Local, Independant and Effective

National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Parts I, II & III

Posted May 29, 2018


Cathy has acknowledged, honoured and thanked all those responsible for the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, including the role of the Care Leavers Australasia Network. She has talked about the impact of the diocese of Sandhurst, and the experience of the Victorian Women's Trust in advocating on behalf of nuns who left religious orders to receive appropriate redress.

Ms McGOWAN (Indi) (12:34): So much emotion, so much wrong to be righted and so much courage. In my speech today, I would like to acknowledge, honour and thank all those responsible for the royal commission: its inception, its operation, its administration and the delivery of the report. I'd particularly like to, as many of my colleagues have done, acknowledge the role of CLAN: Care Leavers Australasia Network. I'd also like to shine some light on the impact of the royal commission in my electorate of Indi; focus on redress, which we've been hearing about now; say that the job's not finished, that there's still more work to be done; and talk about one particular model that's been undertaken by the Victorian Women's Trust in this area. In conclusion, I'd like to offer my personal apology to the people of Indi and to those who have been hurt and have suffered pain because of the work of the churches and the institutions that we are all responsible for.

With that beginning, I'd like to start by talking about the Care Leavers Australasia Network. I thank people in my electorate, but particularly Rhonda and her team. As she has done with many members of parliament, she came and saw us, raised the issue, made sure we understood how important it was, kept us informed all the way through the royal commission and made sure that we knew what was going on. It's hard to find words to capture my admiration: courage, resilience, persistence, empathy, tolerance, more courage and patience. One of the things that Rhonda did, knowing that I would be making a speech today, was ask me to read this into the Hansard. It's a letter to 'My dear federal politician'. The heading is, 'Stop taxing the poorest of abuse victims'. It says:

I'm a member of CLAN and I was placed in an orphanage, children's home, foster care mission, and I am writing to you to seek your support to make representations on my behalf to the Prime Minister of all Australians, Malcolm Turnbull, CLAN patron. The national redress scheme is due to commence on 1 July. Whilst we commend the Liberal government for introducing national redress for those abused in orphanages, children's homes, missions and foster care, there are, however, many care leavers who will be extremely disadvantaged, angry and hurt on 1 July because they were not sexually used or abused in an orphanage, children's home, mission, foster care but suffered great cruelty and brutal physical and psychological damage as children. These care leavers, who have received as little as $2,000 redress from the Queensland, Western Australian and Tasmanian governments redress schemes will now be taxed on those payments at 1.9 per cent. This is like robbing the poorest of abuse victims, the government's children. None of these care leavers ever expected that government to tax those paltry amounts decades later. The Prime Minister plans on issuing an apology on behalf of the nation. This will be a hollow apology when so many care leavers will be excluded and reabused and retraumatised by this unjust redress scheme.

So we're not quite done yet.

The second area that I'd like to talk a little bit about is the impact on my electorate of this horrendous activity that's taken place in Australia. We've heard the figures from the royal commission about the size of the problem, but the bit that I'd like to concentrate on, again so sadly, is the Catholic Church and the Sandhurst diocese. The Sandhurst diocese is based in Bendigo, in Victoria, covers most of Indi and also includes the electorates of Murray and Bendigo. I will read from the Bendigo Advertiserof 6 February 2017. It says:

THE Sandhurst Diocese had the second highest rate of priests accused of child sexual abuse out of Australia's 17 Catholic dioceses during a 60 year period.

Figures released from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse showed almost 15 per cent of priests who ministered in the Sandhurst Diocese between 1950 and 2010 were accused of child sexual offences.

…   …   …

The diocese was second only to the Diocese of Sale …

I make this point because we've heard much about Ballarat but we've heard very little about Sandhurst and Sale. Sandhurst:

The diocese was second only to the Diocese of Sale for the proportion of priests alleged to have sexually abused children between 1950 and 2010.

Proportionately, more priests allegedly committed offences in Sandhurst than the Ballarat Diocese, where the Royal Commission sat to hear evidence from residents and former students …

There's something that's so sad about this for me, because Ballarat is a large city. It's got a lot of people in it. Poor old Sandhurst is a rural country electorate, and Sale similarly. So I think what happened is that these priests and brothers and others got sent to the country, and we poor, almost defenceless country communities had nowhere to go. We didn't have the advocacy, we didn't have the knowledge and we became a place for this. I just think it's so sad, particularly with the passion I bring to this parliament for rural and regional Australia. When I see it borne out in these statistics, it makes me even more sad to think the institutionalised church would do that.

But clearly it's not all negative. I'm really relieved that the Sandhurst Diocese says that there were no incidents after 2000, and no priests employed after 1990 were accused of any offences. So the vast majority of offences occurred during my growing-up years, the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. In talking about Sandhurst, I probably need to keep the record straight, because the current Bishop of Sandhurst, Bishop Leslie Tomlinson, has apologised to victims and survivors of sexual abuse. He said that it was very sad that it happened and that the church will make amends, and he commits to working with victims, survivors and their families into the future. So that's really good to see, but somehow it doesn't take away the stain. It doesn't take away the lack of trust. It doesn't take away the hurt. So this redress scheme is really important.

I'd like to talk a little bit about redress. I welcome the comments of the previous speaker, the member for Fisher, about monetary compensation—the lump sum—about financial support, about apology and about assurances regarding cessation of alleged perpetrators' position. I'm really pleased to know that that's included in the legislation.

But, in my research to try to understand better the impact of the Catholic Church on my community, I've found it hasn't just stopped with child sexual abuse. There have been other sorts of abuses that have taken place. I'd now like to turn my mind to a submission to the royal commission from the Victorian Women's Trust, dated 9 March 2015. I'll read from the submission:

… over the past six years, we have been intimately involved in seeking redress for women who were former members of religious Orders. We began this journey with some published research. We then designed an Independent Advocacy Program. In the time since, we have successfully sought appropriate redress on behalf of many women religious.

From this significant advocacy experience, we believe we can offer some insight into the broader question of institutional culture and impact on victims as well as adding value to the consideration of key elements that must be involved in ensuring effective redress of past abuse and harm.

Their research culminated in the publication in 2009 of a research and discussion paper entitled The paradox of service. There is much wisdom, I have to say, in that report, and I'm extraordinarily grateful to the Victorian Women's Trust for the work that they've done in supporting nuns who have left the orders. I will turn my mind to the considerations they talk about in The paradox of service and in their submission about redress. They say, and I will quote from their three issues for consideration:

We support the statement of general principles (p.57) to guide the provision of all elements to redress—survivorfocused; no wrong door; cultural needs of survivors including proper training and understanding; and redress that needs the needs of particularly vulnerable survivors.

And they talk about having a champion in your corner.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Claydon ): The debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The member for Indi will have leave to continue speaking in the debate when it resumes.

Ms McGOWAN (Indi) (12:09): I was three-quarters of the way through this speech on Thursday when we ran out of time, so I am continuing today. I had been acknowledging the CLAN group of care leavers in my electorate. I had been talking about the impact of the royal commission and, in particular, the impact of the diocese of Sandhurst, which is in my electorate. I had got to the stage in my speech where I was talking about the role of alternative models of redress that were being used by the Victorian Women's Trust and I was about to outline three principles that the Victorian Women's Trust has found useful. They talked about them in their publication The paradox of serviceThe three main principles that they use are: having a champion in your corner, transparency of institutionalised responses and education about the nature of abuse.

I will take a few minutes to talk about the importance of having a champion in your corner. The Victorian Women's Trust talks about the experience they've had with nuns who have left religious orders. The trust talks about their ability to advocate on behalf of the nuns to get appropriate redress. They said that each of the formerly religious people have been able to rely every step of the way on having an advocate who is trusted and effective in representing their position and in their efforts to gain some personal relief.

The trust also talks about a significant aspect of this experience: religious orders have come some way in profound recognition for past hurt. In a large measure this is because they've not just had to listen in the right spirit to the formerly religious people but also had to deal with trusted brokers with a commitment to see some form of redress. That seems to me to be a really important element in what we're trying do with the survivors that we're addressing today with this redress system: the need to have a champion in your corner—someone who'll stand up for you.

The second principle is the transparency of institutionalised responses. It can't just be done in private. We need public recognition from our institutions that serious hurt has been caused, that they are going to make appropriate changes to the way they do things and that they are going to work with survivors to improve the situation—not just to make it better, but to actually improve the situation. While I understand some of the institutions have gone some way in this regard, I think there is a lot more in terms of humility and in terms of practical signs of sorrow that they could show to our survivors.

The third principle is education about the nature of abuse. Again, this is a major area I think we need to do a whole lot more work on, particularly the major religious institutions. There are many recommendations in the royal commission about what the institutions should do to improve the education, the culture and the understanding within our institutions about what causes abuse, why it happens and to then make the necessary changes that it never ever happens again.

In bringing my comments to a close, I would really like to acknowledge the work of the care leavers in my electorate, to Rhonda and her team—what a fantastic job you've done—and to say how grateful I am for the work that they do. My final comment is to use the dictionary definition of 'redress'. Redress means to rectify, to repair, to cure and to heal. My hope is that, in passing this legislation, we are able to do that in some way to the many, many survivors of our institutions. I'd like to finish by acknowledging, honouring and thanking them for their resilience, their persistence, their empathy, their tolerance, their patience and, most of all, their courage.

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