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June 2021 Newsletter


Welcome to IGFF’s June Newsletter

This past month, In Good Faith Foundation has continued to provide our crucial support and advocacy services remotely, making sure we stay connected and informed while physically distant.

Alongside direct support work with individual clients, our team has been excited to be able to plan for in-person events again, including the first Melbourne Victims’ Collective meeting of 2021. More information is available below, but we are looking forward to being able to have collective members attend the August meeting both in person and via Zoom and teleconference links.

In this newsletter, we also wanted to take the opportunity to introduce another IGFF Caseworker who joined the team at the start of this year – and ask Julie a few questions about what drives her practice working with people impacted by sexual violence. We also share updates on other recent activities, from providing feedback on the Victorian justice system, to responding to the National Redress Scheme Second Anniversary Review Final Report.


While we plan for future in-person meetings in Victoria, we know that many other people elsewhere in Australia are feeling the déjà vu and precariousness of new lockdowns and increased physical distancing measures. We want to acknowledge that public health restrictions and Covid-19 outbreaks can lead to uncertainty, anxiety, stress and worry, experiences that may be particularly stressful for members of our community.

Our Casework Team are here if you need to reach out and talk. There is no expectation for you to know what you want or need by reaching out, and if you have been feeling isolated by the public health restrictions they can chat with you about what has been happening.

Some other tips we’ve found helpful include:

  • Make sure you are remembering your own preferred strategies for self-care, from getting enough sleep and finding ways to gently exercise, to accessing sunlight when you can, particularly in winter.
  • Consider talking to someone outside of your household when possible – calling, texting and  video chatting with people you trust can be one of the best ways to feel connected to others.
  • Try to monitor the amount of news and public health updates you are taking in. Staying informed is important, but if you find yourself getting overwhelmed it can be helpful to make a plan to only check the news one or two times per day.

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.


First Melbourne Victims’ Collective Meeting of 2021

We are very excited to announce that we are planning on holding the first Melbourne Victims’ Collective meeting of 2021 on Tuesday 17 August. If you would like to find out more information about what this means, and who can attend, you can get in touch with our team on (03) 9940 1533 or at igff@igff.org.au.

The event will involve hearing from guest speakers, including Dr. Katie Allen MP, who sits on the Joint Select Committee on Implementation of the National Redress Scheme. It will also be subject to COVID-19 restrictions and safety precautions, and those unable to attend in person will be able to access Zoom and teleconference options.

Staff profile: Julie, Caseworker

Since joining IGFF at the start of this year, Julie has provided invaluable support to our clients, community and everyone on our team in the face of uncertainty and sudden lockdowns. Having worked in the field for almost two decades, she draws on a wealth of experience supporting and advocating for Survivors and people impacted by gendered and sexual violence. We wanted to find out a little more about what drives and sustains her to do this work – and introduce her to our mailing list!


Can you tell us a little about what your role involves as a caseworker at IGFF? 
The first thing that comes to mind when I think about my role and meeting new clients is to consider their current psychosocial circumstances and how their experience of trauma has impacted on their lives.

As I become more familiar with the person I might begin to further inquire about their personal circumstances to assess their situation more thoroughly.  If the person is seeking some kind of redress either via the National Redress Scheme (NRS) or other legal option, I would be having a conversation about the possible consequences of revisiting their trauma story and the importance of engaging with a counsellor or psychologist if possible.

As a caseworker I assist people writing up their personal story (or ‘brief’) to include in the NRS application or to support a legal case.  We understand how difficult this process can be and allow plenty of time, as much as needed, to complete the task.

What led you to study social work?
I initially studied a Diploma of Community Services (Welfare studies) after the birth of my third child.  I was searching for a career pathway and my sister suggested that I look into this course, she thought it would suit me. I took her advice and completed the course, it took me 7 years!  The course led me to my first job as a case manager in the family violence sector in Bendigo.  That experience was a turning point in my life, the organisation, the clients and the people I worked with helped shape my future work. I eventually returned to my hometown of Melbourne and began working as a sexual assault phone counsellor and realized my qualification would need to be upgraded to ensure career survival.  I completed a Bachelor of Social Work in 2012 doing my final placement at The Royal Women’s Hospital.  I was then able to secure a position at a sexual assault service working face to face with clients, I did this for five years before joining IGFF.

Having worked in the family violence and sexual assault sector for 18 years, you have such a strong commitment to working with Survivors and people impacted by sexual and gendered violence. What drives your work in this field? 
I have had a personal experience with gendered violence and until I examined power imbalances in all forms in greater detail during my studies, I really didn’t understand what it meant. I knew it wasn’t ok but why? I was fortunate to have had teachers and lecturers over the years that could communicate these power imbalances using a variety of critical theory approaches.

I think my own personal experience of gendered violence combined with further study, a healthy dose of anger and the fact that sexual and family violence hasn’t diminished has helped me to view the world differently, it wasn’t initially a world I wanted to acknowledge existed but it continues to drive me to want to contribute to change.

Do you have any particular strategies for self-care, or ways you support yourself while working with trauma? 
On a professional level I try to stay informed by reading current literature on trauma and trauma recovery. I continue to speak to colleagues who are now friends about their work and utilise training opportunities as they arise to keep me connected to the field.

To maintain well being I stay active using yoga, running and bike riding for physical exercise. I try to eat a balanced diet, sleep enough and not be too hard on myself.

What do you like to do in your free time, to unwind? 
Dancing is good for the body and mind, I like to do it regularly 😊 I enjoy reading, gardening, listening to music, admiring art and touching trees.  Being in nature is good for the soul.

Systemic advocacy: Working towards change


Responding to the National Redress Scheme Two-Year Review

This month, the Second Anniversary Review of the National Redress Scheme released their report and recommendations. We welcomed their findings, and you can read our initial response on our website.

As we wrote, the review highlights many important areas where meaningful change is needed to improve Survivors’ interactions with the Scheme – particularly the need for additional trauma-informed staffing models, more clarity surrounding Independent Decision Makers and to extend further support services to Survivors. We were very encouraged by the clear focus to provide more resources beyond traditional counselling, so that Survivors can access services such as caseworkers and financial counselling.

IGFF will continue to work with Survivors, advocates and the federal government to ensure that the National Redress Scheme is accessible and designed to minimise rather than exacerbate harm.

Survivors of institutional sexual abuse often already live with horrific trauma, so we must act swiftly to implement these recommendations as soon as possible, to help lessen the burden on their journey to justice – it is the least they are owed for what they have endured.


The Final Report can be read in full online here

Read IGFF’s initial response here



Policy submission: The cross-examination of victim-Survivors by self-represented offenders

Currently in Victoria, victim-Survivors who seek redress through civil litigation are at risk of being cross-examined directly by their alleged offender in court. We are aware of at least three people who have had to experience this form of cross-examination, which we strongly believe should not be allowed.

In June, we wrote a report on this issue to the Legal and Social Issues Committee of the Victorian Legislative Council, proposing key reforms. We believe these changes are urgently required to prevent unnecessary retraumatisation, bring the current protections for civil trial witnesses in-line with the majority of Victorian policy, and protect everyone involved.

This has been an ongoing area of concern and advocacy for IGFF, as across Australian states and territories Survivors who choose to seek redress by suing their abusers are at risk of having to face their self-represented offender this way. Last year, we wrote to each Attorney-General, outlining their jurisdiction’s current legislation on the issue, and asking for them to consider developing a set of protections that would be similar to those provided South Australia’s Evidence Act 1929 (SA) s 13B.

In Recent News…


UN experts call on Holy See to do more against child abuse

In a letter that has been made public, independent human rights experts from the UN have called on the Catholic Church to do more to address violence and sexual abuse against children:


We note with great concern the apparent pervasiveness of child sexual abuse cases and the apparent systematic practice of covering up and obstructing the accountability of alleged abusers belonging to the Catholic Church.


As they note, institutional child abuse is a global issue. The huge diversity of responses across different countries and jurisdictions means that when institutions choose to protect alleged abusers, cover up crimes, obstruct accountability and evade reparations, Survivors worldwide are impacted in a range of different ways.

Image: Paul Haring/CNS


Advance compensation payments to be made available to some child sexual abuse Survivors following National Redress Scheme review

As discussed earlier in this newsletter, the release of the two-year review into the National Redress Scheme has led to key changes being announced by Social Services Minister Anne Ruston, including:
  • Allowing early payments of up to $10,000 to be made to elderly and terminally ill Survivors
  • Providing extra counselling services
  • Beginning to work on a new application form which will be simplified, and bolster outreach support
The Government’s full response to the Final Report will be available in early 2022.

‘It’s all secret and silent’: Confidentiality agreements that silence victims to be investigated


Victims signed up to non-disclosure agreements are unable to tell the story, and so the next person who suffers and the next one and the next one doesn’t have any knowledge or information they can rely on as they try to bring their complaint forward and seek to be believed.


While this investigation is into harassment at work, as the article linked above outlines, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found that non-disclosure agreements have been exploited by responsible institutions and used to move perpetrators around without accountability.

After 40 years of waiting, Garden Point abuse Survivors get justice

This month, 42 Stolen Generations Survivors from the Northern Territory received compensation and apology from the Catholic Church and Commonwealth, 40 years after their experiences of abuse.

As a member of the group, Sharon Greenoff, reflects in the above article:


This is closure now. A lot of us are still hurting and in pain, but having the apology was a good thing, so we can move on in our lives and have healing. All of us in that room have suffered intergenerational trauma, which is passed on to our children and our grandchildren.


Image: Josie Calma, Sharon Greenoff and Maxine Kunde have fought for many years to get justice. (ABC News: Tiffany Parker)

Everyday Courage social media series

On Facebook, we have started to share more stories in our ‘Everyday Courage’ series, starting conversations about the everyday courage, bravery and resistance of our clients and community.

This series began in 2019 as a way to raise awareness about the lifelong impacts of abuse, and to work towards a more comprehensive public appreciation of the courage that it takes for many Survivors to do things that others may take for granted as part of their daily routine.



MALE SURVIVORS: FIGHTING STIGMA AND SHAME

As part of Mens’ Health Week, 14-20 June 2021, we wanted to acknowledge the particular courage, resilience and strength of male Survivors and all men and boys impacted by institutional child abuse.

As the Royal Commission found, it takes men on average almost 26 years to tell someone about what happened to them. This is five years longer than for women.

As our clients’ experiences have shown, men and boys face uniquely difficult barriers to coming forward. Shame, stigma, victim-blaming and fears of inappropriate responses are very real, and can make it hard to trust that it is safe to disclose. It can also be harder for men to have their experiences of abuse validated and recognised for what they are.

We want all male Survivors to know that what happened to them was not their fault, and that healing and recovery are possible. What this looks like can be different for each person, but together we can fight gendered stigma and shame in our daily lives: we can listen to and believe men, work to build relationships of trust and support every Survivor on the journey to recovery.



TALKING TO LOVED ONES

Many Survivors of childhood abuse do not talk about what happened to them for many years. The decision to talk to loved ones about what happened is deeply personal, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

All Survivors deserve to feel safe and respected when sharing their experiences. These discussions can be difficult, re-kindling and triggering, and it is important that people know that they can reach out for help at any time that they might need it. Everyone responds in their own way, but it is never okay to feel threatened or unsafe.

For people who are considering talking to loved ones about their experiences, a lot of competing factors can make this choice difficult. SANE Australia suggests asking:

  • Do I trust this person to be with me when I’m in a vulnerable state?
  • Do I feel respected and loved by this person?
  • Is not disclosing this causing stress and tension?
More key tips for talking to partners about experiences of sexual violence, that can also be helpful when thinking about disclosing to any loved one can be found on their website.

Online event: Safeguarding in sport – the role of International Federations

These sessions will look at the role of international federations in eliminating violence, abuse and harassment of athletes of all ages.

Register your attendance online to hear from the expert panels, made up of international human rights lawyers and former Olympians. As the sessions will be scheduled in European time, registering will also mean you can receive updates and any recordings to watch later in Australia.

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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 and present.

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