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National Redress Scheme – One Year On

The Uniting Church in Australia is marking a year since joining the Federal Government’s National Redress Scheme (NRS) for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse.

“The occurrence of abuse in our institutions is part of our history. We do not hide from it but commit to continuing to learn from it,” said UCA President Dr Deidre Palmer.

“The Uniting Church is committed to restoring relationships in our communities for survivors.

“Our Church and leaders have offered our deep regret and sorrow for our failure to live up to our Christian values and the circumstances in which children were abused in our care.

“Our sincere apology is underpinned by our commitment to redress for people who suffered abuse in our institutions and to take action to be a safe Church for all people.”

The National Redress Scheme provides survivors of abuse with a redress payment of up to $150,000, counselling and psychological care and a direct personal response from the institution where the abuse occurred.

After extensive work with the Department of Social Services to meet onboarding requirements, more than 3500 Uniting Church entities commenced participation in the NRS in March 2019. A number of separately incorporated entities associated with the UCA have subsequently joined the Scheme.

The UCA participates in the NRS through UCA Redress Ltd, a separate company established to be the national body to support and respond to people who have experienced abuse at the hands of the Church or its institutions.

National Director of UCA Redress Ltd Sarah Lim said she believes the NRS being at ‘arms length’ from the institution means people feel safer in disclosing their experiences.

“We have received a number of applications via the NRS from people who have not previously approached the Church in relation to abuse,” said Ms Lim.

“This is indicative that the Scheme is operating in a way that gives people an avenue they have not previously felt able to access before.”

“We have worked hard to meet timeframes to respond to these requests, particularly for ‘priority’ matters as identified by the Scheme operator, usually where the applicant is elderly or ill.”

“Around half of the people who have accepted an offer relating to abuse in the Uniting Church have advised that they would like a ‘direct personal response.’

“We are ensuring our institution representatives and contact people have the appropriate training and skills for survivors to safely tell their story.”

Ms Lim said she welcomes opportunities to work together with Uniting Church communities on redress, emphasising the importance of trauma informed practice.

“Trauma informed practice means that we are aware of, and sensitive to, the fact there are people in our congregations, staff, leadership, services, in fact, across every context of the Church, who may have experienced abuse in a range of settings.”

“Being mindful of this fact, we consider our approach, our words, our deeds, our symbols and imagery and the way we give and receive information, to take into account the impact of abuse on people’s lives,” said Ms Lim.

Overall, the National Redress Scheme has received around 6000 applications from all participating institutions.

For all inquiries about redress please call the National Redress Scheme on 1800 737 377 or contact the Scheme via its website https://www.nationalredress.gov.au/

If you have any questions about UCA Redress or the Uniting Church’s participation in the National Redress Scheme, please phone 1800 411 739 or email info@redress.uca.org.au or visit the UCA redress website https://ucaredress.org.au/