Child sexual abuse survivor Geoff Meyers died before seeing a cent through the National Redress Scheme, as figures reveal only 1 per cent of people have received a payout so far.
Mr Meyers, who suffered as a ward of the state at Royleston Boys’ Depot in Glebe, hoped redress would provide some recognition for those who suffered.
It took more than seven decades for him to tell his story to the royal commission and it was “very hard on him”, his son Geoff Meyers told the ABC.
“He was treated badly by the matron, assaulted, sexually tortured and abused. The children were thrown under the stairs and locked up there for days,” he said.
“But he felt at least something [was] getting done for everybody … still he was upset at how long [the royal commission] was taking.”
But Mr Meyers placed his faith in one of its key recommendations, the National Redress Scheme.
“As soon as he could download the forms, he sent his application back within the first week of the scheme,” his son said.
But Geoff told the ABC his father’s 80-page application went nowhere — not once, but twice.
“A month or two later they contacted him and told him they’d lost his paperwork,” he said.
Mr Meyers applied again, but then according to his son, the paperwork was lost a second time.
“It caused him a lot of heartache,” Geoff said.
The 82-year-old died of heart complications four months after he lodged his application for redress, which was designed to provide an alternative to civil litigation for approximately 60,000 survivors of child sexual abuse in institutions.
In the first five months of the scheme, 2,000 people have made applications, but only 20 survivors have received any form of redress.
Still waiting on churches to join
While Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher has described the scheme as “up and running” there are major hurdles to thousands of survivors making claim.
“At the moment about 50 per cent of the applications that have been received from survivors relate to institutions that are not yet within the scheme,” Mr Fletcher told the ABC.
While the Anglican Church partly signed on today, the Uniting and Catholic churches are yet to participate.
In recent weeks, the Federal Government has been speaking directly to church leaders to urge them to come on board.
“They’ve made a public commitment that they will join so my expectation … the Government’s expectation is that they turn words into action,” Mr Fletcher said.
Ever since the scheme was established in July, community legal service Knowmore, which is funded to help victims and survivors make applications, has fielded calls from almost 8,000 people regarding claims.
“It’s very difficult for them to understand why their claim can’t progress at this stage,” chief executive Warren Strange said.
“Knowmore’s lawyers have lodged 100 applications, but not one has been finalised. They include two cases of terminally ill applicants.
“I’d simply urge those institutions that time is passing, there is a significant impact on survivors, it’s highly traumatising for them and any steps they can take to expedite their participation and to reduce that trauma they should commit to.”
Catholic Church denies any undue delay
Rhonda Janetzki, a survivor of child sexual abuse at an orphanage near Albury run by the Sisters of Mercy, told the ABC people were feeling “terribly let down”.
“All the institutions, all the churches, all the abusers are still given the power over the people they abused,” she said.
“They’re still abusing us today. They’ve still got total power.
“I thought that at last everybody had a voice — the institutions were going to be held accountable for what they allowed to happen to us, what they knew was happening to us and did nothing about.”
The Catholic and Uniting churches have stopped short of giving a timeframe for joining up to the scheme, but said they were committed to a swift resolution.
“I’d like to reassure everyone, especially survivors, that work to finalise signing on to the scheme will be completed very soon,” the Uniting Church told the ABC.
In a statement the Catholic Church said: “There has been no undue delay — simply a desire to make sure the entry was handled correctly the first time.”
In an interview with the ABC, the chair of the Anglican Representative National Redress Scheme Ltd, Garth Blake SC, said he expected by the middle of next year a majority of entities will have joined the scheme.
Mr Blake accepted the process had taken time but said identifying every church-run institution had been a complex and lengthy process.
“While the act came into effect on July 1, the administrative structures at the Department of Social Services and the Department of Human Services have been being developed since that time,” he said.
Survivors in Western Australia and South Australia cannot access the scheme yet as the necessary referral of powers has not taken place and those in the Northern Territory and Tasmania have only recently had access.
“We know the computer system is still being built and improvements are still being made,” Mr Blake said.