News

Melbourne Anglican diocese to join National Redress Scheme for abuse survivors

Diocesan Council gives final approval for Church to sign up to scheme as legislation progresses through Victorian Parliament.

Archbishop Philip Freier said the diocese believed that an independent and easy-to-access process for survivors, such as that proposed in the National Redress Scheme, was the right way forward. "Therefore we are committed to joining it."

By Mark Brolly

May 27 2018 

The Anglican Diocese of Melbourne is to join the National Redress Scheme for survivors of child sexual abuse, which is due to come into operation on 1 July.

Archbishop Philip Freier announced the decision today, three days after Archbishop-in-Council (AiC) – the executive body of the Melbourne diocese between annual meetings of Synod, the diocesan “parliament” – gave final approval for the diocese to join the scheme proposed by the Federal Government.

At its monthly meeting at St James Conference Centre in West Melbourne on 24 May, the council resolved that the Diocese of Melbourne, through the Melbourne Anglican Diocesan Corporation Ltd, become a participating institution in the National Redress Scheme.

The council’s resolution noted the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse, which delivered its final report last December, and the 2013 Victorian Parliamentary report Betrayal of Trust, and that the council had already resolved to respond quickly and decisively.

The meeting was addressed by Ms Anne Hywood, the General Secretary of General Synod, the national parliament of the Anglican Church of Australia, who spoke about the redress scheme and invited questions. The resolution was then passed.

Archbishop Freier said the Anglican Church had been shocked and dismayed by its failures to protect children and respond to survivors of child sexual abuse.

“These failures are evidenced in the public inquiries of the Royal Commission and the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry, which reported in 2013,” he said. “The Anglican Church – and I personally – have apologised for our failures to survivors of child sexual abuse.

“We have been working continuously for well over a decade to improve our response to survivors and our approach to redress, and are grateful for the work of the Victorian Inquiry and the Royal Commission.”

Dr Freier said the diocese believed that an independent and easy-to-access process for survivors, such as that proposed in the National Redress Scheme, was the right way forward.

“Therefore we are committed to joining it,” he said.

Last October, Melbourne assistant Bishop Genieve Blackwell successfully moved that Melbourne Synod affirm its commitment as set out in Archbishop Freier’s Synod Charge “to the necessary process of redress, restoration and our journey supporting survivors of child sexual abuse and making our Church safe places for children and the vulnerable”.

The previous month, General Synod – meeting in Maroochydore, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast – overwhelmingly passed key legislation designed to provide consistent standards across Australia in child safety, episcopal standards and redress for survivors of child sexual abuse.

A Commissioner of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Mr Robert Fitzgerald, addressed General Synod on its first business day, declaring: “If there is a common purpose and a common cause that unites this Church, surely it must be child protection…”

  • Bishop Richard Condie of Tasmania welcomed the Tasmanian Government’s decision on 22 May to join the National Redress Scheme, opening the way for his diocese to be a participating institution in the scheme.

“Redress provides a measure of restorative justice to survivors, as well as recognition and support,” Bishop Condie said. “Today is truly a great day for survivors of child sexual abuse in Tasmania.

“It is our intention to be a participating institution in this Scheme and we welcome the Government’s announcement today.”

Bishop Condie, formerly Archdeacon of Melbourne, has announced controversial plans to sell church property throughout Tasmania to help fund its estimated future liability of $8 million to provide redress.

“Our compassion for survivors of sexual abuse in our organisation is the driver for the costly path the Anglican Church has embarked upon,” he said. “We believe providing redress is the right thing to do.”

Victoria and NSW were the first states to opt in to the National Redress Scheme, an announcement made at Kirribilli House, Sydney, on 9 March by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian in the presence of survivors and their supporters.

With the passage of legislation, the way will be open for non-government institutions in those states, such as churches, to become participating institutions in the scheme. The National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse (Commonwealth Powers) Bill 2018 passed the Lower House of the Victorian Parliament on the day the Diocesan Council passed its resolution and is now being considered by the Legislative Council.

At the time of the Kirribilli announcement, Sydney's Anglican diocese welcomed the NSW Government’s decision to join the scheme.

“The Diocese of Sydney continues to be committed to meeting its responsibilities towards those who have suffered because of the appalling acts which have been perpetrated on vulnerable children in our care,” a statement issued by the diocese at the time said. 

“For many years, the Diocese has had a redress policy offering care and assistance for survivors of child sexual abuse and payments continue to be made from that scheme.

“The maximum amount available from our scheme is already $150,000 which is in line with the Prime Minister's announcement today.  

“The Diocese looks forward to receiving further details of the arrangements of the scheme and working constructively with both State and Federal Governments on this issue.”