New sanctions for failure to join National Redress Scheme

The Morrison Government plans to strip organisations of their charitable status if they fail to fulfil their obligation to join the National Redress Scheme for victims of institutional child sexual abuse.

Minister for Families and Social Services Anne Ruston said the Australian Charities and Not-for profits Commission would be given the power to deregister a charity which did not take reasonable steps to participate in the Scheme.

“The Morrison Government has been absolutely clear that we expect institutions named by a survivor in an application or named in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse to join the National Redress Scheme,” Minister Ruston said.

“It is completely unacceptable for named institutions to refuse to accept their moral obligation and responsibility to acknowledge the wrongs committed.

“This proposal delivers on the Prime Minister’s commitment to place further sanctions on recalcitrant institutions and we hope this will encourage them to reconsider their position allowing child sexual abuse survivors to receive the redress and recognition they undeniably deserve.”

The warning comes as Minister Ruston today announced a further 70 institutions have joined the Scheme which means more than 150 applications could now be progressed.

Assistant Minister for Finance, Charities and Electoral Matters Zed Seselja said a new ACNC governance standard would require registered charities to take all reasonable steps to become a participating non-government institution in the Scheme if a claim has been, or was likely to be, made against them.

“The Government will also introduce legislation this year which amends the definition of a basic religious charity (BRC) in the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission Act 2012 to remove a religious institution’s eligibility to be classified as a BRC if it has been named in an application but refuses to join the Scheme.

“Together these changes will result in a registered charity which fails to join the Scheme or take reasonable steps to participate in the Scheme becoming subject to a suite of the ACNC’s existing compliance powers, including deregistration. Deregistration would result in the entity losing access to a range of Commonwealth benefits, tax and other concessions.”

Relevant legislation will be introduced into Parliament before the end of the year through the Treasury Laws Amendment (2020 Measures No. 6) Bill 2020 to give effect to the changes to the definition of BRC.

In addition, Treasury will be seeking submissions on the draft legislative instrument and explanatory materials for the introduction of the new governance standard in the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Regulation 2013. The consultation period will be open from 7 December 2020 to 8 January 2021.

Minister Ruston thanked the latest group of institutions to join the Scheme which includes 14 which were named in the Royal Commission.

“I am encouraged to see institutions doing the honourable thing by survivors and signing up. It also demonstrates leadership in the community with a commitment to child safety and to ensure the wrongs of the past never happen again,” Minister Ruston said.

“About 80 institutions which provided an intent to join before the 30 June 2020 deadline are reminded that they have until 31 December to complete the steps to sign on or they will be publicly named and face sanctions.”

To date the Commonwealth, all state and territory governments and 358 non-government institutions are participating.

In addition, the Queensland Government has agreed to be the funder of last resort for Piabun Farm, Yuddika Family Group Home and Bethel Children’s Home.

A meeting of the National Redress Scheme Governance Board will take place today.

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