Victoria’s largest ever child sexual abuse group action was set to be launched yesterday against the Sale Diocese. Source: Gippsland Times.
Sale Diocese comprises 19 parishes, and stretches from the Victorian eastern border through to outer suburban Cranbourne and Berwick regions.
The diocese, named in the recent Royal Commission report as having the highest percentage of alleged pedophile priests in Australia, already has two other major ongoing child sexual abuse group actions underway.
These legal actions, against St Patrick’s College/Catholic College Sale, and St Paul’s/Lavalla in Traralgon have bought forward more than 46 new alleged victims since March this year.
All of the actions involve historical child abuse allegations, many of which occurred in the 1970s.
Child sex abuse survivor “Michael”, the organiser and co-ordinator of these multiple group actions, said the new diocese group action was in response to new victims who had recently come forward, who were allegedly abused in Catholic primary schools, churches and other locations by Catholic priests and brothers.
Victoria recently passed new laws to plug a loophole to prevent unincorporated organisations from relying upon a legal technicality – known as the "Ellis defence" – to avoid civil lawsuits. This includes religious organisations.
Michael said while he encouraged sick and elderly victims to use the new National Redress Program, he said the maximum compensation payout of $150,000 was significantly and substantially below what victims could expect to receive from being involved with one of the group actions, which could run into millions of dollars.
Sale Bishop Pat O’Regan, has urged complainants’ legal representatives to make direct contact with the diocese so claims could be addressed within the proper framework.
He said the Diocese had in place a range of protocols to assist victims of abuse to make complaints, including contacting the Diocese’s Professional Standards Office and the Towards Healing process established by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.
“We maintain strict confidentiality of each victim and will not engage in the public forum,” he said.
A new group action will take in entire diocese (Gippsland Times)