Pressure is growing on the Tasmanian Government to announce its intention in relation to the National Redress Scheme for the state’s survivors of child sexual abuse.
The Catholic and Anglican churches are waiting for the Government to clarify its position and have urged it to sign up so that they can also participate.
Support groups on Tuesday also reiterated calls for the Government to join the scheme, saying vulnerable survivors had waited long enough.
State participation is needed to provide the legal framework necessary for victims to access their entitlements.
Speaking on ABC Hobart on Tuesday morning, Attorney-General and Justice Minister Elise Archer said while the scheme started on July 1, the Government was “still actively considering” its decision and according to the scheme, was not obliged to make a call for two years.
But she said the issue “was an absolute priority on my list of priorities of things to do,” and flagged the option of the Government introducing special legislation into Parliament if it remained in doubt.
“There can always be referral legislation passed by the state parliament to allow them (churches and other institutions) to participate in the scheme,” Ms Archer said.
The CEO of the Care Leavers Australia Network (CLAN) Leonie Sheedy said she’d contacted the Minister’s office on Tuesday advocating for the state to sign up.
Ms Sheedy said the Government “had five years’ notice that redress was part of the terms of reference of the royal commission,” and the impact of the delay on the lives of child abuse survivors in Tasmania couldn’t be underestimated.
“There’s one particular woman who lives in Hobart, and every morning she’s up and she says: ‘Leonie, do you think I’ll be alive to see redress?’,” Ms Sheedy said.
“All she wants is with that redress money is to pay for her funeral so she’s not buried in a pauper’s grave.
“Everyone’s watching around Australia.
“It’s not just the churches and charities who are accountable. The nation is waiting for another state to sign up and provide justice.”
Under the scheme, the Commonwealth would make payments to survivors before seeking reimbursement from the responsible institution or government.
If an institution had ceased to exist since the time of the abuse, the Attorney-General said the state also bore ultimate responsibility.
But Ms Archer denied the Government’s hesitation was “a matter of dollars and cents”.
“We want to have a scheme that operates fairly, that’s efficient, that’s transparent of course and has the confidence of all of those survivors who want to use it,” she said.
Unlike the Anglican Archbishop of Tasmania, the Right Reverand Richard Condie, who controversially vowed on Sunday to sell off churches across the state to fund the redress scheme, the Catholic Church has issued a statement, saying its churches are “not for sale”.
“The tradition of the church has always been one of reluctance to sell churches because they are consecrated buildings of spiritual importance,” the church wrote.
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hobart was “making provision for any potential demand on it for compensation… Archbishop Julian Porteous has advocated the Tasmanian Government sign up…” the statement said.
The Salvation Army said it was also watching the Government’s progress and was “concerned that if any state governments do not opt in, or refer power, then there may be issues of disparity between survivors who resided in different states.”