National protocols to replace Melbourne Response

St Patrick’s Cathedral Melbourne (Bigstock)

The Melbourne Response scheme set up in 1996 to compensate victims of clergy abuse in Melbourne is set to be replaced as Australia’s bishops develop new national protocols for survivors. Source: The Sunday Age.

By Farrah Tomazin, The Sunday Age

Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli is keen to retain some of the more-positive elements of the scheme – such as ongoing care for victims – but is working towards a state-wide approach, based on nationally consistent guidelines, rather than having the Melbourne archdiocese “go it alone” with its own separate process.

“One of the key findings of the royal commission was that that the Church should aim for a national approach to the investigative, compensatory and ongoing care of those who are victims and survivors of historical sexual abuse,” he said.

“The bishops of Australia will be soon be looking at a national framework for that, and then the bishops here in Victoria will be seeing how we apply that in our circumstances.”

Details for the new national framework are being thrashed out this week at a six-day meeting of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, which ends on Thursday.

Once adopted, the protocols are eventually expected to result in the replacement of the Melbourne Response as well as changes to Towards Healing, the alternative complaints process for victims of abuse by clergy outside Melbourne, such as the Ballarat diocese or parishes interstate.

Speaking before the unredacted findings were released on Thursday, Archbishop Comensoli said that he was hopeful of a more “person-centred” approach for survivors.

It is understood that any changes to the Melbourne Response would seek to ensure that people currently going through the process would not be cut off mid-stream without a resolution. Elements that have worked well, such as the support offered by the Church’s counselling service, Carelink, also expected to be retained.

Survivors who would also continue to have the option to sue the Church, or seek compensation through the Commonwealth’s National Redress Scheme.

Last week, Australian Catholic Bishops Conference President Archbishop Mark Coleridge said the bishops have begun discussions with leaders of religious institutes and other Catholic ministries about a more collaborative approach to safeguarding and the handling of complaints of sexual abuse and other misconduct.

“We’ve made good progress in devising even more robust structures and practices to respond to allegations and to create and maintain Church environments that are safe for children and vulnerable adults,” he said.

“This is a whole-of-Church approach, and it’s one that has been developed with input from a wide range of people, including survivors and their supporters.”


New Church abuse protocols to replace controversial compo scheme (The Sunday Age)

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'I'm not a used car salesman': Can the archbishop chart a new course? (The Sunday Age)

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