Catholic Church backs PM’s call for national redress scheme for child sex abuse survivors

Uniting and Anglican Churches back redress too

The Catholic Church has backed Prime Minister Turnbull’s call for the states and territories to join a proposed national redress scheme for child sexual abuse survivors, saying that survivors of abuse have been waiting too long for the scheme to get up and running, and that many have died never receiving the apologies and the redress that should have been theirs.

The Catholic Church has already agreed to join a national redress scheme. The Anglicans have voted to set up a national company to make it easy for survivors to sue them. Each Anglican synod (region) is required to vote for it and it has has received a “yes” vote each time it has come up – including in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. (Some smaller places only meet once every two years – and the Northern Territory is expected to be the last to vote).

“The Uniting Church (UCA) has said already that it supports a truly national redress scheme,” John Cox, Executive Officer UCA Royal Commission  Task Group told Eternity. “Our submissions to the Royal Commission supported the maximum limit of redress available as well as flexible care arrangements for survivors.

“We really want to be part of a truly national scheme. That’s what we’re focussed on.

“We will keep working with the Federal Government, other churches  and Institutions to create the best possible scheme for survivors to try to achieve that outcome.”

Addressing Parliament yesterday, the Prime Minister committed to delivering a formal National Apology to survivors of institutional child sex abuse before the end of the year.

“We owe it to survivors not to squander this moment.” – Malcolm Turnbull

Mr Turnbull also warned state and territory government leaders to act quickly so that a national redress scheme could be set up by July 1, saying, “we owe it to survivors not to squander this moment.”

He urged all Australian governments and the non-government sector – churches, charities, other institutions – to respond to the report handed down by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse by June, as was recommended by the Royal Commission.

One of the significant obstacles to a national response is that a redress scheme is currently not within the constitutional powers of the federal government. Instead, state and territory governments need to reach an agreement about a national scheme and refer their powers to the federal government to run it. Today, Council of Australian Governments (COAG) leaders are meeting in Canberra to try to reach this agreement. UPDATE: The COAG communique includes the following statement – “Leaders welcomed progress on developing the National Statement of Principles for Child Safe Organisations, agreed the importance of creating organisations where children are safe from abuse and neglect, and acknowledged the work underway to establish a national redress scheme. First Ministers committed to responding to the recommendations of the Royal Commission’s final report in June 2018. ”

“The [states] need to put aside parochial and partisan politics for the greater good of the country.” – Francis Sullivan

South Australia has already held its own inquiry ten years ago, issued an apology, established support services and a redress scheme, and eased time limits on perpetrators being brought to justice. Consequently, State Premier Jay Weatherill resisted calls to fold his state’s compensation scheme into a national one.

“We’ve dealt with that, but we’re more than happy for the non-government organisations that haven’t properly accounted for these past deeds to be part of a national redress scheme,” the Premier said, while pledging not to do anything to slow down a national redress scheme.

Francis Sullivan, CEO of the Catholic Church’s Truth Justice and Healing Council said that it was imperative that all governments appreciate the significance of what they will be discussing today.

“They need to put aside parochial and partisan politics for the greater good of the country and the needs of the tens of thousands of people, many now old and some dying, who were sexually abused as young children.”

“Catholic Church leaders are on the record saying they will join the Commission’s recommended national scheme, now it is time for the states and territories to also sign up.”