Advocate welcomes new scheme to help child sex abuse victims

A COUNCIL representing the Catholic Church has outlined a new scheme to help victims of sex abuse, while also apologising for its past actions. 

The Truth Justice and Healing Council submitted the plan to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse on Tuesday, and expects it would be rolled out nationally for any institution in which a child had been sexually abused. 

The move would see capped compensation, counselling and more general support available to victims, even if they have already received money from the church in the past. 

Ballarat abuse victim and advocate Andrew Collins said the plan was heartening, but it needed to be put in place as soon as possible. 

“I think it’s very positive, definitely a turnaround from the church, but it needs to happen soon. There are still survivors out there whose lives are ending prematurely,” he said. 

Mr Collins said the federal government should step in and put in the redress scheme before the Royal Commission handed down its report in 2017.  While feeling positive of the idea, Mr Collins was critical of the council for putting a cap on payments, which it had previously rejected.  “The cap on payments was the clincher. Previously they said they shouldn’t be there. (But) as long as those caps were in line for what people could expect, from what they could get from the courts, it would be acceptable,” he said. 

The Melbourne Response, an internal redress scheme with a limit of $75,000, was rejected by the Truth Justice and Healing Council CEO Frances Sullivan as a credible way to compensate victims. 

“The days of the Catholic Church investigating itself are over,” Mr Sullivan said. “For the sake of the survivors of clerical sexual abuse within the church and all other institutions, the development of an independent national victims’ redress scheme is a giant step forward in delivering justice for people suffering the devastating impacts of child sexual abuse.” 

Ballarat Bishop Paul Bird was unavailable for comment.

alex.hamer@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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