Calls to Remove Charity Status of Abusive Organisations
23 October 2018 at 8:48 am
Charities involved in institutional abuse that fail to enter the national redress scheme should lose their charitable status, abuse survivors say amid the prime minister’s national apology to survivors of child sexual abuse.
Abuse survivors John Vann Raay and Peter Gogarty told ABC Radio National on Monday organisations should not hold charity status if they had harmed children and did not opt-in to the redress scheme.
Gogarty said it was vital charities joined the scheme – which offered eligible survivors a payment of up to $150,000, access to psychological counselling, and a direct personal response from the responsible institution if requested.
“Any institution that’s not serious about the redress scheme should lose their charitable status and should lose any tax concessions they get… [they’re not] doing the right thing by our children,” Gogarty said.
But Community Council for Australia CEO David Crosbie said while removing the charitable status of these organisations had justifiable appeal, it was probably the wrong penalty to impose.
He said doing so would have broader implications for all charities and open charitable status up to a Pandora’s box of potential complaints.
“I would prefer we made sure everyone knew which charities were refusing to join the redress scheme, and held them to public and professional account for their decisions,” Crosbie told Pro Bono News.
“Like most Australians, I would not be willing to support a charity that had clearly done the wrong thing by our children and was not prepared to make amends for that unacceptable behaviour.”
An Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) spokesperson told Pro Bono News that safeguarding vulnerable people, including children, was a priority for the charities watchdog.
They said charities should be aware of the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations, which reflected the institutional child abuse royal commission’s child safe standards.
“The ACNC will be publishing new guidance on a range of high-risk areas of governance, including the safeguarding of vulnerable people, in early 2019,” the spokesperson said.
This comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison delivered an apology to child sexual abuse victims in Parliament on Monday, admitting Australia had failed to listen and provide justice to abuse survivors.
“Today, we say sorry. To the children we failed, sorry. To the parents whose trust was betrayed and who have struggled to pick up the pieces, sorry,” Morrison said.
“To the whistleblowers, who we did not listen to, sorry. To the spouses, partners, wives, husbands, children, who have dealt with the consequences of the abuse, cover-ups and obstruction, sorry.
“To generations past and present, sorry.”
The social sector broadly welcomed the apology.
— PWD Australia (PWDA) (@PWDAustralia) October 22, 2018
Anglicare Australia said in a statement, it supported the apology as a landmark moment that dealt with an ugly chapter in Australia’s history.
“Having fully supported the work of the [child abuse] royal commission, we fully support this apology. We now hope to see an end to the denial and covering up of these inexcusable acts,” the statement said.
“Such systemic failure to protect the most vulnerable members of our community must never be allowed to happen again.”
Save the Children child protection advocate Karen Flanagan AM recognised the national apology as an important step in acknowledging past crimes and ensuring a safe future for all children.
Flanagan said the apology was a symbolic gesture to validate the silent voices of thousands of abused children.
“The significance of this commission and apology should not be underestimated. Nor should it be forgotten,” Flanagan said.
“As we work on improving policies and practices in our institutions – we must never forget the importance of listening to, respecting and believing children.”
Save the Children recognises today's national apology to the victims and survivors of institutional child sexual abuse as an important step in acknowledging past crimes and ensuring a safe future for all children. #nationalapology #auspol pic.twitter.com/WF3JcW5jp5
— Save the Children (@savechildrenaus) October 22, 2018
Blue Knot Foundation president Dr Cathy Kezelman AM said while the apology was a promising start, urgent action was now needed.
“A national apology is one of the 409 final recommendations of the [royal commission]. The apology from the federal government is welcome. However, so much more needs to happen,” Kezelman said.
“Victims have been abused in many other institutions – state-run, religious, educational and in others run by charities. For many victims, an apology from the institutions in which they were harmed would be additionally meaningful.”