The Care Leavers Australia Network (CLAN) represents hundreds of people who were in State and Church Children’s Homes. Its submission to the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, for the up-coming Catholic Church’s “Towards Healing” redress scheme is one of the most critical.
It states that “CLAN feels the Towards Healing process is completely inadequate and unacceptable. At this stage, it is CLAN’s recommendation that the Towards Healing scheme be abolished and that funds be directed to a national reparations and compensation scheme facilitated by a body completely independent of any church, charity or government.”
Its submission gives the lie to much of the claims stated in the “Towards Healing” document. For example, “when an initial complaint or allegation is made to the Professional Standards Office, it is not always referred to the Towards Healing process. In some cases, Care Leavers have been referred straight to the religious order where nothing more than a discussion happens.”
Another criticism, stated in other submissions, concerns the style of the process, evidenced in the statement that “those Care Leavers who are referred to the Towards Healing process have commented that they find the whole thing confusing, overwhelming, and that the initial stages are rushed.”
There is one aspect, common to all compensation schemes that most people would not be aware of, and which should be taken up with the government, as a matter of urgency. The Australian health-care system, Medicare, is funded by the federal government. The Health and Other Services Act 1996 enables Medicare to “recover” 10% of compensation payments over $5,000 from the victim to cover its costs for counseling etc.
As CLAN states, “Either this Act needs to be abolished or Medicare should seek to recover expenses from the organisation paying the compensation, in addition to what they have already paid the Care Leaver.”
The general treatment of victims comes in for serious criticism. For example, “They do not treat Care Leavers and other victims of theirs with respect or humility as they may suggest. This whole process leaves Care Leavers feeling stressed, upset, and at times suicidal. They go through all of this only to get nothing in return or such paltry amounts that to them it was just not worth going through. The financial settlements that Care Leavers are given do not reflect the level of abuse they endured. This is why it needs to be taken out of the church’s hands. This is why there needs to be a National Reparations Fund contributed to by all churches, charities and state governments.”
The procedures for relating accounts of abuse come under further criticism. It states that “It is very clear that those hired and paid by the church, have a very hard time remaining impartial. Care Leavers are forced to relive every detail of their abuse, with nobody supportive at their side. Would we ask a rape victim to go back to their rapist? Of course not, but when it comes to institutional abuse, we seem to think it is okay for the abusers to be the ones dolling out the compensation. This needs to change.”
CLAN’s criticisms extend to include organisations other than the Catholic Church. With regards to The Salvation Army’s Professional Standards Unit: “They take people’s stories, make them offers and sometimes never get back to them with how to claim it.” On the Anglican professional standards unit: “Does not have jurisdiction over all Anglican Orphanages and Children’s Homes”, giving no consistency of response.
- It should be taken out of their hands and instead an independent national reparations scheme be established. CLAN have made other recommendations for the scheme as it is but ultimately, CLAN feels that even if these changes were implemented we are still in the predicament whereby the victim has to turn to the abuser.
- Every mediator, facilitator and assessor be independent from the Catholic Church and the individual religious orders.
- All mediators, facilitators and assessors need to be appropriate qualified and ideally possess counseling skills as their line of questioning can leave Care Leavers feeling highly distressed.
- All Care Leavers, and any other victim participating in Towards Healing be able to name a support person at the beginning of the process. From this point on all conversations and correspondence be directed to both of them. The support person should be liaised with and involved in every step of the process, so as to support the participant through the process. This not only provides support, but ensures their rights are not taken advantage of.
- No interview or assessment is to take place unless a support person is there.
“Once again, CLAN believes the only way Care Leavers will be compensated properly and treated with dignity is if this is taken out of the Catholic Church’s hands and is conducted independently through a national compensation scheme.”
- There should be no types of contracts and statements involving any obligation to inform Towards Healing before going to the police.
- Compensation should not be conditional on non-disclosure
- Care Leavers should not sign anything unless in the presence of a legal representative who has explained and made sure they understand the implications of signing the document.
- Clear and easily understandable criteria and guidelines which all claimants are given, telling them how their compensation payment will be determined.
- The opportunity to appeal the decision, run by an independent and impartial panel.
- Access to all available records, documentation, photographs, annual reports etc from a Care Leavers time in the Orphanage/Children’s Homes.
- Personally written apologies
- A public apology by all Past Providers to be held in Parliament House. This needs to be advertised at CLAN and other groups, as well as in newspapers nationwide. Apologizing on a website or in front of a small group of people is not sufficient and is not public enough. This needs to be accessible to all Care Leavers, and website apologies are not as many older Care Leavers are not computer savvy.
- Financial compensation needs to be the first priority and Care Leavers should be given top up amounts when they have been give poultry amounts to begin with.
- For the Catholic Church to contribute to a National Reparations Fund with other churches, charities and governments. CLAN firmly believes that compensation needs to be taken out of the Catholic Church’s hands. While it is there Care Leavers will never receive an adequate amount, they will be re-traumatized and they will not achieve any sense of justice or fairness.
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Pro-Catholic Propaganda Feature: In the interests of a “fair and balanced” blog, the following photo from the Vatican PR Unit is re-posted.
TOMORROW: Some pre-hearing thoughts
That’s all I can say
Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)