Anglican Diocese of Tasmania to sell more than 120 properties for redress scheme

Bishop Richard Condie
Bishop Richard Condie

Tasmania’s Anglican Church will sell more than 120 of its properties to contribute to the national redress scheme for survivors of child sex abuse, prompting Tasmanian survivors to hail the plan as “groundbreaking”.

The proposed figure equates to nearly half of all the Diocese’s property in the state.

The Anglican Diocese of Tasmania’s estimated liability is roughly $8 million, based on 100-200 historical survivors of abuse at the hands of the Diocese, which encompasses 48 parishes across the state.

It is expected the sale of property will contribute roughly $5 million to the scheme; the rest of the money will be drawn from parish funds and Diocesan trusts.

The Diocese is yet to come up with a definitive list of properties to be put on the block – which will include churches, halls and houses, as well as vacant land – but says such a list would be made available on or around May 4.

Some of the churches to be sold will be ones still in use as places of worship.

The Commonwealth redress scheme for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse is designed to offer financial compensation to survivors, likely to be capped at $150,000 per claim.

The scheme arose from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

It is set to come into effect on July 1 this year, ending on June 30, 2028.

New South Wales and Victoria have signed on to the federal government’s $3.8 billion scheme, while Tasmania is yet to commit to it.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has called on non-government institutions, namely churches, to sign on to the scheme as well.

Anglican Bishop of Tasmania Richard Condie last week urged the state government to commit to the scheme.

The government has previously paid compensation to child sex abuse survivors through a $54 million state scheme established by the former Labor government.

We’re taking this very sacrificial stand to make sure we can fund redress into the future.

Bishop Richard Condie

On Sunday, Bishop Condie outlined the Diocese’s plan, which will be detailed at the Synod, an annual meeting of all parish representatives in June.

“Our commitment is to the justice, recognition and support of survivors of sexual abuse,” he said.

“And so that’s why we’re taking this very sacrificial stand to make sure we can fund redress into the future.

“We understand that the selling of churches is particularly difficult for local people and for the wider community because they’re often part of Tasmania’s heritage. So we’re very keen to talk to people who might want to purchase one of our heritage properties to preserve the heritage life of Tasmania.”

Bishop Condie said the Diocese would examine alternative ministry models to fill the void that will inevitably be left by the sale of churches.

“In the early days of Tasmania, people met in each other’s homes,” he said.

“They took the good news of Jesus out across the state and gathered in small places, perhaps in community halls and schools.

“And, actually, we see brand new churches meeting in school halls. We can see those kinds of models happening in some of our regional areas.”

Bishop Condie took the opportunity on Sunday to renew his call for the state government to follow his lead.

“We need the state government to join the national redress scheme,” he said, adding that the roll-out of the scheme is set to commence on July 1.

Deputy Premier Jeremy Rockliff said the prospect of Tasmania joining the redress scheme was being “actively considered”, and that Attorney-General Elise Archer was currently working through technical issues associated with signing on to the scheme.

“We’re very committed to the victims [of child sexual abuse], which is why we’re making sure we do work through this very thoroughly and we get it right,” Mr Rockliff said.

The Diocese already operates its own redress scheme, for which it recently made an in principle agreement to increase the cap to $150,000 per claim.

This is groundbreaking stuff. This has got to be a world-first.

Beyond Abuse spokesman Steve Fisher

Through this scheme, 55 abuse survivors have been redressed.

Beyond Abuse spokesman Steve Fisher welcomed the Anglican Diocese’s announcement, saying he did not have “enough words to describe the feeling” he felt after hearing the news.

“It’s a real feeling of having been taken notice of and that [the church] is truly sorry for what they have done in the past,” Mr Fisher said.

“This is groundbreaking stuff. This has got to be a world-first.

“The fact that [Bishop Condie] has had the fortitude to do this first, I would hope that leaders of other institutions show him the respect and their survivors the respect they deserve by following and doing exactly the same thing – no matter what the cost.”