The LCA will join the Australian National Redress Scheme for people who have experienced child sexual abuse in institutional settings. The decision was made on 15 June by General Church Council after it had considered a proposal from the LCA’s Royal Commission working group.
Established by the Commonwealth Government, the scheme is a direct result of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. It will provide a nationally consistent means of response to abuse that occurred within churches and other institutions.
LCA Bishop John Henderson has welcomed the move, saying that in joining the National Redress Scheme, the LCA is ‘acknowledging the wrongs done to those who have experienced child sexual abuse in our church, and is making a commitment to support them’.
‘All through his ministry Jesus honoured children, teaching that if one wants to become truly great, one must become like a little child’, Bishop Henderson said. ‘Therefore the church and all Christians have a special responsibility to care for children and see that no harm comes to them. How we treat children is a test of the genuineness of our faith. We are called to make every effort to protect children and treat them with the love, care and respect that God requires of us.’
The Federal Government has promised to provide redress to people who were abused in places run by the Commonwealth, such as the Australian Defence Forces and onshore immigration detention. Other governments and non-government organisations, including churches and charities, were invited to join the scheme in order to create a truly national system, covering as many people as possible.
The scheme will be administered by the Commonwealth’s Department of Social Services (DSS). The DSS will appoint independent decision-makers to assess and make determinations on applications to the scheme. Each eligible survivor of abuse in an LCA setting will be able to access: psychological care and counselling, a direct personal response from the LCA, $1000 to cover legal costs, and monetary payment of up to $150,000.
Payments will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, and awarded to eligible people according to the severity and impact of the abuse experienced. The scheme is an alternative to seeking compensation through the courts and is intended to be a simpler and more streamlined process.
In 2013 an LCA Royal Commission working group was established to respond to inquiries from the commission and to stay abreast of its interim reports. The group submitted seven consultation papers to the commission, including, in March 2015, a contribution to the consultation on redress and civil litigation.
Bishop Henderson said that ‘for some time now the LCA has expressed its serious concern for the protection of children by requiring that people who engage in ministry with children undergo the specialised training provided by LCA Professional Standards’.
‘Every one of us is required to report abuse or suspected abuse of children, regardless of whom the alleged perpetrator might be’, he said.
Late last year the Royal Commission presented to the Governor-General its final report, made up of 17 volumes and featuring 189 recommendations, including the establishment of a redress scheme.
Along with representatives of other Australian churches and religious groups, LCA Professional Standards Manager Tim Ross consulted with the Department of Social Services as it developed the redress scheme.
By ‘opting in’ to the scheme, the LCA joins state and territory governments and non-government bodies including the Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, the Salvation Army, the Uniting Church and Scouts Australia.
The scheme is due to start on 1 July 2018 and will run for 10 years.
More information: Visit www.lca.org.au/royal-commission for LCA Bishop John Henderson’s Heartland eNews; the Royal Commission’s final report and recommendations; and a link to LCA Professional Standards training.