Lawyers for abuse survivors are dismayed it took the threat of financial penalties for the Jehovah’s Witnesses to say it will join the national redress scheme.
The organisation says it will join because of new rules introduced by the federal government, which mean it would lose its charity status – and subsequent tax exemptions – for continuing to hold out.
Maurice Blackburn lawyer Michelle James has welcomed the move but remains concerned about the religious group’s behaviour.
“It’s extremely disappointing that it has taken the threat of financial penalties such as the stripping of charitable status to force the Jehovah’s Witnesses to do the right thing by abuse survivors,” Ms James said.
“In our experience the Jehovah’s Witnesses continues to be one of the worst when it comes to delaying claims and withholding relevant documents.
“Their failure to sign up to redress has been just another example of the hard tactics that they employ when defending claims by survivors, which is contrary to the recommendations of the royal commission.”
The multi-billion dollar scheme was a result of the royal commission into institutional child sex abuse.
It provides access to counselling, a redress payment and a direct personal response such as an apology from an institution, if the survivor wants it.
But they can’t be given redress unless the institution they were abused by has joined the scheme.
Ms James has called for maximum redress payments to increase to $200,000 from $150,000, in line with the royal commission’s recommendations.
“We also continue to urge the federal government to step up as the funder of last resort for national institutions to ensure the scheme can operate efficiently.”
- For confidential support and services around sexual assault, contact 1800 RESPECT online or by phone on 1800 737 732. If you or someone you know needs help contact Life Line on 13 11 14