• The National Redress Scheme has paid out just 313 survivors of institutional abuse across the nation. (SBS)Source: SBS
A group of survivors of the Stolen Generations consider filing a civil law suit in Darwin Supreme Court against the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.
Shahni Wellington

31 Aug 2019 - 12:23 AM  UPDATED 31 Aug 2019 - 12:49 AM

A group of Stolen Generations survivors are investigating the viability of taking civil action against a Catholic Congregation for the abuse inflicted upon them as children.

More than 30 survivors from Garden Point Mission on Melville Island, 80 kilometres north of Darwin, are assessing the viability of taking civil action against the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart in the Darwin Supreme Court for sexual, physical and emotional abuses they endured while interned there for periods between the 1940s through to the 1960s.

More than 60 individual civil claims against Catholic priests, nuns, other staff and older children are being considered by the law firm Slater and Gordon who are acting on behalf of the group. 

Garden Point Mission was established on Melville Island in 1941 by the Congregation to take in Aboriginal children from The Bungalow in Alice Springs and the Kahlin Compound in Darwin: both reserves in which Aboriginal children were segregated from their families and communities.

The possibility of the launch of a civil lawsuit comes as the Congregation is not yet part of the National Redress Scheme.

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The Redress Scheme was introduced following the 2013-2017 inquiry of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Its purpose is to help people who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse gain access to counselling, a direct personal response from the institution, and a Redress payment of up to $150,000.

The Australian Government expects every institution in which the sexual abuse of children occurred to join the scheme, however many, including the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart Congregation continue to await ministerial approval to enter the scheme.

Slater and Gordon lawyer, Nick Hart, said the slow process means many clients die before their experiences are formally recognised and compensated.

“The idea of this scheme - to provide acknowledgement, treatment, and redress to survivors of abuse - it's a great idea, but from what we're seeing ... that scheme is too slow,” Mr Hart said.

“Many of those people were taken from their families, from their culture, taken from their livelihoods, and placed onto this island where they were either seriously physically or sexually abused.

"You need to have a process ... set up that enables them to seek redress much more efficiently.”

Mr Hart said a 15 months wait between lodging an application with the Scheme and hearing back about it was common. As was the result of "having a no outcome even after all of that time".

However, the time delays are not the only inadequate part of the Redress Scheme system, he said. 

He described the process as "extremely distressing" for a survivor of institutional abuse.

"Many of [the survivors] were not provided with a proper education and to have a redress scheme in place that requires a person, a survivor of abuse, to describe in as much detail as possible on a 40-page application, - it's going to be very difficult."

To date, the National Redress Scheme has paid out just 313 people nationally.

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