Survivors group calls for independent authority to redress abuse claims

5:12 am on 30 November 2020

A group representing survivors of abuse while in faith-based care believes victims could die before there is any satisfactory resolution to their claims against churches.

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Liz Tonks says churches are incapable of offering any redress to abuse victims. Photo: 123RF

The Network of Survivors of Abuse in Faith-based institutions wants an independent authority set up immediately to deal with claims for redress.

Spokesperson Liz Tonks said survivors should not have to deal with the institution they were abused in and be re-traumatised.

She said time was running out for many victims and already some have not lived to see the results of coming forward.

Tonks said survivors cannot wait any longer.

"One of the people reporting to this Commission is doing so on behalf of her father who died two weeks after coming forward about being abused and he will never see the outcome of speaking out."

She said there is no reason for survivors to wait.

"There is enough evidence out there."

She said the exact number of people abused in care is never likely to be known.

"Loss of records, failure to keep records, victims and their families encultured into silence and their belief that pastors and people in pastoral positions have God-like positions in their lives, means that they are never all going to come forward."

"They don't have an appropriate system for reporting redress, they are deterred from coming forward."

She said the Abuse in Care Royal Commission needs to make a recommendation for an independent resolution service to be established urgently.

"They (the Commission) knows enough to know there is a problem, the nature of the problem, failure of the churches and the (Crown) ministries to be able to investigate and to provide redress for survivors, so they have all the information they need to make an interim recommendation that they do it now," she said.

"It's going to be hugely important for our survivors to stay involved and have trust, belief and hope in this Commission."

The Network is accusing successive governments of not taking responsibility for children abused while in the care of churches.

It said the government must be held accountable.

Tonks said governments over the years had washed their hands of the problem, leaving it to the churches to deal with.

She said evidence showed churches will not or cannot deal with it.

"The government in New Zealand abdicated its responsibility for all children in care. They are signatories to the United Nations, we have statutes in New Zealand that require them to take account for all children, not leave some of them neglected, or abdicate their responsibility and leave the churches to account for them."

Tonks said the government was responsible for all children in care and should not hand it over to outside groups, such as churches.

"To date the State hasn't held the churches to account when they have delegated to them the responsibility to do this."

Tonks knows what the government needs to do.

"It must stand up and take responsibility for this and put this independent body in place and mandate it and put the statues in place to make sure it can function and that is the change I think the government needs to do and not try and change the ministries and the churches but to take it out of their hands."

The Royal Commission will hold a public hearing starting on Monday giving survivors of abuse in faith-based care a chance to speak about their experiences in dealing with religious groups in their fight to obtain redress.

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