By Vera Visevic, Partner and Luke Geary, Partner
The lack of engagement with the National Redress Scheme (Scheme) has highlighted the need for the government to enforce a response by organisations, to show their support to those children who experienced institutionalised sexual abuse.
The Scheme was established in 2018 to respond to the findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Royal Commission). Religious and community institutions were encouraged to join the Scheme, to allow those who experienced abuse to access a variety of redress options.
There are a number of organisations refusing or failing to have signed up to the Scheme, and consequently the government will be taking action to ensure institutions that were named in an application take reasonable steps to join the Scheme. Social Services Minister, Anne Ruston, has also stated that organisations that do not take the reasonable steps to join the Scheme “will be publicly named and face sanctions”.
The new sanctions will be introduced through the Treasury Laws Amendment Bill to be tabled in parliament this week. The sanctions will ensure those organisations which do not join the Scheme will be at risk of being deregistered as charities with the ACNC, and not being eligible for government grants or government funding. This will be reflected in a new ACNC governance standard.
The government acknowledges the importance of addressing the findings of the Royal Commission and is actively encouraging these organisations to engage with the Scheme. In seeking to take further action this year, new legislation will be introduced to amend the definition of a basic religious charity (BRC) in the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission Act 2012 (Cth), by dismissing a religious institution’s eligibility to be a BRC, if it does not join the Scheme.
The introduction of these new sanctions and the ACNC governance standard reiterate the government’s message to NFPs that the findings of the Royal Commission require a response to acknowledge the wrongs committed. If a registered charity, that has been named in an application or named in the Royal Commission, fails to join the Scheme or take reasonable steps to participate in the Scheme, they will be subject to deregistration and ineligibility for government grants and funding.
If your organisation is at all concerned that you may be subject to these sanctions, it is critical that you understand your position without delay and, if required, engage with the Scheme immediately. If we can be of assistance in this regard, please let us know.