Church steps up to pay the price for child abuse

Anglicans pledge to join National Redress Scheme

The Anglican Church of Australia has voted to set up an independent company to handle complaints and compensation for victims of sex abuse, which will enable the church to join the Commonwealth Redress Scheme when it is formed.

The Australian Government has committed $33.4 million in the 2017-18 Budget to establish a Commonwealth Redress Scheme for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse. It is expected the scheme will commence in early 2018.

Many of the 23 Anglican dioceses already have redress schemes, but they are not nationally consistent, and depend on survivors approaching the church. The Anglican Church of Australia has already paid more than $30 million to victims so far. Garth Blake SC, who led the national church working group with the Royal Commission, told Eternity that he does not know how much that figure could balloon to.

“We will be paying for a long time to come, for the sins of our fathers and of our colleagues.” – Garth Blake SC

“Of the approximately 600 Anglicans who have spoken to the Commissioner in private sessions, only 200 have approached the church. Two in three have not approached the church, so if they end up seeking redress, that could end up costing a lot more,” Blake told Eternity.

Blake told the Synod Meeting that the church needed to face its moral responsibility to the survivors of child sexual abuse, including the financial consequences.

“It will cause significant pain and hardship, but nonetheless is the right thing to do. We will be paying for a long time to come, for the sins of our fathers and of our colleagues,” Mr Blake said in a press release.

On Tuesday this week, the Synod unanimously passed new rules on child protection that, for the first time, are binding on all clergy and church workers. They feature independent audits that will be published.

It also approved for the first time a national scheme for dealing with child protection complaints against diocesan bishops, including former bishops. Complaints that question the fitness of a bishop to hold office or remain in holy orders will be referred to the national Episcopal Standards Board.

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