Churches can avoid sex abuse compo plan

By Phoebe Wearne
West Australian
November 06, 2016

[with video]

Churches, State governments and other institutions are under pressure to “opt in” to a national redress scheme for victims of child sexual abuse.

Survivors will be able to access up to $150,000 each in compensation under the Commonwealth-led program, which invites States and institutions to join.

The establishment of a national redress scheme was at the heart of 99 recommendations made by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in a report released last year.

Governments and organisations that opt in will be required to fund the cost of their own eligible redress claims.

Announcing details of the 10-year scheme yesterday, Social Services Minister Christian Porter said it would start in 2018.

Compensation payments would be coupled with counselling for survivors of abuse.

He said the Federal Government could not compel a State to join the scheme, but it would do all it could to make sure it reached as many survivors as possible.

The cost to the Commonwealth over 10 years was expected to be between $570 million and $770 million. “The central thing that we are trying to avoid in all this is re-traumatising victims, who have already been through an enormous amount,” Mr Porter said.

Victims of child sexual abuse in State care in WA can can receive $45,000. The State Government is yet to make a decision on whether it will join the national scheme.

Colin Barnett said it was important that the Commonwealth and the States got redress for victims right to ensure the best possible support for those affected.

“There has been no consultation with the States over this scheme, yet we are apparently to be asked to join it,” the Premier said. “We will need to consider the proposal further, especially its interrelationship with the schemes WA has already introduced.”

Law Council of Australia president Stuart Clark called on States and Territories to work with the Commonwealth to opt in to the scheme. He said the royal commission had recommended a Government-run scheme because it had greater capacity to be independent and transparent than institution-run schemes.

Shadow families minister Jenny Macklin raised concerns about the opt-in nature of the scheme. “This means if the institutions that perpetrated the abuse do not want to pay, they won’t have to,” she said.


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