Sports, churches urged to back redress scheme for sex abuse victims

The National Redress Scheme has urged more than 40 organisations including highly prolific organisations such as the AFL, NRL, Swimming Australia and the Australian Olympic Committee to join up to the scheme as a means of demonstrating their commitment to “child-safe practices”.

Social Services Minister Anne Ruston this week wrote to 41 groups, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, Australian Indigenous Ministries and several Catholic bodies, urging them to sign up to the scheme.

Ahead of the release of figures on Tuesday revealing a surge in redress payments, Senator Ruston told the institutions there were “strong public expectations” to demonstrate support for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse.

Senator Ruston’s call for major sporting organisations to join is viewed as a symbolic move to incorporate overarching bodies as part of the National Redress Scheme, which began on July 1 last year and provides payments, counselling and support for child sex abuse victims.

Senator Ruston said while the government had no constitutional power to compel institutions to sign, it would continue pressuring organisations that had baulked at joining the scheme.

“We recognise the frustration survivors feel when institutions have not signed up. It is completely unacceptable. That is why I have this week written to organisations which the community ­expects will have joined the scheme who have a history of working with children,” Senator Ruston said.

“My department will do all it can to facilitate these organisations and any others to sign up to the scheme to ensure survivors of child abuse can receive support and acknowledgment that we recognise they have been waiting so long for.”

New figures show the number of redress scheme applications on hold because institutions were ­resisting joining the scheme had declined, dropping from 53 per cent last November to 32 per cent in February. More than 300 sites, including churches, schools and community groups, have also been added to the scheme.

In its first year of operation to June 30, the scheme made 238 payments valued at $19.8m, with 71 ­applicants considering redress offers. Between July 1 and September 20, the scheme processed payments to 356 applicants totalling $28.2m, with 111 applicants considering redress offers.

Senator Ruston said she had told her department to “make improving the scheme a priority with a focus on increasing access to redress and fast-track processing”.

She said she was encouraged by the progress but acknowledged there was “more to do”.

An updated declaration of groups joining the scheme include Legacy Australia, Parkerville Children and Youth Care, the ­Ballarat and Queen’s Anglican Grammar School, the Passionist Fathers and Carmelite Fathers.

As of this week, all state and territory governments and 61 non-government organisations covering more than 41,200 sites were participating in the scheme.

Before the declaration, of the 4177 applications being processed, fewer than 15 per cent were on hold because institutions were not participating, which is the lowest proportion since the scheme began.

Senator Ruston said the ­“enduring pain” of survivors and their families waiting for a resolution was amplified by frustration that some institutions had not joined the scheme.

Jason MoodyComment