Lacklustre support for national redress & former teacher pleads guilty

Hopes that the Federal Government may throw its weight behind the establishment of a national redress scheme for child abuse victims have suffered a setback. While the government announced its support for a nationally consistent scheme, it promised only to enter into discussions with the states to work through the “many complex issues involved”.

In the Royal Commission’s national redress scheme recommendation, it proposed that churches, schools and government organisations fund the $4.3 billion scheme, with Federal, state and territory governments making up any shortfall. However, a joint statement between Attorney General Senator George Brandis and Social Services Minister Christian Porter, made no mention of a funding commitment at this stage.

ABC News reported last month that John G Ferris, a former teacher at Ben Venue Public School in Armidale, NSW, had pleaded guilty to more than 24 child sex offences dating back to his time at the school in the 1970s. Ferris will soon be sentenced in the District Court. Victims of Ferris, as well as former Ben Venue Public School principal Peter Garland and former teacher Ian Berryman, are invited to call Peter Kelso on (02) 4907 4200 to register their interest in possible legal action.

The front gate and buildings of Ben Venue Public School
Source: ABC News

Also last month, Kelso Lawyers launched legal action against the NSW Commissioner for Victims Rights. Kelsos is acting on behalf of three Parramatta Girls’ Training School abuse victims, who have been required to pay back their victims’ compensation payments after negotiating separate financial settlements.

Speaking to the ABC’s PM program, Peter Kelso said: “They feel like the Government’s giving them with one hand and taking away from the other and also they feel it’s fairly petty because they’re not large sums of money and these people don’t have much money usually. Why should some people under the 1996 act that received their money … get waived, and those under the 2013 act have to pay theirs back?”

The Child Abuse Royal Commission turned its attention last month to the an Anglican Church-run youth group in Adelaide. One group leader of the Church of England Boys’ Society was accused of raping up to 200 young boys, and had confessed to police. However, he suicided in 1999 before facing court.

The Royal Commission is currently investigating the Church’s handling of this and other abuse allegations. Finally, an alleged victim of Catholic Church child sexual abuse was issued with a good behaviour bond after spray-painting slogans critical of Cardinal George Pell on the courthouse and the Catholic Church headquarters ahead of the Cardinal’s planned Royal Commission appearance in December last year.

Cardinal Pell did not appear due to illness, and his appearance was rescheduled to this month. However, uncertainty remains about whether Cardinal Pell will return to Australia in the coming weeks.

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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