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Redress scheme for abuse victims is a good start



The announcement late last week by the Turnbull government that it will establish and run a national redress scheme for the survivors of institutional child sexual abuse is a great decision that has the potential to be one of the most significant social policy reforms in recent history.

Child with teddy bear observed by threatening adultFriday's announcement has the potential to benefit tens of thousands of people now and into the future who have suffered the most damaging and tragic abuse — institutional child sexual abuse.

The estimates are jaw dropping, more than 60,000 children abused in hundreds of different institutions across Australia for many decades into the past.

But the new scheme will only be truly effective if all institutions and all governments accept their responsibilities and commit to participating.

The Catholic Church has a lot to answer for. For decades up to the 1990s and in some cases beyond, it systematically covered up child sex abuse by members of our clergy. It consistently put the interests of the church as an institution ahead of the welfare and safety of children. Their suffering has been compounded and for many, their lives shattered.

This did not just happen in the Catholic Church. We now know, thanks to the Royal Commission, that it was tragically commonplace across many other churches, schools, government institutions, sporting and cultural institutions.

Now the federal government will provide a redress platform that all organisations which were responsible for the appalling abuse can use and, in a way, acknowledge and make some amends for the past.

But this will require one last great push from the federal government and continuing pressure from the community to ensure, regardless of where or when someone was abused, they will be able to seek justice through the scheme.


"If there are hundreds of survivors of abuse in SA government-run institutions who have received inadequate or no compensation, then the Premier should be ashamed for so readily dismissing this proposal."


With all institutions taking part, this scheme will succeed and it will deliver fair, consistent and generous redress for survivors. If some institutions don't take part it will be yet another blow to abuse survivors, with some reaping the scheme's benefits while others are left to suffer further defeats and humiliations.

A case in point is the South Australian government. Before the ink was dry on the announcement, the South Australian government had already indicated it would not take part. This is appalling, whatever the justification.

If SA Premier, Jay Weatherill, is so convinced his state has fairly and comprehensively responded to adults abused as children in that state's schools and other government-run facilities then well done. But if, as is more likely the case, there are hundreds of survivors of abuse in SA government-run institutions who have received inadequate or no compensation, then he should be ashamed for so readily dismissing this proposal.

He, his attorney general and other senior government ministers, need to put their principles and convictions before the advice of their bureaucrats and bean counters and become part of the scheme.

It is now vitally important that all institutions in which abuse occurred, as well as all the state and territory governments, get on board. This is by far the best chance we, as a community, and particularly the institutions responsible for the abuse will have to do the right thing to give abuse survivors the financial support they need to have a crack at a half decent life.


Francis SullivanFrancis Sullivan is CEO of the Catholic Church's Truth Justice and Healing Council.

Topic tags: Francis Sullivan, clergy sexual abuse, Truth Justice and Healing Council



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Existing comments

Completely agree, Francis. Is this a knee jerk reaction from the SA government? "If the Federal Government suggests it, we must say no"! It's not about politics, Mr Weatherill, it's about people!

Joan Seymour | 08 November 2016  

Thank you Francis Sullivan for your efforts to bring accountabilty to the Catholic Church To Premier Jay Weatherill & John Rau AG (whose offensive quote on the Royal Commission "Johnny come latelys" ) CLAN will never give up we will continue to put pressure on ALL SA ALP MPs to join the National Redress Scheme Jay Weatherill you do NOT have Redress in SA u have a Victims of Crime compensation that neither fair or equitable We have 2 Brothers abused by horrible foster carer in South Australia 1 brother got $50,000 the other got $10,000 the bro who got larger amount states his brother suffered more abuse than he did So Jay do the right thing for abused care leavers & others join National Redress Have a heart & care about Care Leavers abused in SA orphanages childrens Homes & foster care

Leonie Sheedy | 09 November 2016  

There's plenty of guilt and blame to go around in this tragedy. And guilt needs to be expiated. The SA Premier, Jay Weatherill, and his government must face their day of reckoning along with everybody else. A redress scheme goes some small way towards helping survivors (and families of victims). But it won't take away the memories which have to be handled by each person in each church, in each institution, and in each household affected. Do the usual responses suffice, or is a leap of faith necessary?

Pam | 09 November 2016  

Consider this: if all churches and charities involved in child abuse who refuse to opt in to the proposed redress scheme were to lose their tax-free status, and those savings were directed to the redress scheme, it would be self-funded.

Frank Golding | 09 November 2016  

Francis The system is flawed and broken. All those organisations complicit in abuse of children should be forced to be part of scheme or face loss of taxpayer funding and tax breaks. All should apologise. Otherwise, we will be back with culture of denial. It is amazing and outrageous that leading Catholic social welfare organisations who are involved in foster care have not apologised and yet are still involved in same.

Peter Collins | 09 November 2016  

Francis, money does not solve many problems given personally to those abused in any manner,. These people need medical/mental care to help them get a handle on what they have suffered. Jesus disliked money matters and I agree, we all should be understanding of those damaged souls who should have received care when the suffering was inflicted,

Maria Fatarella | 09 November 2016  

It is worth pondering Francis' figure of 60,000 victims. Each of these victims has parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and possibly children of their own. The number of people directly and indirectly affected by abuse rapidly expands to more than one million of our fellow citizens. This is an appalling legacy that has caused untold suffering and harm. And this is just the institutional abuse, not counting abuse within families. There is something really sick going on that needs to be brought to light and dealt with in the way men (and its usually men) have a sense of entitlement to power over other human beings.

Neil Ormerod | 09 November 2016  

When the Royal Commission ends, the canonical disciplinary system will not have changed and Bishops will still be under oath to conceal clergy abuse of children. Canon law requirements under 'The Pontifical Secret' still requires bishops to conceal sexual abuse of children, disabled adults and trafficking in pornography. Australia does not have uniform laws for mandatory reporting of sexual abuse. The weakest legislation is Queensland where clergy and police are not mandatory reporters. As a teacher of religion told the 2013 Victorian Inquiry, 'the rate of clergy abusing children has decreased only because employees are removed once the bishop, executives and clergy get wind of the employee's concerns'. It is simple. No employees, no reporting of clergy abuse. One former catholic teachers, Micheal Crowe stated, 'clergy are interfering with teacher's mandatory reporting or whistleblowing'. The TJHC can put a bandage on the problem, but the problem is still there waiting for more unsuspecting children, families and communities. Financial redress will help, but why not fix up the problem causing child abuse. In 2014, the UN stated Catholic clergy have molested tens of thousands of children world wide. As a Catholic we need to fix the problem at its source. In 1922, the Vatican sent clergy to jail for child abuse. The Vatican changed its laws and for the past 80 years, this hiding and enabling of clergy abusers has caused the problem. Let's address the church's behaviour in concealment and clergy abuse. Inquiry's into child sexual abuse world wide (read Ireland's) all say the same.

Change the Pontifical Secret for Bishops | 09 November 2016  

A timely article and Neil Ormerod's comment was spot on. What concerns me is those in positions of power in the institutional Church - a wee bit like the Climate Change Deniers - who want to ignore what has happened and its ramifications and return the Church to what it was like in the 1950s. With 'friends' like these white anting away at it inside the Church needs no external enemies: these people can destroy it from within.

Edward Fido | 09 November 2016  

Neil, you are so right. Child abuse has impacts on a whole community and has lasting first, second and third generation impacts. There's a crucial distinction between a person who sexually abuses children and a priest who sexual abuses children. The clergy 'uses his priesthood to gain access to the child and his priesthood, in the catholic tradition, holds immense power and so persuasive capacity'. As Psychologist, Frances Moran says the decreee of secrecy has been the means by which the church has averted a profound theological crisis. 'It provides the means by which the crisis has been avoided. Consquently, it marks a point that is productive of the most unwitting, intense defence by church personel who garner the anger of both victims and the general public in reaction to the relevations made as a result of the numerous inquiries and commissions across the world. A culture of silence has been deeply embedded within the mind-set of the hierarchy, who deal with allegations of misbehaviour. The paedophile priest is a 'theological impossibility'. 'The child is faced with a man who is believed, and claims, to act in the Name-of-the Father'. He stands for God. The Vatican's secret allows the church to hide from itself. One is waiting for a church responses that is greater than a redress scheme, that does not blend-in and share the blame with other government agencies. Catholics are looking for leadership, a church that takes responsibility in principle and in practice. Missing is an open acknowledgement of the Pontifical secret, the protection of a criminal who can disappear into the church fold, and the protection of enablers, concealers and hiders who claim they are doing it 'for God'.

Patricia Boylan | 09 November 2016  

And of course a thorough vetting of seminarians noting 80% of clergy abuse in USA was not pedophilia but homosexual and pubescent hebephilia and later adolescent ephebephilia [Jon Jay Report] and thus pertinent 2005 Vatican instruction on weeding out deep seated gays and gay culture in seminaries. Hence Christine Niles, M.St. (Oxon.), J.D. argues: "One of the biggest lies of the sex abuse scandal is that "pedophile priests" were the culprits"

Father John George | 09 November 2016  

Re Pontifical Secret[ad supra] a supposed ban on reporting priest abusers, by eg a 1922 doc viz 'crimen Sollicitationis[CS] is patently untrue; as USA Vatican Attorney Jeffrey Lena corroborated " canon law did not bar reporting of these crimes to the civil authorities," Lena told the AP. "and confidentiality imposed by Crimen did not trump civil law.

Father John George | 09 November 2016  

Nor may I add is celibacy an abuse issue with 4.5 million kids abused in USA state schools-no celibate priests in cooee!

Father John George | 09 November 2016  

To be blunt, its even appalling and shameful that these abuse should occur in the first place especially by powerful people with authority.Its truly sad and questions the mental health of those involved in these heinous crimes,those who tend to hide it and the justice system and the government.Child abuse, unfortunately has become a crime that is often swept under the carpet by both the victim(out of shame,fear and stigmatization) and also the perpetrators and the authorities who should met out the penalty.The fact that it occurs in every country in every continent and often perpetrated by people of authority ,a loved one and also strangers questions extensively, the mental health/decay of our human race.

Annette Alexnder | 04 December 2016  

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