The Anglican Diocese of Newcastle has announced it may sell off some of its assets to meet pledges to redress childhood victims of sexual abuse.
Bishop Peter Stuart said the church is currently experiencing a shortfall of approximately $1 million in the compensation amount it has agreed to pay abuse survivors.
The diocese has already paid out 27 settlements totalling nearly $5 million since the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse shone a spotlight on historic allegations of crimes perpetrated by the church.
The average payment that victims received was $183,000, which is the highest of any Anglican church in the dioceses, but Bishop Stuart said the church can still do more to right wrongs.
“We fully support the establishment of a best-practice Commonwealth Redress Scheme for abuse survivors and will do all that we can to enable the diocese to exercise the option to ‘opt in’ into the scheme,” he explained.
Church considering compensation options
Bishop Stuart’s comments came in a background briefing document sent to the church’s members ahead of a Synod meeting later this month. The document, published in the Guardian, said the dioceses welcomed the news that the scheme was independent of the church.
“We will put forward a range of options to make sure the Synod is aware of what options we need to deliver redress, because we want to be transparent,” Bishop Stuart stated.
“That could involve cutting costs, engaging in further borrowing or selling some assets. We understand survivors want the church to face up and address the harm from the past.”
Child sexual abuse compensation
The royal commission revealed that 1,119 child sexual abuse complaints were made against the Anglican church between 1980 and 2015, with 22 out of Australia’s 23 dioceses implicated.
Brisbane’s diocese received the highest number of allegations at 371, which comprised 33 per cent of the total. However, this is likely due to the fact that the Diocese of Brisbane required all Anglican schools within the area to report abuse directly to the diocese. This process was not in place across the country.
A royal commission report released in March showed that 42 per cent of complaints made against Anglican churches resulted in compensation for victims. The average payment was $72,000, with more than $34 million already paid out.
If you’d like to know more about redress of child sexual abuse victims, please get in touch with a member of our team for a confidential and compassionate discussion about your options.