A HUNTER child sex survivor who played a key role in the campaign for a royal commission has called on Australian federal and state governments, churches and other institutions to stop politicising the national redress scheme before the July 1 start-up date.
Bob O’Toole said a public spat between Federal Attorney General Christian Porter and Melbourne Catholic Archbishop Denis Hart over the church signing up to the scheme was dispiriting, nearly three years after the royal commission recommended it be established with some urgency.
The archbishop on Friday repeated the church’s long-standing support for the national redress scheme after the NSW and Victorian governments announced they would sign on. But Archbishop Hart’s statement that he would not make a formal announcement until the scheme’s details were available prompted a quick negative response from Mr Porter.
It was “starting to look like making excuses for the sake of making excuses” about signing on to the scheme, Mr Porter said.
“This issue has been reviewed more extensively probably than any issue in Australia’s recent modern history,” he said.
The Melbourne archdiocese responded with a terse statement saying any “fair-minded person” would agree it was “perfectly reasonable” what was being proposed.
“I suggest the Attorney-General looks again at Archbishop Hart’s comments of Friday, which could not possibly be defined as an underwhelming response,” an archdiocese spokesman said.
Mr O’Toole said the skirmish between governments and churches was “driven at the present time by the proposed start-up date which has been on the table for a long time” since the royal commission’s national redress scheme report and recommendations in 2015.
“This is an important issue. Sadly it’s dragged on like this because governments have not wanted to commit, when it should have been under the spotlight,” Mr O’Toole said.
In an interview in December Maitland-Newcastle Bishop Bill Wright called for all Australian states to sign on to the scheme so there could be a truly national response that was fair to all survivors.
The Royal Commission found the diocese had more than 80 accused child sex offenders over decades, and paid $26.6 million in compensation by 2015. Royal commission data showed Maitland-Newcastle diocese made some of the highest per capita compensation payments in the country.
Survivors dealing directly with Maitland-Newcastle received an average $198,000, while Hunter survivors seeking compensation through the Catholic Church's heavily criticised Towards Healing process received an average $53,000, royal commission data showed.
It also revealed that 97 survivors in Ballarat received an average $51,000, while 93 per cent of survivors in the archdiocese of Melbourne sought compensation through the heavily criticised Melbourne Response process, and received an average payout of $46,000.
The national redress scheme has a cap of $150,000 per claim, plus counselling and support, with the average claim expected to be about $76,000.