As part of its commitment to respond to the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, the Federal Government has established the National Redress Scheme which commenced on July 1 last year and will run for 10 years.
With reference to the Royal Commission’s Final Information Update in December 2017, during the Royal Commission’s five-year inquiry:
- nearly 17,000 people contacted the Commission within its Terms of Reference;
- nearly 8000 individuals made submissions in private sessions;
- over 1300 individuals provided written accounts; and
- the Royal Commission referred over 2500 matters to police.
Of the 58.1 per cent of survivors who said that the abuse took place in an institution managed by a religious organisation, 2.8 per cent said they experienced abuse in a Presbyterian or Reformed religious institution (from 40 separate religious institutions using this nomenclature).
This equates to about 130 survivors across Australia, from 40 separate institutions.
This is not to suggest that a greater number of survivors may not eventually make a claim through the National Redress Scheme as many survivors may not have made a private submission or submitted a written report.
PCNSW/ACT General Manager, Jeof Falls, confirmed the Presbyterian Church in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory was working through the process of opting-in to the National Redress Scheme.
Institutions have two years to opt-in to the Scheme, and we are hoping that for us in New South Wales and the ACT this will be finalised over the next few months, he said.
Mr Falls said survivors of historical sexual abuse could also approach the Church directly for redress and could be assured that they will be dealt with in a sensitive and compassionate way.
The Church acknowledges and accepts the extraordinary amount of trust granted to us by those who attend our schools, churches and ministries, by their families, and by the wider community, he said.
We cannot change what happened to those abused, but we can assure them that much has changed to make our schools, churches and ministries safer.
Children are now taught and empowered from a young age to come forward. Schools and churches now listen. Schools and church staff and volunteers are taught what to look out for. Over-familiarity, favouritism, and inappropriate relationships are being identified and reported.
Conduct Protocol Unit (CPU) Director, Jon Flood, said the Church was committed to understand and apply the lessons of the Royal Commission.
In particular, we have implemented strategies aimed at creating child safe churches, schools and ministry activities involving children and ensuring that children are able to express concerns about safety and disclose harm, he said.
Mr Falls and Mr Flood are members of the NSW Child Safety Standing Committee for Survivor and Faith Groups, which is a NSW State government committee that is developing requirements and recommendations for implementing Child Safe Standards in support of the work of the Office of Children’s Guardian.
If you have been sexually abused in any way or know someone who has, they encourage you to seek help. Contact Jon Flood on 02 9690 9333, to have a confidential discussion.