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Published: 22 May 2015
Author: Ryan Carlisle Thomas

Christian Brothers reviewing “unjust” abuse settlements

Today, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, sitting in Ballarat, heard from Brother Peter Clinch, Province Leader of Christian Brothers Oceania, who conceded that many settled claims for compensation made by survivors of abuse against the Christian Brothers were inadequate and “unjust” in today’s light.

The comments made today offer hope for survivors who were abused in Victorian homes and facilities run by the Christian Brothers.

In acknowledging that mistakes may have been made in the past concerning settlements, Br Clinch said the Christian Brothers were in the process of reviewing what has been paid to survivors previously. In doing so, Br Clinch admitted that the Christian Brothers had been “protecting themselves” in seeking to minimise the amount offered in monetary payments.

Ryan Carlisle Thomas has been reviewing previously settled Christian Brothers claims after similar public comments were made by the Christian Brothers at the Royal Commission hearings held in Western Australia in 2014.

At the time, Brother Julian McDonald, deputy leader of the Christian Brothers Province of Oceania, invited survivors to come forward to reassess any financial settlements that they felt were unreasonable. This was specifically in relation to abuse that occurred at homes run by the Christian Brothers in Western Australia.

One of the difficulties of having a claim reopened for survivors is the potential need to go through the trauma of having a further roundtable discussion with the Christian Brothers. Settlement discussions can often be highly stressful for survivors. Hopefully new measures will be put in place that minimise the psychological impact that settlement discussions can have in reviving painful memories and that ensure that those participating in discussions are trauma-informed.

RCT is in the process of seeking further compensation for a number of clients who settled their claims against the Christian Brothers some years ago.

One particular client, Mr. X, suffered significant sexual, emotional and physical abuse while at St Augustine’s Boys Home in Geelong. He had previously received compensation from the Christian Brothers and the State of Victoria a number of years ago. He reports that the process of meeting with the representatives of the Christian Brothers was extremely traumatic.

It is hoped that this seeming change of heart within at least one section of the Catholic Church will be backed up with action and that old inadequate compensation settlements will be substantially topped up.

Although the Christian Brothers have agreed to revisit settled claims, despite Deeds of Release have being previously signed, many other institutions are not prepared to do so. This again leads to unjust and different outcomes for survivors depending which institution they were abused in.

Ryan Carlisle Thomas advocates an independent redress scheme, so that survivors of abuse are not forced to go back, “cap in hand” to the very institutions who were responsible for their abuse, and so all survivors are treated fairly, regardless of where they suffered abuse.

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