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Kate Malone

Published: 15 March 2017
Author: Kate Malone

2,504 child abuse complaints made against Uniting Church

17.5 million paid in compensation

The Uniting Church has handed over data to the Commission which reveals that they have received an astounding 2,504 child abuse complaints since 1977.

Of those allegations, 133 occurred in places of worship.

According to Church officials, they have paid out $17.5 million to survivors across 255 civil claims.

This case study is one of several being conducted by the Commission this month, into the policies and procedures of several religious organisations including the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Anglican Church, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia Ltd and Australian Christian Churches and affiliated Pentecostal churches.

The President of the General Assembly of the Uniting Church, Stuart McMillan, told the Commission that the Church has now developed a national child safe policy framework which is modelled on recommendations from the Commission. He publicly assured the Commission and survivors that the Church would continue to improve the policies and practices of the Church.

Importantly for survivors, Mr McMillan also acknowledged the impact that the abuse has had on the lives of those who were abused by Church officials and said that he was deeply and truly sorry for the Churches failure to protect its children in the past.

At Ryan Carlisle Thomas we have brought numerous claims against the Uniting Church for their failure to appropriately supervise institutions that housed vulnerable children, including at institutions such as Tally Ho Boys’ Training Farm and Orana, the Peace Memorial Homes for Children. 

Sadly, many clients were subjected to sexual, physical and emotional abuse by staff members at these homes.

While Mr McMillan’s apology is welcome and reiterates previous apologies by the Uniting Church, including its apology to Forgotten Australians in 2004, it’s a case of too little too late for those who were abused in the homes operated by the Church, and who remain traumatised.

Although it remains to be seen how the Church’s new child safe policy will operate in practice, there is at least some comfort in seeing that the Commission’s work and recommendations are not going unnoticed by organisations such as the Uniting Church.

It doesn’t however remove the need for redress and for the payment of higher compensation amounts to those who suffered because policies were not adopted sooner.

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