The Federal Minister for Families and Social Services, the Hon Paul Fletcher MP has notified the Uniting Church in Australia that the church has met the requirements to commence participation in the National Redress Scheme for people who experienced institutional child sexual abuse.
The scheme, operated by the Commonwealth Government, allows survivors to apply for counselling, a Redress payment of up to $150 000 and a direct personal response from the institution involved. Information on who can apply is set out on the National Redress Scheme website.
Dr Deidre Palmer, President of the Uniting Church in Australia, has welcomed the notification, which opens the way for survivors of abuse in Uniting Church institutions to seek redress through the Scheme.
“First and most importantly I want to acknowledge those who have been waiting for this decision, which follows months of work and co-operation with Uniting Church bodies across the country, the Department of Social Services and other State and Federal government agencies” said Deidre.
“I would also like to repeat once more the sincere apology I and past Uniting Church Presidents have made to people who were abused in our care as children. I am truly sorry that we didn’t protect and care for you in accordance with our Christian values.”
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse heard evidence of child sexual abuse within a number of current and former Uniting Church institutions. One of the key recommendations that the Royal Commission made was to establish a national redress scheme for those who have experienced institutional child sex abuse.
“Our church has long supported a truly national scheme managed independently from the church,” said Deidre.
“In our view this is the fairest way to ensure survivors are consistently and equitably treated and supported.”
The Uniting Church has established UCA Redress Ltd to co-ordinate its response to applications to the scheme brought by people who experienced child sexual abuse in the church and its institutions.
Sarah Lim, National Director of UCA Redress Ltd, says the first step for potential applicants is to contact the scheme itself.
“People who have experienced abuse can apply directly to the National Redress Scheme via their website www.nationalredress.gov.au or via the Scheme’s toll-free contact number 1800 737 377,” said Sarah.
“As of March 2019, all six Uniting Church in Australia Synods, their congregations and presbyteries, and most current and historic community service agencies and schools have indicated they will participate in the scheme. In total, more than 6500 individual sites and institutions will participate in the scheme with UCA Redress Ltd acting as their group representative,” said Sarah.
More information is available on the UCA Redress website.