Posted by Br David Hawke
on 18 June 2018
Saturday's Fairfax papers (16th June 2018) published an article by former Editor of the Canberra Times, Jack Waterford, which made reference to the De La Salle Brothers, together with the Marist and Christian Brothers, in relation to the proposed National Redress Scheme (NRS).
While Mr Waterford's commentary was wide-ranging, I would like to address that particular part of his article which refers to the De La Salle Brothers and to correct any misunderstanding that may arise from it.
The misleading claim made in the article is that "the Christian Brothers, the Marist Brothers and the de la Salle Brothers have not yet committed to the scheme". In reality the Provincial Leaders, and/or their representative, of each of these Religious Institutes personally and publicly gave in-principle support to a national redress scheme during their appearance at the Royal Commission last year. It is true that none of the Institutes has yet 'opted-in', for the simple reason that there is no mechanism yet to do this. The National Redress Scheme (NRS) is much discussed and debated, but legislation has not yet passed the Parliament. It doesn't exist; there is no Operator and there are no staff members.
The Minutes of the most recent meeting (25 May 2018) of the ANZPPNG District Council (constituting with the Brother Visitor the Trustees of the De La Salle Brothers) record the following:
The District Council expressed its support for joining the National Redress Scheme, sooner rather than later, once the various States have signed up.
RESOLUTION: That the De La Salle Brothers apply to participate in the National Redress Scheme as soon as possible after it is established as a genuinely national scheme. Carried.
While I do not know the source for Mr Waterford's claim, he is patently incorrect in his assertion!
Although the Commonwealth Government is making every attempt to have the scheme commence on 1st July, it will certainly not be operating nationally at that time. It is commendable that all State and Territory Governments now support joining the scheme (as does the 'Catholic Church' and other non-Government bodies), but the reality is that each of those Governments still needs to pass their own legislation. The Queensland Government has advised that it will not be ready to participate until the end of 2018 at the earliest. This is likely to be the case for the States other than NSW and Victoria which are both more advanced in passing the necessary laws.
In reality no entity has yet 'opted-in' to the scheme, and to do so will require Ministerial approval. The Minister will only agree to an organisation's participation when it can prove it can fulfil its financial commitments to the scheme and pay its way.
The assertion that we are not committed to the NRS is possibly based on the fact that the leaders of the De La Salle, Marist and Christian Brothers have jointly expressed concerns about a number of features of the legislation. These were communicated to the Attorney General, the Minister for Social Services, the Shadow Minister for Social Services, Mr Francis Sullivan and his former TJHC. Raising issues, asking questions and seeking clarity does not constitute a rejection of the scheme. In reality, it is evidence that we take the scheme and its effectiveness very seriously and desire that it achieves its purpose.
What Mr Waterford and many others don't like to acknowledge is that the De La Salle Brothers, other Institutes and Church agencies have made extraordinary changes to our ways of dealing with survivors and claimants. We have been providing redress for many years, both through the Towards Healing process and in civil claims (where we are sued). The Catholic Church is the only Institution which has had a redress scheme, Towards Healing, which has existed for twenty years; the NRS is based on its features (counselling, monetary payment and pastoral session). And the civil claims process has involved direct interaction with claimants by the Professional Standards Officer when requested, and settlements usually include costs associated with counselling. Over the last five years our settlements have amounted to tens of millions of dollars. Surely REDRESS by another name!
Unfortunately, in their commentary on responses of Catholic Institutions to child abuse, some in the media conveniently ignore what work has been done over many decades now to repair the damage caused, including redress, as well as the other good that the 'Church' has done and continues to do. We are always willing to accept legitimate criticism; however, the current jaundiced views of implacable critics, some of whom appear to be stridently anti-Catholic, need to be challenged.