Act on abuse redress: archbishop to govts

Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart
Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart says the church failed to act on child abuse complaints. (AAP) Source: AAP

Melbourne's Catholic archbishop has urged governments to support a redress scheme that provides abuse survivors with equal access and treatment.

Melbourne's Catholic Archbishop Denis Hart wants governments to back a redress scheme providing a level playing field for child sex abuse victims.

Archbishop Hart, victims' advocates and the states want specific details about how the federal government's planned Commonwealth redress scheme for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse will work, including how complaints will be assessed.

He has called on governments to support a national scheme, amid doubts that all states, territories, churches and charities will take part in the opt-in scheme and provide their share of restitution.

"I urge all governments to support a scheme that provides survivors with equal access and treatment no matter in which jurisdiction or institution the alleged abuse occurred," Archbishop Hart said.

The Melbourne archdiocese has doubled its maximum compensation payments to $150,000, in line with the cap under the national scheme.

Archbishop Hart said it was fairer that everyone in the community had equal access to compensation and treatment.

"We've reached a significant stage where for the first time people in the community are talking to each other - churches and institutions and governments - so that we can reach out to people who have suffered terribly and provide a level playing field where people who have suffered can be helped," he told AAP.

Archbishop Hart has flagged further changes to the much-criticised Melbourne Response scheme for handling abuse complaints in the archdiocese once the national scheme comes into effect.

"We can see the whole situation will develop in the coming months into a level playing field for everyone in the community," he said.

South Australia has opted out of the Commonwealth scheme, which will offer survivors psychological counselling as well as money, while the other states are considering their positions.

Victoria is one of the states that have well-advanced work on their own schemes, although the government says its preference is a national redress model that is consistent across all jurisdictions.

Clergy abuse victims advocate Helen Last said survivors faced a long wait before the national scheme became operational in 2018.

While people abused by offenders in the Melbourne archdiocese can now seek upgraded compensation, Ms Last said money was only part of the solution and professional support and assistance were needed.

"If the federal scheme happens to offer more services that they need, complementary and comprehensive services, they can go there and be part of those services as well but that's not for two years," the In Good Faith Foundation chief executive said.

Source: AAP