Sporting organisations can afford to join the national redress scheme for institutional child sexual abuse but have “chosen not to”, according to government documents obtained by the ABC.
- The Australian Olympic Committee is hoping the Government will tweak the redress scheme to make it easier for sporting organisations to sign up
- The scheme provides compensation for survivors of child sexual abuse without the difficulty of having to go through a court process
- Even wealthy sporting organisations are yet to sign up to the scheme
The deadline for signing up to the scheme falls next month and Social Services Minister Anne Ruston has been locked in talks with sporting bodies for the past week.
As negotiations go down to the wire, the possibility remains that the scheme will be tweaked in order for sports to fully participate.
The redress scheme enables survivors of sexual abuse to receive payment and an apology without the trauma and expense of a court process.
It follows the five-year Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which concluded in 2017, including those of sporting bodies such as Swimming Australia and Football Federation Australia.
According to documents obtained by the ABC under freedom of information law, multiple sportspeople have made claims under the scheme but are waiting for their sports to sign up in order to have their applications resolved.
AOC seeks changes
A spokesperson for Senator Ruston said the Minister was “hopeful” sports would sign up before the deadline at the end of June.
Senator Ruston told Sky News last week she did not expect every small sporting organisation needed to join in its own right.
“But I think, under the umbrella organisation of the AOC, it would be good if they were able to [join] the organisations that sit within their area and come forward with a combined consortium,” she said.
A statement from the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC), speaking on behalf of sports such as Swimming Australia, said “constructive discussions” were continuing.
“The AOC and its 45 member sports are absolutely committed to the recommendations of the royal commission and to the delivery of redress for those who experienced institutional child sexual abuse,” the statement said.
AOC chief executive Matt Carroll said in February some sporting organisations did not have the financial resources to take part in the scheme, particularly given the federated nature of sport in Australia.
Since then, the financial position of sporting organisations has deteriorated due to the impact of coronavirus.
The maximum amount of compensation per claim payable under the scheme is $150,000.
The AOC confirmed it was still seeking changes from the Government in order to sign up to the scheme, “to ensure the structure of the scheme will enable their full participation”.
“To that end, the AOC has made submissions on the structure, which form the basis of our ongoing discussions.”
The Federal Government pours more than $100 million into sporting bodies each year, but its current policy is that this funding is not to be used for the payment of redress.
Showdown meeting brief
A Government brief prepared for Sport Minister Richard Colbeck by Sport Australia ahead of a showdown meeting involving Senator Ruston, the AOC and Swimming Australia in February noted “there are also a number of sports that anecdotally can afford to join the scheme based on their estimated liability and financial status — and they have chosen not to participate as yet”.
It also highlighted the Department of Social Services’ view that until sports signed up, there was no evidence regarding lack of financial capacity to join the scheme.
Once organisations sign an intention to join the scheme, they have until December 31 to formalise their involvement, which includes an assessment of their financial capacity.
The brief flagged that “changes to legislation to accommodate sport sector involvement” may be a possibility even after sports signed up, and also noted that if sports did not sign up to the scheme, they may be exposed to separate legal action.