Anglican Church gives go-ahead to join National Redress Scheme, with all dioceses, schools and agencies urged to sign on

Eighty per cent of abuse survivors now covered as Anglicans join other churches in committing to Scheme

The Primate's office said an independent, incorporated entity was being established to provide a single point of engagement with the Scheme and enable Anglican entities to join as part of a national group.

By Mark Brolly

May 31 2018 

The Anglican Church of Australia has reached in-principle agreement to join the National Redress Scheme, with the Standing Committee of General Synod calling on dioceses, schools and agencies to sign on to the scheme as soon as possible.

Canberra and Goulburn Assistant Bishop Stephen Pickard represented the Primate, Melbourne’s Archbishop Philip Freier, at a news conference in Parliament House today. The Minister for Social Services, Mr Dan Tehan, was joined by Bishop Pickard and representatives of the Salvation Army, Scouts Australia and the YMCA to announce that they were among the first non-government institutions to join the Scheme. Australia’s Roman Catholic dioceses and religious orders confirmed on 30 May that they would join the Scheme once legislation was passed.

A statement from the Office of the Primate today said an independent, incorporated entity was being established to provide a single point of engagement with the Scheme and enable Anglican entities to join as part of a national group.

The dioceses of Melbourne, Brisbane and Tasmania have already resolved to join and others are expected soon. Anglican schools and agencies are being provided with the detailed information to facilitate their decision to opt in.

"We know that some survivors of abuse have chosen not to engage in our present institutional redress schemes,” Archbishop Freier said. “We hope that our participation in the independent National Redress Scheme will offer a further step to healing.”

Standing Committee called for the Scheme as legislated to be truly survivor-focused and consistent with the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which completed almost five years of public hearings and private sessions with survivors last December.

Bishop Pickard said other Anglican dioceses and agencies were expected to join the Scheme in the near future as they went through the necessary steps to do so.

“We’re mindful that in our own Church some survivors have chosen not to connect with our internal redress scheme and therefore we are very pleased to be able to join in this national, independent redress scheme. We think this will be a very important part of the process for the healing of survivors of abuse.”

The legislation to establish the scheme is still to be passed by Federal Parliament, and is expected to be voted on by Victoria’s Legislative Council next week, while Western Australia is the only state yet to join. But Mr Tehan expressed confidence that WA would join soon. The Scheme is due to begin on 1 July.

He said today’s and yesterday’s announcements meant that 80 per cent of survivors of child sexual abuse would be covered by the Scheme.

“We still want to make sure that we cover the additional 20 per cent of survivors but in the last few weeks we have made rapid progress and now we are looking at 80 per cent coverage,” Mr Tehan said.

“Can I thank the institutions who are here with us today for the leadership that they have shown, for owning up to past wrongs, for owning up for behaviour which can only be described as despicable and deplorable, but for wanting to turn a page to provide redress and make sure that those survivors get the justice that they deserve.”

Mr Tehan said the Federal Government could not compel state and territory governments or non-government organisations to join the Scheme but had sought through consultation and cooperation to enable them to do so voluntarily.

He strongly encouraged WA and non-government organisations that had not joined to do so “and we say to them we want to work with you to do that but also we think very strongly that you have a moral responsibility to do so”.

“If they don’t, they will be the ones who have to publicly defend their stance.”

Asked about the adequacy of the $150,000 cap, Mr Tehan said the Royal Commission had been very clear that those governments and other bodies that had put in place redress measures should have that taken into account and the National Redress Scheme did so.

A joint statement by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Mr Tehan said: “We have to confront the truth that has been revealed, as difficult as it is, and the National Redress Scheme is part of the healing process.

“Redress is not compensation, however it will acknowledge the hurt and harm suffered by the individual and ensure institutions take responsibility for the abuse that occurred on their watch, by their people.”

The ABC reported that some abuse survivors had mixed reactions to the organisations joining the National Redress Scheme, while lawyers for other survivors welcomed the news, describing the redress scheme as “critical” but warning that more work was needed to meet survivors' needs.

Maurice Blackburn abuse law principal Michelle James said in a statement: “While many survivors may ultimately choose to pursue claims directly against various institutions, it is important that they have a choice to also seek compensation via the redress scheme if they wish and that institutions ensure that option is available.

“We must not lose sight of the fact that the scheme as it stands currently is at odds with the recommendations of the royal commission on a number of key aspects, including capped amounts proposed for compensation and timeframes for deciding offers of redress,” Ms James said.

“It's also important that survivors are properly aware of their rights in joining the scheme, including understanding that they have a right to pursue their own claims.

“The redress scheme provides choice, but it is not the only choice and survivors need to be aware of this in making the best decision for them and their circumstances.”