Catholic Church Will Sign up to National Sexual Abuse Redress Scheme
By Miki Perkins
Sydney Morning Herald
May 30, 2018
The Catholic Church has confirmed it will sign up to the national redress scheme for survivors of child sexual abuse once the laws are passed by the Senate.
More than 60 per cent of all survivors of sex abuse in religious settings who gave evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse – more than 2500 people – came from Catholic-managed institutions.
The Catholic Church is the first national non-government institution to officially announce it will join the scheme, which has been criticised because institutions have to opt in and because it does not cover physical abuse.
Federal Social Services Minister Dan Tehan described the church’s announcement as significant, saying it showed the church was remorseful and willing to take responsibility.
“The Catholic Church had institutions, churches under its control where terrible, shocking abuse took place,” Mr Tehan said.
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge said the church had called for a national redress scheme since 2013. It has established a central agency to liaise with the redress scheme.
“Survivors deserve justice and healing, and many have bravely come forward to tell their stories,” Archbishop Coleridge said.
All states and territories have said they will join the scheme except for Western Australia, which Mr Tehan said he hoped would make an announcement soon.
The Anglican Church nationally has also established a central authority that would liaise with the scheme. The Melbourne and Tasmanian dioceses have confirmed they will take part in the scheme.
The scheme will provide access to counselling, a direct personal response from the institution if survivors request one, and a payment.
Mr Tehan said prisoners would be able to access the redress scheme once they left jail, with some exceptions.
People who might not be out of jail by the time the redress scheme ends in a decade would be able to apply to the scheme, he said.
The longer the wait for a redress scheme, the more survivors of abuse felt let down, said Knowmore principal lawyer Prue Gregory.
The Knowmore legal service was established to give free advice to people who wanted to tell their stories to the commission, and will also support them to apply for redress.
“We have survivors who have been triggered and distressed by the delays,” Ms Gregory said.
“Given that the Catholics and Anglicans have indicated they will enter the scheme, the Senate needs to pass the legislation and get it going.”
In Good Faith Foundation chief executive Helen Last welcomed the church’s decision, and advised survivors to contact independent support services to get advice about the procedures for redress.
“It’s critical they get independent advice,” Ms Last said.
She also asked if the church’s Towards Healing national abuse protocol and the Melbourne Response redress program would continue. Fairfax Media has approached the church for clarification.
If the legislation passes the Senate quickly, the scheme should be open for applications at the start of July, Mr Tehan said.
The Commonwealth legislation to establish the national scheme has passed the House of Representatives.