Church commits to redress scheme for child sex abuse

Australia’s redress scheme for survivors of child sexual abuse at Commonwealth institutions has the Australian Catholic Church’s support.

The Church has committed to taking part in the new nationwide scheme.

“We support the Royal Commission’s [into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse] recommendation for a national redress scheme, administered by the Commonwealth, and we are keen to participate,” Archbishop Mark Coleridge says.

Coleridge is the president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.

“Survivors deserve justice and healing and many have bravely come forward to tell their stories,” he said in a joint statement with Catholic Religious Australia (CRA).

Australia’s Royal Commission found 7 per cent of Australia’s Catholic priests were accused of abusing children in the six decades since 1950.

It also found up to 15 per cent of priests in some dioceses were alleged perpetrators between 1950 and 2015.

Almost 2,500 survivors told the Commission about sexual abuse in an institution managed by the Catholic church.

They represent 61.8 per cent of all survivors who reported sexual abuse in a religious institution.

The redress scheme, which is currently before parliament, is likely to begin on 1 July and will last for 10 years.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said if all states and institutions across Australia opt in, the scheme could provide support to around 60,000 people.

At present all states except Western Australia have signed up to the scheme, which will enable survivors to be paid up to A$150,000.

CRA president Ruth Durick said while she recognised redress will not take away a survivor’s pain, CRA (representing over 130 congregations) hopes it “… can provide some practical assistance in the journey toward recovery from abuse.”

Redress is offered as an alternative to taking compensation through the courts.

It can include access to psychological counselling, a direct personal response such as an apology from the responsible institution for people who want it, and a monetary payment.

Dr Judy Courtin, a lawyer who has helped survivors pursue redress through institutions and the courts, said it made sense that major religious institutions had agreed to sign on to the scheme.

“It will be cheaper for them to pay many survivors the $150,000 cap rather than risk survivors taking them to court, where a court might find they are entitled to much more,” she said.

“Most religious institutions will ultimately agree to join because doing so will be saving them money.”


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