It has been more than 18 months since the National Redress Scheme was introduced as a way of compensating survivors of clergy child abuse.

Published in ABC

But those who were supposed to benefit from it have labelled it “appalling” with some saying that many people are dying before receiving any compensation.

Roy Janetzki, 74, said he spent his teenage years in four orphanages, where he endured physical, mental, and sexual abuse at the hands of four clergymen, including Catholic priests and brothers.

Mr Janetzki said after naming all four orphanages at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and applying for redress, he waited four months for his claim to be assessed.

He then waited for more than a year for the orphanages to sign up to the scheme, before he received compensation.

“That’s a long time to be on tenterhooks and not knowing if you’re going to get anything,” Mr Janetzki said.

He then received a cash amount as part of his compensation.

“It will pay for my funeral,” Mr Janetzki said.

“People are dying before they receive the redress, or just after they receive the redress.”

‘We hate waiting, it makes us angry’

Mr Janetzki was among a small group of sex abuse survivors who gathered outside the office of Federal Social Services Minister, Anne Ruston, late last month.

They called for a raft of changes to the National Redress Scheme, including the quicker delivery of compensation.

The group, called Care Leavers Australasia Network [CLAN] represent people who were abused in orphanages, children’s homes, missions and foster care.

Among them was an elderly man*, who said he was thrown to the ground or hit in the back of the head as a child while trying to tell clergy leaders of the horrible abuse he was experiencing in two Tasmanian children’s homes.

He has submitted a claim for redress, but said it was still being processed.

“The paperwork’s in but [the children’s home] has not put their paperwork in,” he said.

“They said they’re still doing paperwork, so I don’t know when, or if, it [redress] is ever going to happen.”

CLAN chief executive Leonie Sheedy labelled the scheme “appalling”.

“The delays are hurting care leavers, it’s really traumatizing them, it’s making them feel that nobody cares about them,” she said.

“We waited for food, we waited for love, we waited for the beatings to stop.

“We hate waiting. It makes us angry.”

A complex and complicated scheme

Federal Social Services Minister, Anne Ruston, conceded the National Redress Scheme, which now has 162 non-government institutions participating, needed improvement.

“It’s been a much more complex and complicated scheme to stand up than I think anybody ever imagined,” she said.

“But we do recognise, and I certainly recognise, as the minister, that improvements needed to be made.

“We are currently in the process of making some quite significant improvements to the scheme so that we are able to process claims much more quickly.”

The Minister said a review of the National Redress Scheme will occur in July this year, marking two years since its inception.

“There are improvements that are being made … and when we get to the 30th of June, we’ll be in a position to be able to make further changes if they are required,” she said.

In July last year, the Commonwealth’s Social Services Department said just five per cent of applications to the National Redress Scheme had been processed.

At the time, more than 4,000 applications had been received, but the department had only processed 215 payments.

Minister Ruston said the department had now seen four times as many applications approved as in the first 12 months of the program.

“We’ve seen in excess of 1,300 applications [that] have now been finalised,” she said.

“We didn’t have any idea how complex so many of the claims would be.”

“We now find that in excess of 75 per cent of the claims that we receive name more than one institution and a significant number of the claims are naming, four, five and six institutions.”

Minister Ruston said she recently attended a meeting with state and territory ministers and it was agreed that it is unacceptable that institutions with redress liability have yet to join the scheme.

This is a reality that still does not provide comfort or closure for people like Roy Janetzki.

*Despite wanting to share his story, the ABC cannot identify the man due to Tasmania’s legal system which, in some cases, prohibits the identification of a child abuse victim.

By Samantha Dawes
Published in ABC
11 February 2020