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Archdiocesan statement clarifying recent media reports on the Melbourne Response

Friday 5 July 2019

Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne

Some recent media have reported on historical aspects of what is referred to as the Melbourne Response of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. Unfortunately, some of this reporting has not correctly reflected current information. The following is provided to clarify the present context in the interests of transparency and accuracy.

The Melbourne Response is a process with three separate arms: an inquiry process, a compensatory process and an ongoing care process. While financed by the Archdiocese of Melbourne, each arm operates functionally independent of the Archdiocese and each other.

The Melbourne Response is not a static system or project. It has undergone significant changes since 2014, and is currently being reviewed by the present Archbishop of Melbourne.

The leadership of the three arms of the Melbourne Response has changed. Mr Peter O’Callaghan QC retired as Independent Commissioner in August 2017, while Mr Jeff Gleeson QC continues as the Independent Commissioner. Hon. David Ashley AM, a retired Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria and of the Court of Appeal, followed Mr David Curtain QC as the Chair of the Assessment Panel in December 2017. Ms Stephanie McShane succeeded Ms Sue Sharkey as the Director of Carelink.

Carelink offers healing, recovery and care coordination for survivors of sexual and other abuse, to ensure that clients are referred to and receive optimal care by qualified and highly trained mental health professionals. Carelink reformulated its approach in 2015 with the introduction of the Trauma Informed Care and Practice service delivery model that is underpinned by positive practice.

Mention has been made of caps of $50,000 and $75,000, both of which were originally set to match the then compensation levels established by the State of Victoria for victims of crime. The cap was again increased in 2016 to $150,000, which is the same cap as for the National Redress Scheme.Since November 2016 all survivors of child sexual abuse compensated under earlier caps have been able to apply for a top up payment based on the cap of $150,000. A total of 234 recipients have received top up payments totalling $11,010,304. The average payment to these recipients is $88,944, compared to the average payment of $76,350 envisaged by the National Redress Scheme.

Unlike the National Redress Scheme, the Melbourne Response does not require applicants to complete a detailed application form to access the Scheme. Unlike the capped access to counselling provided by the National Redress Scheme, Carelink coordinates and facilitates the services necessary for client healing, recovery and well-being by implementing care coordination practices consistent with trauma informed care for as long as required.

The Melbourne Archdiocese addressed a broad range of related matters in a public hearing of the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse and which is contained and addressed in the report on Case Study 16 published in July 2015. This report is on the public record and easily accessible with a basic search of the Royal Commission website.

The level of abuse within the Archdiocese which necessitated the Melbourne Response is a cause of great shame and regret. Through the Melbourne Response, the Archdiocese has provided an opportunity for survivors to tell their story, obtain redress and an apology, and to have access to counselling. The Archdiocese is committed to meeting – and has met – all financial commitments to those who have sought recognition and redress and have had their complaints upheld whether via the Melbourne Response, the National Redress Scheme or civil litigation.

The Archdiocese is currently considering any ways by which its work can be improved in service to survivors of abuse and the vulnerable and for the safeguarding of children.
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