THE Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) has welcomed the July 1 start date for the $3.8 billion National Redress Scheme for Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse (NRS) – approved by the Senate last week – while commending Jewish Care Victoria “for its decisive leadership” in becoming the first Australian Jewish organisation to officially sign up to it.
President Anton Block confirmed the ECAJ can now brief Jewish organisations that work with children about the scheme, and request a response from them about joining it and confirmation of compliance with child protection laws.
Other measures recommended by ECAJ’s National Working Group can now be activated, including organising a panel of child protection experts to inform the Jewish community.
Another recommendation is for ECAJ to work with Yeshivah and Adass Israel School in Melbourne, and Yeshiva Sydney – “which were specifically identified for their historic failings in relation to child protection [by the Royal Commission]” – in consultation with survivors, “as they consider all appropriate action to right past wrongs.”
The ECAJ also welcomed Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s announcement of a national apology to survivors of child sexual abuse for October 22, adding “it would be expected that relevant Jewish institutions will have previously published their [own] apology to survivors”.
The NRS will run for 10 years and applies to non-government organisations on an opt-in basis.
It will offer survivors access to counselling and support, a direct response from the institution concerned, and acknowledgment of harm caused. Under the NRS, any payments to individual survivors will be capped at $150,000, and the needs of eligible victims will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Jewish Care Victoria president Mike Debinski said his organisation “believes it has a moral obligation to support members of the community who were victims”.
“Our decision [to join] is consistent with Jewish Care’s long-held belief that victims of child sexual abuse should have acess to reparation through structured redress schemes.”
The organisation launched its own redress scheme in 2013, one of the first organisations in Victoria to do so, and is “fully supportive of a national apology,” Debinski said.
A Yeshivah Centre (Melbourne) spokesperson told The AJN the centre “is actively taking steps towards joining the NRS and should soon be able to finalise its position to join”.
Yeshivah launched its own interim redress scheme in accordance with national recommendations and “has made apologies to individuals and the broader public” and it “strongly supports” the national apology.
Commenting shortly before the legisalation passed, Adass Israel principal Dr Israel Herszberg stated “when the legislation is passed and the details are finalised, we will then look at the concept of opting into the scheme.”
He said Adass “endorses in principle” the national apology.
Principal Roy Steinman of Sydney’s Kesser Torah College, which was formed to replace the old Yeshiva College, welcomed the NRS starting, saying, “We have every intention of supporting this process – it is the proper thing to do.”
Yeshiva general manager Rabbi Dovid Slavin stressed that Yeshiva College Bondi Ltd, formed in 2008, is a different entity to the organisation named in the Royal Commission’s report. He added, “We are highly committed to supporting the NRS [and] have strict policies and processes in place in relation to child protection.
“Yeshiva College Bondi Ltd does support the Prime Minister’s announcement of a national apology to survivors of child sexual abuse.”
The AJN sought comment from Rabbi Pinchus Feldman, formerly of the Yeshiva Centre Sydney, but did not receive a response.
A Maccabi Australia spokesperson told The AJN comprehensive child and member protection policies have been implemented across the organisation and its clubs. The spokesperson said a decision about Maccabi Australia joining the NRS is yet to be made.
For more information about the recommendations made by ECAJ’s National Working Group in relation to the NRS, visit http://www.ecaj.org.au/2018/royal-commission-report-on-child-abuse-implications-for-the-jewish-community/
PETER KOHN AND SHANE DESIATNIK