Clergy Abuse

Compensation for clergy abuse victims has so far been left to the Victims Compensation Tribunal in NSW. This story is typical of many victims who have had to apply to the state’s Tribunal for a payout. The maximum is $50,000.00 which to most victims is grossly inadequate. However, as the Catholic Church has failed to set up its own fund, it is the best that the State can do for victims.

I believe it is the fundamental right of victims to be compensated by the perpetrator. Most perpetrators are broke. Rarely do you find an offender who owns a house, and even better, an unencumbered house. Within the case of victims abused by clergy, it is the Priest and/ or the Church that should be made to pay.

The Anglican archdiocese of Sydney has had a private compensation scheme in place for many years. It offers payouts of up to $75,000.00; a victim does not have to face an investigation by a lawyer. The victim does not have to go to Court. The Church will make a financial contribution towards the victim’s legal costs and an apology from the Archbishop of Sydney is offered as well as fully paid up counselling well into the future and an invitation to attend a healing course at St Johns Darlinghurst.

However, there is no such scheme run by the Catholic Church. In the last 12 months I acted for a man who was sexually abused as a child by the Marist Brothers. A number of his abusers in high school are well-known convicted paedophiles. He achieved a payout from the Victims Compensation Tribunal of over $100,000.00. But the point is, this should have been paid by the Catholic Church rather than the tax payers of NSW.

Hopefully, compensation reform will be achieved through the Royal Commission. The Catholic Church will need to be forced to contribute to a trust fund to compensate victims on a national basis. The Commonwealth Government intends to compensate victims of abuse in the Australian Defence Forces. Victims of clergy abuse and other institutional abuse also deserve to be compensated. Any state governments who have compensated victims of clergy abuse should be allowed to take restitution proceedings against the Church to recover the money already paid to victims.

About Peter Kelso


I am a solicitor of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. I have been admitted to practice since 1984. I am the principal and founder of Kelso Lawyers which has operated in Newcastle since 1986.

I have been an advocate for compensation for victims of abuse since the commencement of the Victims Compensation Tribunal in New South Wales in 1988. I conduct the largest victims practice in New South Wales. I have a high level of engagement with numerous NGOs such as woman’s refuges, sexual assault services, community organisations and healing centres.

On 31 October 2012 I was a finalist for the Justice Medal, presented by the Law and Justice Foundation of New South Wales.


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