Parkerville Children’s Home child sex abuse survivors say redress scheme taking too long

16 July, 2019  |  Eliza Borello  |  ABC News

Tragedy has been a constant in 84-year-old Ian Stewart's life.

At five he lost his mother to cancer, and by the time World War II ended his father had surrendered him and his two brothers to Perth's Parkerville Children's Home.

WARNING: This story contains details of child sexual abuse some readers may find disturbing.

"VP [Victory in the Pacific] Day, Dad took the three of us up to Parkerville and said he couldn't find anybody to look after us, so we were going to be parked there for a little while until he found somebody," he said.

Mr Stewart said the first time he was raped by an Anglican priest at Parkerville he was 10, and the abuse lasted three years.

"That got to be very seriously degrading," he said.

Mr Stewart said while he was an altar boy two nuns regularly molested him, then later his so-called house parents abused him.

"[They were] a married couple and [at] that stage I think I was a few years older, I think I was 15 at that stage," he said.

Mr Stewart said five adults in total hurt him.

He now lives alone in Adelaide.

"It made me very doubtful of anybody. I could not trust anybody … and I got very lonely," he said.

Mr Stewart said he had received some compensation, a total of $28,000, from Western Australia's redress scheme.

Now he wants Parkerville to pay and has applied for redress from the national scheme set up after the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

But he is frustrated that almost seven years since the royal commission was announced and 18 months after the final report came down, his claim cannot be processed because Parkerville is yet to sign up.

"How many of us do you want to die?" he asked.

Waiting 'completely unacceptable', Minister says

The number of care sites around Australia that have signed up to the national scheme is staggering.

Federal Social Services Minister Anne Ruston has told the ABC 40,000 individual churches, charities and schools were already onboard.

But she said the Government had set up a website naming and shaming institutions that were resisting.

"I would say to any institution who has been identified or even believes that they've got an obligation to be a part of this scheme, stop dragging your feet, sign up," she said.

"The people who are coming forward and putting in applications have been through a terrible ordeal and any further sort of waiting that they are required to go through because institutions are not doing the right thing is completely unacceptable."

The survivors' advocacy group CLAN said an 89-year-old West Australian survivor named Margaret applied for redress last August, but died recently without seeing a cent.

Ms Ruston acknowledged the scheme had faced challenges.

"This is a very unfortunate situation and we acknowledge that there have been a number of people who have passed away, either before they've been able to put their application in or while their application has been pending assessment," she said.

"We do everything that we possibly can, particularly by prioritising applications from people who might be ill or people who might be older."

Asked whether the scheme needed more resources to cope with the pressure it was under, the Minister said that was not "necessarily" the case.

"It was more a matter of the logistics of standing the scheme up that has probably slowed these applications being processed, more so than just physical resources of people or money," she said.

We're joining scheme, Parkerville says

Mr Stewart said he simply wanted closure.

"There's so many of us and all the stories that have been bandied around for how many years now, how much more evidence do they need?" he said.

"I can't see that there's any need for it. Get it cleaned up, get it out of the way.

"The one thing that I want particularly is to forget, I don't want to keep on remembering it all the time."

Parkerville Children and Youth Care declined to be interviewed but, in a statement, said it considered "all forms of child sexual abuse to be intolerable and inexcusable".

It said it implemented an internal redress scheme 15 years ago, which it always intended to be an "interim solution until a national redress scheme was established".

Parkerville said it was in the "final stages" of signing up to the National Redress Scheme, a process it said could take at least six months.

The organisation's chief executive Basil Hanna also noted WA institutions had only been able to sign up since January, despite the scheme being set up in July 2018.

The scheme will run for 10 years.

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