May 2021 Newsletter

Welcome to IGFF’s monthly newsletter

With most of our office based in Melbourne, the IGFF team has returned to working from home. We want to keep our community safe, and are closely following the Victorian Government directions.

For many members of our community in Victoria, returning to another period of uncertainty, public health directions and lockdowns will be especially stressful. Although face-to-face meetings have been postponed for the immediate future, our Casework Team would like to provide reassurance that they are still available.

If you feel like you want to talk, our support and services are just a phone call away. You can get in touch by calling (03) 9940 1533 and leaving a voicemail, or emailing igff@igff.org.au. If it is outside of our office hours, we have some useful 24/7 numbers listed on our website.

Although some of our activities may be paused for now, we are still looking ahead to the second half of 2021, and are planning a return to in-person Melbourne Victims’ Collective meetings over the coming months. As our CEO Clare Leaney recently quoted to the IGFF team from JRR Tolkien:

Have patience. Go where you must go, and hope!

This month’s newsletter provides an overview of a few things we have been up to recently, from celebrating our volunteers, to systemic advocacy projects.

Celebrating National Volunteer Week

This month was National Volunteers Week, providing a great opportunity to reflect on the incredible contribution volunteers make to our work.

We are incredibly grateful to all the incredible volunteers whose support and commitment shapes the work IGFF is able to do. From the entire team, we would like to say thank you!

Victorian Redress Counselling Community Consultation

As part of the National Redress Scheme, all state and territory governments offer free services to people who have accepted an offer of counselling. In Victoria, this is called Restore. Currently, the Victorian Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH) are looking for feedback from Survivors and people who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse who are eligible for the Redress Scheme.

Fill out the online survey

If you would like to, you can fill out the consultation survey before 25 June 2021 available here: https://forms.office.com/r/31yNPK3XCH
To request a hardcopy survey with a replied paid envelope, or if you need help to complete the survey, please email: VictorianRedressCounsellingService@dffh.vic.gov.au

Access the consultation survey here

What to expect

You have choices about how to provide feedback, which will help improve the counselling service for others. When providing feedback, you will not be asked to share your personal experience of abuse, nor include any personal information.  It’s your opportunity to describe what you need from a counselling service so they can learn and improve. You will be asked the following questions:

  • Are you currently accessing counselling? If yes, what kind?
  • What kind of counselling do you think you need?
  • What would help you access counselling? 
  • What therapeutic alternatives to counselling would you find beneficial, if you decided not to access formal counselling?
  • What needs to change as well as stay the same with current arrangements?
  • Do any aspects of your identity impact your willingness or ability to access to counselling? (ie culture, language, faith, disability)
  • Is there anything else you would like to tell us?


All feedback will be de-identified. Participating in the consultation will not impact any services currently being accessed or received.

Vale Frank Sheehan OAM and Frank Costa AO

This year, two stalwart advocates for Survivors in Victoria have passed away. We would like to acknowledge our gratitude for their work, support and tireless solidarity with Survivors, whistleblowers, families and communities impacted by institutional abuses.

Frank Sheehan OAM’s legacy, tireless work and advocacy for Survivors will be forever remembered and valued by our community.

As a founder of Moving Towards Justice, his support, belief and solidarity helped change public perceptions of institutional child abuse. An outspoken advocate, he resolutely believed and supported clergy abuse Survivors to share their stories.

Our thoughts and heartfelt sympathy are with his family and loved ones.

IGFF will be forever grateful for Frank Costa AO’s tireless support for the Survivor community.

Frank’s long-term commitment to compassionate advocacy included helping IGFF develop submissions about religious institutional abuse in Victoria, assisted with vital fundraising and provided long-term practical support for many years.

Thank you for everything Frank, we will never forget your profound kindness and support of IGFF.

Our deepest condolences go out to his family and loved ones.

LOUD Fence have published a book!

As part of the Continuous Voices Ballarat memorial project, LOUD Fence have published a book of photography by Survivors called Finding Light. These images are creative research for the memorial design – and are also a representation of the connection and support community the photographers have built together, using creativity for healing.

The photos below are from the LOUD Fence Facebook page, and are the cover, dedication and images by Annie and Paul.

To purchase the book, you can email loudfence@bigpond.com. It costs $30, and there is free delivery in the Ballarat region, or $10 postage Australia-wide. You can also donate $30 and they will pay it forward to make sure someone who might not be able to afford the book can have a copy.

Systemic Advocacy

Our community’s experiences feed into the ways in which we are able to work to make the world a safer, more equitable place. The stories and testimony of adult Survivors of institutional child abuse are key in working out how together we can prevent future abuses, and help ensure that people who come forward in future are believed and treated with respect and dignity.

This past month, we provided feedback to a range of policy-makers and inquiries, from the National Standards for Sexual Violence Responses to consults on child protection and direct personal responses under the National Redress Scheme. Alongside the Melbourne Victims’ Collective, we also provided feedback to the consultation for Pathways Victoria.

Pathways Victoria: The Catholic Church in Victoria’s new process for responding to Survivors 

IGFF and the Melbourne Victims’ Collective provided feedback to Pathways Victoria: the Catholic Church’s new proposed process for responding to Survivors. As an organisation with a strong track record of being highly critical of institutional failures, we believe that any responsible institution’s choice to set up a response process for Survivors must centre Survivors’ voices, experiences and needs.

Many people have been impacted by the Church’s historic responses, and may find these topics confronting and difficult. You can contact our Casework Team if you would like to talk, or simply want to reach out.

Throughout the Victorian inquiry that led to the Betrayal of Trust report, the Child Abuse Royal Commission’s hearings into the Church and other key inquiries and investigations, IGFF and the Melbourne Victims’ Collective consistently provided crucial testimony about how Survivors, families and communities have been affected and traumatised by the Church’s response.

Our submission emphasised that for responses to be truly Survivor-centred and client led, there needs to be clarity, consideration about processes, and an understanding that it can take people a long time to disclose. People need access to lifelong supports of their choice. We have also consistently held that civil law should take precedence over canon law, particularly when it comes to conflict around how to support children and vulnerable adults, and we continue to advocate on this point. Any institutional response must also recognise the specific impact of abuse and ongoing needs of people from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, culturally and linguistically diverse communities, and those who identify as members of the LGBTIQ+ community.

In Recent News…

Tasmania commences the Commission of Inquiry into the Tasmanian Government’s Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Institutional Settings

As the Inquiry has now begun, they are calling for people to share their stories and testimony. We are hoping that this will lead to real acknowledgment of the experiences of Survivors, and begin the process towards justice and just redress.

They will look into government institutions, including schools, hospitals and youth detention, and support services are prepared to work with people throughout.

Gymnastics Australia report reveals ‘significant cultural challenges’, including physical, emotional and sexual abuse

This month’s report by the Human Rights Commission into Gymnastics Australia emphasises the urgent need for widespread cultural change across the sport. Advocates know that abuse can happen in any organisational setting: we need to commit to being honest, vigilant and fearless in challenging and speaking out against abuse in sport.

Julia Murcia, founder of the Gymnast Alliance Australia, is working to raise awareness about abuse and seek acknowledgment and accountability. As she reflects:

What’s come out for me is that there are a lot of women, that it’s not in our nature, generally, to speak up and ask for help.

But there’s a lot of people that need support, whether that’s psychological support, and also there’s physical aspects that we’re going to have to live with for the rest of our life.

Campaign to convert former Aboriginal boys home into Stolen Generations museum

The Survivors of the Kinchela Boys Home have announced a campaign to convert the former institution into a Stolen Generations museum. Chairperson of the group, Uncle James ‘Widdy’ Welsh is quoted in this article saying:

Without truth telling there can be no healing. Our pain must stop with us; this museum and healing centre will ensure what happened to Stolen Generations Survivors will never be repeated. It will contribute to the rebuilding of our family structures and support the journey to lasting intergenerational healing across Australia.

The campaign aims to raise money to convert the former Kinchela Aboriginal Boys Training Home into a museum and healing centre, and continue the work of the MEC (NITV)

Online Event: See It, Stop It: Tackling Abuse in Amateur Sports

This month, the Foundation for Global Sports Development will be holding a two-day online event talking to coaches, experts, scholars, and Survivors committed to ending abuse in sport.

Professor Amos Guiora and others will be talking about what we can all do to address abuse, support Survivors and hold institutions accountable. While the sessions will be early in the morning for Australian viewers, you can register online to receive updates and find out more.

IGFF has spoken out in the past about the importance of addressing abuse in sport, and this event’s focus resonates with the testimony of the many Survivors who have been coming forward in recent months to share their stories – from the AFL Little League to Gymnastics Australia.

Find out more about the free event here

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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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