The Catholic Church has signed up to the federal government’s national redress scheme for survivors of child sexual abuse.
The scheme will take effect from July and requires the states and territories as well as non-government organisations such as churches and charities to opt into the scheme and agree to pay victims abused within their organisations up to $150,000 compensation.
Australia’s royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse found 7% of Australia’s Catholic priests were accused of abusing children in the six decades since 1950. Up to 15% of priests in some dioceses were alleged perpetrators between 1950 and 2015, the commission found.
Almost 2,500 survivors told the commission about sexual abuse in an institution managed by the Catholic church, representing 61.8% of all survivors who reported sexual abuse in a religious institution.
The president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, archbishop Mark Coleridge, said the Catholic church was “keen to participate” in the redress scheme.
“Survivors deserve justice and healing and many have bravely come forward to tell their stories,” he said.
On Sunday the Anglican diocese of Melbourne signed up to the scheme. Its archbishop, Philip Freier, said the church had been “shocked and dismayed” by its failures to protect children.
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.”
Legislation for the $3.8bn scheme passed the lower house on Tuesday night.
Western Australia is the only jurisdiction that has not signed up to the scheme. South Australia signed up on Monday.
The social services minister, Dan Tehan, said in a statement on Monday: “The Turnbull government continues to work constructively with the Western Australian government and non-government institutions seeking to opt into the national redress scheme.”
AAP has written up a handy fact sheet on the national redress scheme:
WHAT IS THE NATIONAL REDRESS SCHEME?
The national scheme delivers on a key recommendation of the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse.
It provides access to counselling, a direct personal response from the institution and a monetary payment to survivors of institutional child sexual abuse.
WHO HAS SIGNED UP?
* Every state and territory except for Western Australia.
* The Catholic church: “We support the royal commission’s recommendation for a national redress scheme, administered by the Commonwealth.” – archbishop Mark Coleridge.
* The Anglican church: “We think this will be a very important part of the process for the healing of survivors of abuse.” – bishop Stephen Pickard.
* The YMCA: “We can’t change the past for survivors, but we can change their future.” – YMCA Australia’s chief executive, Melinda Crole.
* The Salvation Army: “We acknowledge that past practices and procedures led, in many cases, to the failure of the protection of children.” – Major Brad Halse.
* The Scouts: “Scouts Australia is committed to ensuring that all survivors of child sexual abuse have access to the national redress scheme.” – Chief commissioner Neville Tomkins.
WHO HAS NOT?
* Western Australia: “My hope is that Western Australia will sign up in the next couple of weeks. We have reached an agreement … They have internal processes that they have to deal with.” – The social services minister, Dan Tehan.
* Other organisations covering 20% of survivors.
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