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IGFF’s June Newsletter

Welcome to IGFF’s newsletter for June 2020. Our team are continuing to provide vital services from home, which we anticipate will extend until the end of July, as our office is based in Victoria. 

There have been major updates from the National Redress Scheme this month, as well as news about the Catholic Church and recent motions from Melbourne City Council. Alongside our work supporting specific individuals, families and communities affected by institutional abuse, IGFF continues to advocate for systemic reform. 

This newsletter outlines just a few of our many recent activities, and if you are interested in finding out more about our services you can contact our team on (03) 9940 1533 or by emailing igff@igff.org.au

Melbourne City Council Votes to Protect Safety of Children

 

Melbourne City Councillor Nicholas Frances Gilley’s recent motions to protect the safety of children and vulnerable people at places of worship, Ensuring Safety of Children at Places of Worship in Our Municipality and Children and Places of Worship, both passed unanimously. 

As IGFF CEO Clare Leaney said in her 23 June speech addressing the committee: 

Many Survivors of institutional abuse and whistle-blowers are feeling a distinct sense of dismay with high profile places of worship that have yet to make a clear commitment to the basic principles of mandatory reporting.

Worse still are those places of worship, publicly stating that they will not comply with Victorian Law, designed to protect children in their care, from sexual abuse. 

Not only is this approach likely unlawful, in the minds of Survivors and organisations such as ours, it erodes trust in the progress that survivors and advocates thought had been gained.

You can read or listen to the rest of this speech online here: 

 

IGFF commends Melbourne City Council for their ongoing to commitment to protecting children within the City of Melbourne and the efforts of the Future Melbourne Committee.  

Former Principal and Whistleblower

Graeme Sleeman’s story

 

I sleep well every night knowing that what I did was right. I’ve been asked by many people would I have changed things if I had my time over again. I would have done exactly the same thing.

IGFF commends Graeme Sleeman’s bravery and commitment, as his story reminds us of the cost of whistleblowing. You can read the full article online in the Sydney Morning Herald here.

As an ambassador for IGFF, Graeme is a leader of the Melbourne Victims’ Collective and a passionate advocate for primary Survivors and families of religious institutional abuses, recognising the work of whistleblowers in drawing attention to this critical issue.

National Centre for Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse

 

 

The National Centre for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse team this month sent out an email thanking participants for completing the survey about the future of the proposed Centre in April. Over 400 people, including Survivors, families, carers, advocates and service providers participated.

They have announced that a summary from this will be published on their website in the near future, and that there will be a competitive process this year to select a successful organisation or consortium to lead the National Centre. IGFF will include updates to this process on our social media as we become aware of them. 

National Redress Scheme Updates

As a Redress Scheme Support Service, IGFF follows updates to the Scheme closely. In June, the Scheme announced the following updates:


The June 30 Deadline

As we reach the June 30 deadline for institutions to make clear their intention to join on to the National Redress Scheme, Senator Ruston has announced that those who fail to commit to the scheme will be publicly named in early July. They will also face financial sanctions in different states.

The Prime Minister has been quoted saying: “Be aware, failure to sign-up to this program means I will ensure there will be no further public funding they’ll be eligible for going forward. I’m certainly prepared to do that and even prepared to consider their charitable status.” 


Second Anniversary Review

From July to September, the second anniversary review of the Scheme under independent reviewer Robyn Kruk AO will also be open to considering the implementation and operation of the Scheme, how Survivors are experiencing it, access to support services, counselling, psychological care and financial arrangements.

They have not yet given information about how to make a submission to the review, but have stated that “it is critical that Survivors are at the centre of the review and the review captures what matters to them most.”


Updates to the Scheme’s Response to Covid 19

The Scheme has begun accepting inbound calls again (instead of taking messages and calling back) on 1800 737 377, Monday to Friday 8am to 5pm.

They have also announced that they will now be accepting and processing applications when the Statutory Declaration was unable to be signed or witnessed due to Coronavirus-related restrictions or concerns, until 31 December 2020. The form must still be submitted even if not signed or witnessed.

We encourage anyone considering doing this, or applying to the Scheme to contact us or another support service to discuss what this means. You can leave a message on (03) 9940 1533 and a member of the IGFF team will call back.

News from the Australian Catholic Church

 

 

The Catholic Church in Australia is reviewing a report, commissioned by the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, in response to the Church being one of the epicentres of the sexual abuse crisis.

Its reported recommendations are said to include increased transparency, particularly around financial matters, and giving greater power to lay people, including women. It remains unclear how these changes would be implemented.

A fundamental part of the Church’s response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the Catholic Professional Standards Ltd (CPSL) was formed in 2017 to set standards within the Catholic Church for child safety, and then audit and report on compliance with these standards.  It has recently been announced that the CPSL will be closing by the end of the year. 

Once seen as the bearer of reform, the CPSL’s work is now expected to be done largely ‘in-house’ instead with some involved questioning if this will mean a return to former systems of avoiding accountability.

 

 

The Church, as an employer, has asked some priests receiving JobKeeper to donate almost half of the payment back to the organisation.

Our CEO Clare Leaney would like to reflect on the outrage voiced by so many Survivors who have been unable to access JobKeeper payments and have lost their employment.

More than a million short-term casual workers, university employees and migrant workers have been excluded from JobKeeper, while eligible priests are being asked to donate theirs to the Church, to make up for a perceived lack in donations from parishioners.

As RMIT University employment law specialist Anthony Forsyth says: “I think it’s quite unfair. We’re talking about a very rich organisation, in the case of the Catholic Church, that could probably afford in other ways to look after its people.”

 

 

A family member of a US based Survivor contacted IGFF and asked us to share the following information. The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon are investigating J. Michael Shoemaker aka Swami Chetanananda.

Shoemaker is a colleague of Russell Kruckman, aka Swami Shankarananda, and visited Australia a number of times to teach meditation with Shiva Ashram, Mt Eliza, VIC and other settings. We understand that information regarding offences by Shoemaker in Australia, may be conveyed to FBI Special Agent, Brendan Dennard on +1 503 460 8304 or via Portland Police Bureau, USA.

Shoemaker was an associate and guest of Kruckman at Shiva Ashram, Mt Eliza, as described in a 2004 promotional piece, while a 2015 article shares more information about abuse at the Shiva School of Meditation and Yoga.

If you have any more questions about what we’ve been up to, how we can support Survivors, or any of our services, you can leave a message for us to call back at (03) 9940 1533 or email igff@igff.org.au.


Donate now to support the work of the Foundation


IGFF is committed to achieving justice for Survivors of institutional abuse. We acknowledge the strength, courage and sacrifices of all on the journey to recovery.

IGFF would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we work and live. We pay our respect to Elders past, present and emerging.

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