One of the world’s first child abuse compensation schemes will be scrutinised when the child abuse royal commission sits in Melbourne this week.
The Melbourne Response, introduced in 1996, was the one of the Catholic Church’s first redress schemes for victims of pedophile priests.
Cardinal George Pell, who was Archbishop of Melbourne in the 1990s, will give evidence via video-link on Thursday from the Vatican about his role in setting up the scheme.
But first up will be Christine Foster, whose daughters were raped by a priest in Melbourne in the 1990s.
One daughter committed suicide while the other is in 24-hour care after being hit by a car.
Mrs Foster and her husband Anthony have been critical of the church’s treatment of victims and their families.
The royal commission has held more than 2000 private hearings with victims of institutional sexual abuse.
The next fortnight of hearings will examine the Melbourne Response and look at criticisms that it was legalistic and re-traumatised victims.
The Catholic Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council has called for a mandatory national victims redress scheme operated by the government.
Council chief executive Francis Sullivan said it needed to be non-adversarial, low cost to claimants and provide compassionate and fair compensation for victims.
“The scheme should be built with prime input from victims and open to anyone who has suffered child sexual abuse within any institution in Australia,” Mr Sullivan said last week.
But the Australian Lawyers Alliance president Andrew Stone said the Catholic proposal was “extremely flawed”.
“For a start the church clearly wants the scheme to operate with limits on victims’ access to the benefit of a lawyer,” Mr Stone said.
He also said the Catholic proposal had capped payments based on community standards.
“In the past they have applied appallingly low caps to their internal redress schemes which they have established,” Mr Stone said.
Archbishop Philip Freier, the new head of the Anglican church in Australia, said his church had not decided on a compensation scheme model, but was in talks over the best way to do it.
The royal commission hearings start on August 18 at the County Court in Melbourne.