Melbourne lifts abuse payout cap
Published: April 24, 2009 Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart has lifted compensation payments available to victims of clergy sexual abuse by nearly 50 percent to $75,000.
Archbishop Hart decided to raise the limit by $20,000 after a request from the compensation panel that recommends ex gratia payments to victims, The Age reports.
"We want to be compassionate. With time, these things need to be reviewed, and that's what we've done," Archbishop Hart told the paper.
A Church spokesman said that since Melbourne's protocol was set up in 1996, about 450 victims had come forward, the vast majority relating to earlier offences, and that the number of cases was declining.
He said he could not rule out further cases because victims typically kept abuse to themselves for a long time.
But victim advocate Helen Last said the rise had come about only because victims had agitated for it, and that Melbourne's system was still one of the world's worst.
"This increase hasn't come from the will or the heart of the of the Church, it has come from the protestations of the victims," she said.
Melbourne is the only Australian diocese not part of the national Towards Healing protocol. Its system, set up in 1996 when Cardinal George Pell was archbishop, has an independent commissioner, Peter O'Callaghan QC, an agency to provide counselling and support, and a compensation panel.
Payments were capped at $50,000, and $5,000 was added when the GST was introduced.
Vicar-General Les Tomlinson said the Victorian Victims of Crime Assistance Act made up to $60,000 available to most applicants, and similar compensation schemes in other states had limits at or below $75,000.
Catholics lift sexual abuse pay (The Age)