16th September 2018 | Airlie Ward | ABC News
As preparations are made for next month's national apology to survivors, the Anglican Church of Australia says it is deeply disappointed with parts of the National Redress Scheme, describing it as unfair.
Tasmania's Anglican Bishop, Richard Condie, said the final matrix — the framework used to determine a redress payment — wasn't as good as that recommended by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
"Ever since we've seen the matrix we've been expressing that we do not believe that this is in the best interests of survivors," he said.
Bishop Condie said when the Anglican Church first saw the matrix, it was horrified, believing survivors would get less money and in some cases, nothing.
The Royal Commission's recommended matrix consisted of 100 points — 40 points for the severity of the abuse, another 40 points for the severity of the impact of the abuse and 20 points for other circumstances, such as whether the child was in an orphanage.
The final matrix produced by the Federal Government has a fixed sliding scale, meaning survivors who suffered penetrative abuse are the only ones who could receive the maximum payment of $150,000.
It also pre-determines the psychological impact based on the severity of abuse.
"So if the abuse is deemed to be low then the impact is deemed to be low, and we don't think that's good for survivors," Bishop Condie said.
"Something which might seem relatively minor can have a major impact. Some abuse which can seem very major can have a small impact in a person's life. What the matrix does is it doesn't allow for that nuance.
"There certainly won't be many people that qualify for the $150,000 because of the way the matrix is constructed."
Lawyer Judy Courtin described the matrix as grossly unfair and not based on evidence.
"The critical element of the impact of child sexual abuse on the individual are for all intents and purposes being totally ignored," Ms Courtin said
West Australian Greens Senator, Rachel Siewert, said federal politicians had not seen the matrix when they voted on and passed the redress legislation.
"Many times people asked for the matrix, to be able to see it to be able to understand the basis on which these decisions were made, but that was not available at the time we voted on the bill," Ms Siewert said.
The matrix was not made public until after the bill had passed both houses of Parliament.
Bishop Condie said the church tried unsuccessfully to get the Federal Government to make changes to the matrix.
"We also wrote expressing our dismay about this to the department and also to the Prime Minister (but) we were told right from the beginning that it was a non-negotiable part of the deal," he said.
Bishop Condie said states and territories were aware of the matrix when they were deciding whether to sign on to the scheme.
Child sexual abuse survivor Steve Fisher said given he had received a previous payment from the Anglican Church, he wouldn't get anything under the national scheme.
"Myself personally, what it's telling me is that because I wasn't penetrated during my three years of abuse that my abuse doesn't matter," Mr Fisher said.
"That is not on, it is not fair and there are a lot of other people in my position.
"What this matrix doesn't take into account is that fact for me, personally, the 100 or 200 times that I had to fight this paedophile off to stop being raped and the psychological impact it has had on me for the rest of my life."
Advocates fear the motivation could be to reduce the liability for governments and institutions.
"It's extremely concerning and one must question what has been going on behind the scenes, the way this redress scheme is looking it is very much a regressive step," Ms Courtin said.
"More thought has gone into minimising compensation for victims and maximising if you like the loss or amount of compensation for defendants."
The Government's Explanatory Statement for the scheme states:
The Assessment Framework and the policy guidance material on which it was based, were consulted extensively with officials from all states and territories in order to encourage all jurisdictions to participate in the scheme.
The Anglican Church will now have a lower liability than it had anticipated, but in Tasmania the separate church-based redress scheme will also continue.
It means survivors like Steve Fisher can apply for a top-up payment.
"We want survivors of abuse who've been previously assessed under that to come back to us and they'll be eligible for a payment under the revised scheme with the new cap," Bishop Condie said.
Those with a criminal conviction will also be eligible.
Steve Fisher said the planned national apology next month was now looking hollow and he believed the Government needed to go back to the drawing board.
"For me it has just taken away that feeling of empowerment that the RC gave me as a survivor and I feel like I'm back at square one," Mr Fisher said.
Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher said the Independent Advisory Council on Redress, which was consulted on the Assessment Framework policy, recommended that it feature tiered categories to ensure simplicity.
"The scheme will have two legislative reviews at the two-year and eight-year anniversaries of the scheme's commencement," he said.
"The two-year review will focus on how particular aspects of the scheme are operating, including funding arrangements, scheme policies and decision-making.
"The Government will consider the recommendations of the review, including any recommended changes to the legislation. However, any changes to the legislation will require approval through the scheme's governance arrangements."
Redress matrix details questioned
Leonie Sheedy, a member of the advisory council, said she was also horrified when she saw the matrix the Government would use to calculate payments to victims.
Ms Sheedy is the chief executive of the Care Leavers Australasia Network (CLAN), the national body advocating for people raised in out-of-home care.
"I was horrified believing that survivors would get less money and in some cases nothing," she said.
Ms Sheedy said although the council was consulted, its members were never shown the final documents until they were released publicly.
"I certainly saw a document but we never saw the final document prior to the legislation," she said.
She is urging the Government to adopt the matrix recommended by the royal commission.
To view this article on the ABC News website 'Click Here'