggins.
Mr Smith and Mr Giggins have called for Australia's Honours and Awards Secretariat to withdraw Lawrence's Order of Australia, after Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Cardinal George Pell would be stripped of his Order of Australia following his failed appeal to overturn child sex convictions.