States and territories urged to go far beyond name and shame threat against 'recalcitrant' institutions in abuse redress scheme


Key points:

  • A federal parliamentary committee has recommended institutions which fail to sign up to the national redress scheme for abuse victims be named, their officials identified, and public funding outlined
  • Committee chair Dean Smith has written to the states and territories urging them to adopt the proposal
  • Social Services Minister Anne Ruston said all jurisdictions would need to agree if such a proposal were adopted

States and territories are being urged to not only shame institutions which refuse to sign up to the National Redress Scheme for victims of child abuse but also name senior officials and the levels of public funding the organisations receive.

Last week, a federal parliamentary committee made up of Liberal, National, Labor and Greens members unanimously recommended identifying "recalcitrant" organisations ahead of the June 30 deadline.

This week, the committee chair, Liberal senator Dean Smith, wrote to state and territory attorneys-general escalating that demand and encouraging them to adopt the proposal.

Institutions have until the end of June to sign up to the multi-billion-dollar scheme, aimed at compensating victims of child sexual abuse before the Federal Government publicly names them for holding out.

So far, 545 applications for redress have been delayed because 284 non-government organisations are yet to join the scheme.

Senator Smith suggested it was not enough to simply name the holdouts, and argued the committee wanted explanations on why they were not signing up, names of office holders in the institutions, what date they expected to join the scheme and the financial benefits received through public funding or their charitable status.

"The National Redress Scheme is a shared responsibility between the Commonwealth, the states and territories, and a step like this requires their full co-operation," Senator Smith said.

"We owe it to survivors to take every possible step to ensure institutions are signing up to the scheme ahead of the deadline.

"Governments across Australia have already foreshadowed the naming and shaming of these institutions, but survivors deserve more immediate action."

The scheme will have been operating for two years once the June 30 deadline arrives.

The committee made 14 recommendations to improve management of the redress scheme, and its report said ongoing public debate had already prompted some institutions to join.

"It is also mindful that in some cases — the Jehovah's Witnesses has emerged as one in the evidence given before the Committee — moral pressure applied via public discourse and the media may not be sufficient in and of itself," the committee report said.

Anne Ruston walks through the Senate chamber
Social Services Minister Anne Ruston has said "all bets are off" if institutions do not sign up by June 30.(ABC News: Matt Roberts)

Senator Smith, who is the Government whip in the Senate, also wrote to Social Services Minister Anne Ruston.

Senator Ruston reiterated her warning last week that "all bets are off" for institutions who held back from joining the redress scheme.

"Institutions named in applications have been warned that failure to fulfil their moral obligation to join the Scheme by the June 30 deadline mean they will be named and shamed and will face other sanctions," a spokesperson for the Minister said.

"The Government will consider and respond to the committee report and provide it to the Redress Scheme Governance Board of state and territory ministers.

"The Federal Government cannot make unilateral changes to the Scheme. Changes must be agreed to by the Commonwealth, states and territories."

(Source)


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