Updated: Jul 15, 2019
While care has been taken to omit graphic descriptions, readers are advised that this article contains discussion on the impacts of sexual abuse.
The Women's Cottage is a social oasis in the heart of Richmond that many locals associate with support for women and children surviving domestic violence. What you may not know is that the Women's Cottage also provides specialist support service for survivors of childhood institutional sexual abuse wishing to access support via the National Redress Scheme.
The National Redress Scheme has been established to provide financial redress and other support services to those who have experienced childhood sexual abuse within (or because of) government or non-government institutions. This may include church groups, social/sports organisations, foster care and/or group homes. The National Redress Scheme start in July last year and runs until 30 June 2028.
The Scheme offers applicants a monetary payment from $10,000 up to $150,000 depending on the circumstances. To date, the average payment is in the middle of that range. So far, around 229 redress payments have been made. The Scheme can also offers access to free counselling, and a direct personal apology response from the institution’s concerned if wanted.
Women’s Cottage Redress Counsellor and Caseworker Angie Gleeson says that for women taking the first step forward in asking about the scheme, it can be useful to spend time face to face with a counsellor in a locally based service such as the Women's Cottage. She explains that there is a list of available Redress Support Services on the National Redress Website.
"The Women’s Cottage can provide in-centre and outreach support to women from Parramatta to Lithgow. Calls are also coming in from women across Australia who are keen to talk to a women’s service about these issues. In these cases, The Women’s Cottage provides ongoing phone support until services closer to home can be found. We never turn any women away. We work with a trauma-informed approach, and we work at the client’s own pace. It's very much guided by the woman we're working with; it's almost like we're just walking alongside her."
Angie says that workers at the Women's Cottage are gently supporting women to make sense of the scheme, and to understand their options. She explains that some women are at very difference stages of acknowledgement.
She says, "Everyone can be in a very different place. Some women are at the stage where they can be very quick to be triggered. Others will say that they are now ready to move on with their life, but they wish to play a part in ensuring that it never happens to anyone else."
The National Redress Scheme has created a new way forward in doing this, with over 4100 applications received so far.
Women's Cottage manager Maria Losurdo says, "To be able to apply to the Redress Scheme one of the first things you need to know is whether the institution where the abuse occurred has 'signed up' to the scheme. This is because the monetary payments come from that institution as part of taking responsibility for what has happened."
The Department of Social Services reports that in the first 12 months of the scheme, around 47 non-government institutions have committed to participate, with more to follow. The Redress website publishes information on the institutions already signed up, those pending and those which have not yet signed up.
Angie says, "You can download an application form, but once you've handed it in with the words you've chosen to use, you can't change it. Depending on your emotional wellbeing, you may need support to do it."
Angie also says specialist counselling often assists women to find new coping strategies such as creative activities or simply finding the words to talk about their experiences in a confidential and safe space. She agrees that it's of utmost importance for survivors of abuse to have a place where they are firstly believed and feel as safe as possible.
"Having a feminist, women-specific service that is neutral and independent can be of great value to women when working with such sensitive issues and associated triggers and challenges. You can't make everything safe, because the world is still out there, carrying on. However, our work here, is part of assisting our clients to reach that all-important safety and stabilisation."
The community is encouraged by The Women's Cottage to seek support before and during the process of applying for redress. You can contact The Women's Cottage on (02) 4578 4190, or drop in at 22 Bosworth Street, Richmond, NSW.
Other Useful Contacts:
Knowmore Free advice line 1800 605 762 (offering free service offering legal advice and information to help you consider your options about compensation, redress and other legal issues related to abuse)
National Redress Scheme Free Call on 1800 737 377 (Information about the scheme, eligibility, participating institutions and available support services in your local area)
Detailed information on eligibility conditions and application process can be accessed at: www.nationalredress.gov.au/
1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) https://www.1800respect.org.au/
In emergencies, please call 000.
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