Church Healing Council Disbands, as QLD and NT Join Redress Scheme
Wednesday, 2nd May 2018 at 6:06 pm
The group coordinating the Catholic Church’s response to the child sexual abuse royal commission has concluded its work after five years, on the same day Queensland and Northern Territory joined the historic national redress scheme.
The Truth, Justice and Healing Council (TJHC) disbanded on Monday, after half a decade spent speaking for the Catholic Church and promoting lasting healing for victims and survivors of previous abuse.
TJHC was formed shortly after the establishment of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was announced in January 2013.
The council was tasked with identifying systematic institutional failures that hindered the church’s protection of children, and made submissions to the royal commission about the procedures, policies and structures currently in place and how they could be improved.
TJHC CEO Francis Sullivan, said the council was only ever commissioned to exist for the life of the royal commission.
“The past five years have been a searing experience for most people inside the Catholic Church as they have for the many thousands of survivors who have told their stories of abuse,” Sullivan said.
“Many good things have been achieved over the past years; reforms to legal processes, improvement in child protection practises, changes to compensation and redress arrangements.
“But by far the greatest legacy of the commission will be the increased awareness of the appalling damage of child sexual abuse and the heightened awareness that will forever keep the protection and safety of children at the very forefront of all our thinking.”
One of the council’s final acts was delivering a four volume report to the church leadership, reflecting on the royal commission process, explaining TJHC’s response to each commission recommendation, outlining the council’s work and analysing reform measures by the church.
A key recommendation from the council was that the church establish an Implementation Advisory Group to assist the leadership with addressing the royal commission’s final report.
“The real test of the success or otherwise of the commission will be when we look back in five years and see that there have been changes in the way the Catholic Church and other institutions have implemented the royal commission’s recommendations,” Sullivan said.
Based on the royal commission’s recommendations, legislation to establish a national redress scheme for survivors of child sexual abuse was introduced in October last year.
Queensland and the Northern Territory opted into the scheme on Monday, leaving Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania as the only states yet to commit.
NT Attorney-General Natasha Fyles said they were pleased to demonstrate their commitment.
“The national redress scheme provides access to psychological counselling, a direct personal response – such as an apology – and a monetary payment,” Fyles said.
“Child sexual abuse won’t be tolerated – no matter how long ago it happened.
“As a government we have a duty to help heal the wrongs of the past and to acknowledge the pain and suffering of victims.”
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said her government would provide $550 million towards the fund.
“Although no amount of money can return a lost childhood it is important that we acknowledge what these victims have been through,” Palaszczuk said.
Eligible survivors will be entitled to a redress payment of up to $150,000 under the scheme.
Sullivan said last October it was vital that all states and territories opted into the initiative, as only about 1,000 of the estimated 60,000 victims were abused in Commonwealth institutions.
“Without state and territory support… it is constitutionally impossible for state-based institutions to be part of the scheme,” Sullivan said.
“This is a huge issue for the tens of thousands of people who were abused as children in institutions not run by the Commonwealth including Catholic schools, orphanages and parishes.
“The federal government now has to put in the hard work to get the states to come on board and play their part in delivering justice for all survivors, not just a relative handful abused in Commonwealth institutions.”
The national redress scheme is scheduled to begin on 1 July.