Bishop supports redress scheme

BISHOP of Sale, Patrick O’Regan, said he fully supported a statement issued on Wednesday by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Catholic Religious Australia, in which it confirmed its entry into the national redress scheme.

In the statement, the Catholic Church said it would sign up to the national redress scheme for survivors of child sexual abuse once the laws were passed by the Senate.

More than 60 per cent of all survivors of sex abuse in religious settings who gave evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse — more than 2500 people — came from Catholic-managed institutions.

The Catholic Church is the first national non-government institution to officially announce it will join the scheme, which has been criticised because institutions have to opt in and because it does not cover physical abuse.

Federal Social Services Minister Dan Tehan described the church’s announcement as significant, saying it showed the church was remorseful and willing to take responsibility.

“The Catholic Church had institutions, churches under its control where terrible, shocking abuse took place,” Mr Tehan said.

Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge said survivors deserved justice and healing, and many had bravely come forward to tell their stories.

If the legislation passes the Senate quickly, the  scheme should be open for applications at the start of July, Mr Tehan said.

All states and territories, except Western Australia, have signed up to the scheme, which would offer victims up to $150,000 in compensation, as well as counselling.

Maurice Blackburn Abuse law principal Michelle James said survivors would now have the choice to pursue compensation from the Catholic Church through the redress scheme or through the courts, depending on their circumstances.

But Ms James said there remained a number of recommendations from the Royal Commission that were yet to be implemented as part of any final scheme.

“This includes gaps in key elements of the scheme such as reduced caps for redress payments, and a much shorter period of time being made available to survivors to determine if they wish to accept an offer of redress that was recommended by the Royal Commission.”