Aussie church suggests national redress plan for abuse victims

The Catholic Church in Australia has proposed a national redress scheme for survivors of child sex abuse, funded by institutions responsible for the harm.

The Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council told Australia’s Royal Commission on Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that such a scheme should be run by the federal government.

The council’s submission also recommended that victims who have already received compensation be able to access the new scheme, for an independent review of past settlements.

The scheme also recommends redress should be capped and the limit determined “in line with community standards”.

But the Church wants to maintain the legally binding deeds of release already signed by many victims so they could access the Church’s Towards Healing process.

“A deed of release in a legal sense is about releasing various parties from civil litigation and that’s what they’ve signed,” the council’s chief executive, Francis Sullivan, told Guardian Australia.

“Most people signed deeds of release with legal advice and with knowledge of that,” he said.

Under the scheme proposed by the Church, there would be no time limit for making a claim and redress should take into account medical and counselling expenses as well as past and future lost earnings.

Claimants should be allowed to access low-cost legal advice and those who are unsuccessful in the federal scheme should then have the option of instigating civil proceedings.

The proposal also extends the provision of compensation to the immediate family of victims.

Mr Sullivan said the scheme would offer fair and compassionate compensation.

“The days of the Catholic Church investigating itself are over,” he said.

“For the sake of the survivors of clerical sexual abuse within the Church and all other institutions, the development of an independent national victims’ redress scheme is a giant step forward in delivering justice for people suffering the devastating impacts of child sexual abuse.”

The Uniting Church in Australia has backed a similar scheme which is mandatory for all relevant institutions, but the Salvation Army says it should be on an “opt-in” basis.

Care Leavers Australia Network executive officer Leonie Sheedy said many survivors had just received “breadcrumbs” to compensate them for the abuse they suffered.

She said a fair redress scheme was well overdue.

“It sounds encouraging but talk is cheap; it’s what’s in the fine print that matters,” she said.


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