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Abuse in Religious Institutions

Our abuse law team can assist survivors with claims involving abuse in religious institutions or by people connected with those institutions, and has done so for many years.

There are various options that are available to resolve religious abuse claims.

Catholic Church Abuse

RCT Law acts for survivors of clerical abuse in the Catholic church, Catholic schools and other settings and has done so for many years.

In the past, it was almost impossible to sue the Catholic Church for damages relating to historical child abuse due to a 2007 court decision known as the “Ellis” case. As a result of the so-called Ellis defence, abuse survivors seeking justice were ushered by the Church towards its own redress processes, known as the “Melbourne Response” for complaints involving the Melbourne Archdiocese and “Towards Healing” for claims involving other dioceses.

An independent review into the Melbourne Response resulted in the maximum payment available under that scheme being increased from $75,000 to $150,000 and some top up payments being made. There were no equivalent top up payments provided to those who had proceeded under the Towards Healing process. Both the Melbourne Response and Towards Healing processes have attracted significant criticism, including from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

While the Melbourne Response and Towards Healing processes both still exist, we strongly recommend other methods of resolving claims. against the Catholic Church either in or out of court.

Taking matters involving the Catholic Church and other unincorporated non-government organisations to court has also become easier, thanks to legislation passed by the State Government to overturn the so-called Ellis defence.

The Legal Identity of Defendants (Organisational Child Abuse) Act 2018 (Vic) now requires unincorporated non-government organisations, including the Catholic Church, to nominate a legal entity to be sued in claims of abuse.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse held a number of public hearings or case studies into the Catholic Church and its processes. You can read more about the Royal Commission's findings below:

  • December 2013 and January 2014 hearings into the establishment, operation and review of the Towards Healing process by the Catholic Church, including the experiences of four survivors with the Towards Healing process (Case Study 4)
  • March 2014 hearing into the response of the Catholic Church to the complaint made by John Ellis under Towards Healing (Case Study 8)
  • Numerous 2015 and 2016 hearings into the response of the Catholic Church authorities in Ballarat and other Catholic Church authorities in Ballarat to allegations of child sexual abuse, and the response of the Congregation of the Christian Brothers in St Patrick's Province, Australia, to allegations of child sexual abuse against Christian Brothers (Case Study 28)
  • August 2015 hearing into the history and development of the Catholic Church's response to child sexual abuse prior to the introduction of Towards Healing (Case Study 31); and
  • February 2017 hearing into the current policies and procedures of Catholic Church Authorities in Australia in relation to child-protection and child-safety standards, including responding to allegations of child sexual abuse (Case Study 50).

I was abused by the Catholic Church. Should I claim against them directly or via another process?

The Catholic Church has launched its own processes through which abuse victims can claim compensation, but concerns remain as to whether this is the best way to reach settlement.

Claims against the Anglican Church and Anglicare

RCT Law acts for survivors of abuse involving the Anglican Church and Anglicare and has done so for many years.

The Anglican welfare agency known as Anglicare has its own redress scheme in Victoria. The scheme covers abuse that occurred while abuse survivors were in the care of Anglicare Victoria or one or more of its founding agencies – the Mission of St James and St John; St John's Homes for Boys and Girls; and the Mission to the Streets and Lanes.

It is also possible to take claims involving the Anglican Church and Anglicare to court, or to resolve them through other avenues.

In March 2017, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse held a public hearing or case study into the current policies and procedures of Anglican Church authorities in Australia regarding child protection and child-safe standards, including responding to allegations of child sexual abuse.

Read more about the Royal Commission's findings resulting from Case Study 52.

Claims against the Uniting Church

RCT Law can assist survivors of abuse involving the Uniting Church and has done so for many years.

It is possible to take claims involving the Uniting Church to court or to resolve them. through other avenues.

In March 2017, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse held a public hearing or case study into the current policies and procedures of Uniting Church in Australia in relation to child-protection and child-safety standards, including responding to allegations of child sexual abuse (case study 56).

Read more about the Royal Commission's findings resulting from Case Study 56.

Claims against the Salvation Army

RCT Law can assist survivors with claims involving The Salvation Army and has done so for many years.

It is possible to take claims involving the Salvation Army to court or to resolve them. through other avenues.

In October 2015, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse held a public hearing or case study into The Salvation Army (Southern Territory) (TSAS). The hearing (case study 33) examined the experiences of its former child residents, as well as the response of TSAS to allegations of child sexual abuse at boys' homes in Eden Park (SA), Box Hill and Bayswater (Victoria) and Nedlands (WA) between 1940 and 1990.

Read more about the Royal Commission's findings resulting from Case Study 33.

In December 2016, the Royal Commission held a public hearing or case study into the current policies and procedures of The Salvation Army in relation to child protection and child-safe standards, including responding to allegations of child sexual abuse.

Read more about the Royal Commission's findings resulting from Case Study 49.

If you have been a victim of abuse in a religious institution or know of someone who has, please call us on 1300 366 441 or find us at an office near you.

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