The Australian National Redress Scheme and the Roman Catholic Church

Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found in the six decades since 1950 seven percent of Australia’s Catholic priests were accused of abusing children and up to 15 percent of priests in some dioceses were alleged perpetrators.Almost 2,500 survivors told the Commission about sexual abuse in an institution managed by the Catholic Church, representing 61.8 percent of all survivors who reported sexual abuse in a religious institution.

The Australian Catholic Church estimates it will be liable for $1 billion in compensation to child sexual abuse victims as part of the new National Redress Scheme.

In order to co-ordinate its response to the National Redress Scheme the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference established Australian Catholic Redress Limited in October, 2018.

This company was established to provide a single access point for the Catholic Church in Australia with the National Redress Scheme, it is simply an administrative structure designed to streamline the Church’s involvement.

Our understanding of the administrative arrangement is that when the National Redress Scheme makes a decision about the redress that should be paid, and whether there should be an apology or counselling, then the National Redress Scheme will pay the claimant his/her lump sum redress and it will then recover the money from the Catholic institution in question via Australian Catholic Redress Limited.

Australian Catholic Redress Limited provides a single point for the National Redress Scheme to “invoice” when a decision on redress is made.

On 13 December 2018 the National Redress Scheme confirmed that the first Catholic institutions, represented by Australian Catholic Redress Limited, joined the National Redress Scheme.

This first group comprised 27 out of 35 Catholic Dioceses and Archdioceses within Australia. In addition the first Catholic Religious order also joined the Scheme, the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits).

In early January 2019 the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference announced that about 90 percent of all parishes, diocesan schools and ministries had officially joined the National Redress Scheme.

It is expected that more than 5000 Catholic sites will eventually be considered as part of the National Redress Scheme.

On the 14 January 2019 six more Catholic Dioceses represented by Australian Catholic Redress Limited joined leaving only two Dioceses yet to formalise their position. Three more Catholic Religious Orders have also joined the Scheme, they are:-

  • Marist Fathers Australian Province
  • Sisters of Mercy Brisbane
  • Sylvesterine Benedictine Monks

All institutions, no matter how small or large, should consider their position vis-à-vis participation in the National Redress Scheme in early course.

It is to be noted that institutions have until 30 June 2020 to join the National Redress Scheme.


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Authored by Sharon Moohan, Partner

 

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