Church to face $60m sex payout

The Mercury/June 19, 2004
By Jonathan Porter

The Anglican Church faces a nationwide compensation bill of as much as $60 million for child sex abuse cases, victims groups said yesterday.

The church is considering a national scheme to care for victims of sex abuse after the Sydney archdiocese revealed it would pay compensation of up to $75,000 per case.

NSW is following the lead of Tasmania, where sex abuse victims can be paid up to $60,000 under its pastoral assistance scheme.

Garth Blake SC, chairman of the church's national child protection committee, said he would present a report to the national synod in October calling for uniform standards on caring for people affected by abuse.

"There is a recognition that while there may be no legal liability to provide assistance to people who have been abused by clergy, there is a recognition of a moral responsibility," Mr Blake said.

The Sydney care and assistance package aims to provide compensation and create a budget for other needs such as counselling.

According to Philip Gerber, director of professional standards in the Sydney diocese, victims would have to sign a waiver or deed of release before receiving compensation payments.

The Tasmanian scheme does not require victims to indemnify the church against further legal action.

Mr Gerber said the top payment of $75,000 "obviously would be a worst-case scenario."

"We would be looking at someone who is chronically physically or psychologically damaged because of the effects of the abuse," he said.

Mr Gerber said the scheme was being introduced because "there is clearly a need."

"In a perfect world we would like to say, 'what do you need?', and say 'here is $2 million or $3 million', but we can't do that."

He said without the fund, the Anglican Church would have to go into general funds or levy the parishes to meet compensation demands from sex abuse victims.

In the wake of the resignation of disgraced Adelaide archbishop Ian George, the church faces a $3 million class action from 30 victims of the child rapist Robert Brandenburg.

In Tasmania, the Anglican Church in March was forced to sell Bishopscourt, home to the state's Anglican bishops since the 1870s, to meet its sex abuse claims there.

While the Tasmanian diocese said the sale was not prompted by last year's sex victim scandal, it was widely believed the more than $1.5 million it realised from the sale would go towards compensation claims.

A spokesman for Survivors Investigating Child Sex Abuse, Steve Fisher, said there was the potential for "2000 to 3000 people coming forward."

"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see that, at $20,000 to $30,000 a person, they have to pay out a heck of a lot of money," Mr Fisher said.

Mr Fisher said it was "outrageous" that, under the Sydney scheme, victims would have to sign a waiver.

"It's hard enough for someone to come forward, then you have to sign away your rights - well, that is incredible.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.