Peter Trute, AAP
Anger and confusion has followed a federal government announcement indicating it is not likely to implement a key recommendation of the child abuse royal commission that it establish a national redress scheme for victims of institutional child sexual abuse.
Support groups for survivors of child sexual abuse have given different interpretations to the announcement on Friday that the federal government will lead development of a nationally consistent approach to redress but that responsibility should rest with state and territory jurisdictions where the abuse occurred.
Care Leavers Australia Network (CLAN) executive officer Leonie Sheedy said the commonwealth’s position that states and territories would bear responsibility for abuse that happened in their jurisdictions would be unfair to people who suffered abuse in state-run institutions.
‘They are sending [responsibility] back to the state governments who abused them,’ Ms Sheedy told AAP.
‘We now have to go back to the abusing governments that didn’t care about us as children.’
Ms Sheedy said elderly survivors of abuse deserved a simple, national scheme to seek acknowledgement, care and compensation for their suffering.
‘To expect elderly people who live on the fringes of society to go state by state and plead their case is just so wrong,’ she said.
Federal attorney-general George Brandis and social services minister Christian Porter issued a joint press release on Friday saying that after considering the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the government would develop ‘a nationally consistent approach to redress’ with states and territories.
That indicates the government has taken the ‘next-best’ option put forward by the royal commission, which recommended a national scheme, estimated to cost $4.3 billion over 10 years and underwritten by the federal government, as the best way forward.
Adults Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA) president, Dr Cathy Kezelman, believes the government announcement does indicate support for a national scheme, after such a scheme was ruled out under former prime minister Tony Abbott.
‘It’s good to see the commonwealth government getting behind a national redress scheme,’ she told AAP.
‘This is definitely a shift in its engagement but we need to see a commitment of funds and a timeline, so survivors are not left wondering any longer.’
Dr Kezelman said any system would need a ‘funder of last resort’ and the federal government had to take a leading role to ensure the scheme was equitable.
The Catholic Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council was also critical of the government announcement, saying it was disappointing the government was not more advanced in developing a response.
‘The commonwealth and the states have had commissioner McClellan’s recommendations on redress for many months and I think survivors could have expected a bit more from today’s statement,’ TJHC CEO Francis Sullivan said on Friday.