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Church commits to national redress scheme as SA signs up

National

The Catholic Church has become the first non-government institution to commit to a national redress scheme for survivors of child sexual abuse. This follows the announcement this week that South Australia will join the scheme.

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The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Catholic Religious Australia today confirmed that the Church would enter the scheme when that becomes possible under national legislation.

“Since as early as 2013, the Catholic Church has called for a national redress scheme for survivors of child sexual abuse,” ACBC president Archbishop Mark Coleridge said.

“We support the Royal Commission’s recommendation for a national redress scheme, administered by the Commonwealth, and we are keen to participate in it.

“Survivors deserve justice and healing and many have bravely come forward to tell their stories.”

CRA president Sr Ruth Durick OSU said: “We recognise that redress will not take away a survivor’s pain, but hope that it can provide some practical assistance in the journey towards recovery from abuse.

“We are committed to providing redress to survivors who were abused within the Catholic Church.”

Various Catholic leaders told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that they supported a national redress scheme to limit future trauma for survivors of abuse in obtaining redress from the Church.

Given the diverse structure of the Catholic Church, Catholic officials have been working with the Commonwealth Government to enable the Church to work effectively with the independent National Redress Scheme Operator.

“To that end, we are establishing an agency to allow dioceses and religious congregations to interact with the Scheme Operator,” Archbishop Coleridge said.

The South Australian Government this week announced it was signing up to the scheme.

“Joining the National Redress Scheme is an important step in the State Government taking responsibility for and helping to heal the pain caused by the sexual abuse of children in government institutions,” said Premier Steven Marshall.

“Nothing can undo the inexcusable abuse that survivors experienced as children, but we can acknowledge what they have been through and provide financial compensation and emotional support.”

Attorney-General Vickie Chapman said the move would ensure South Australia joined other states and territories in recognising the importance of a nationally consistent approach to the devastating impact of institutional child sexual abuse.

“By opting in to this scheme, the Government of South Australia is working to ensure financial support and counselling is available to those people who suffered unthinkable abuse in government and private institutions,” she said.

Ms Chapman said that the Government was working to develop the practical arrangements needed to implement the scheme in South Australia.

The Federal laws governing the scheme are due to come into effect from 1 July 2018.

South Australia will require state-based legislation to be passed which adopts the national scheme and administrative arrangements to be put in place to allow the scheme to operate at a state level.

The passage of state legislation will pave the way for South Australian private institutions to formally opt-in to the national scheme.

“We will continue to work with the Commonwealth on arrangements between the State and Federal Government that will enable South Australian survivors of child sex abuse to access the scheme,” said Ms Chapman.

“The scheme is complex to implement because it requires identification of all potentially relevant institutions and their records, including those which may have ceased operation many decades ago.

“At this stage we anticipate it could take up to 12 months to finalise all arrangements, including engaging with service providers and stakeholders about implementation at a local level.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull welcomed the Church’s announcement, calling it a “significant development”.

“The Catholic Church will be the first non-government institution to opt in to the National Redress Scheme,” his office said in a statement.

“If all states and institutions across Australia opt in, the scheme could provide redress to around 60,000 people.

“The Royal Commission put the horrific experiences of survivors on the public record and now the Redress Scheme will officially acknowledge them and continue the process of healing.”

Western Australia is the only State yet to agree to taking part in the scheme.

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