National Redress Scheme – Two Years On
It has been two years since the Uniting Church in Australia joined the Federal Government’s National Redress Scheme (NRS) for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse.
Almost 4000 Uniting Church institutions, including congregations, schools and agencies, now participate in the NRS and since March 2019 the UCA has received 500 applications under the Scheme.
UCA President Dr Deidre Palmer said the Church remained deeply committed to redress for people who suffered abuse in our institutions.
“We are deeply sorry for the terrible breach of trust and the circumstances in which children were abused in our care,” said Dr Palmer. “We recognise the trauma and ongoing impacts of this abuse on survivors, their families, friends and communities.”
“As we mark two years of participating in the NRS, we are committed to learning from what we are hearing from survivors and ensuring that across the Uniting Church, including our congregations, schools and agencies, we create spaces where children are safe and are able to flourish.”
The National Redress Scheme provides survivors of abuse with a redress payment up to $150,000, counselling and psychological care and a direct personal response from the institution where the abuse occurred.
The Uniting Church in Australia participates in the Scheme through UCA Redress Ltd, a separate company established to be the national body to support and respond to people who have experienced abuse at the hands of the Church or its institutions.
National Director of UCA Redress Ltd Sarah Lim said one of the important outcomes of their work was to ensure the information collected informed current practice across the Church and its agencies.
“Redress is not only about dealing with the wrongs of the past – it is about informing the future to make sure children are safe in our Church,” said Ms Lim.
“Thanks to the brave survivors who have made applications and shared their stories with us, we are learning a lot about the occurrence of sexual abuse in the Church – and we are working to use these learnings to improve contemporary child safe practice.”
“We welcome opportunities to engage with our Church communities on redress and trauma-informed practice. When we consider our approach, our words, our deeds, our symbols and imagery, it is important to take into account the impact of abuse on people’s lives.”
Around 80 per cent of applications through UCA Redress Ltd are from people who had not previously approached the Church.
“This is an indication that scheme is providing an avenue that people have not previously felt able to access before. It may be that being ‘arms-length’ from the institution means people feel safer in disclosing their experiences,” said Ms Lim.
The majority of applications to UCA Redress Ltd have related to allegations of abuse in out of home care settings, particularly in the 1950s-1970s.
“As the Royal Commission demonstrated, children in out of home care were particularly vulnerable to abuse. In addition to out of home care, a number of applications relate to allegations of abuse in schools and congregational settings.”
Around 25% of people accessing the scheme are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people.
“While this overrepresentation is disappointing, it shows significant take up of the NRS by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The Scheme itself is doing some work to improve the cultural safety of the NRS processes.”
There has been a lot of public attention and scrutiny to the redress scheme since its commencement, including a Joint Parliamentary Committee inquiry into the National Redress Scheme and a legislated review of the Scheme two years since it was implemented, with a report yet to be released.
“We have participated in these reviews, advocating for improvements to the survivor experience of the NRS, as well as system improvements which will support the sustainability of the Scheme for participating institutions,” said Ms Lim.
Overall, the National Redress Scheme has received around 9500 applications.
For all inquiries about redress please call the National Redress Scheme on 1800 737 377 or contact the Scheme via its website https://www.nationalredress.gov.au/
If you have any questions about UCA Redress or the Uniting Church’s participation in the National Redress Scheme, please phone 1800 411 739 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the UCA redress website https://ucaredress.org.au/