Law firm calls for Federal funding grants to Brisbane private schools singled out by Royal Commission to be withheld until better treatment of abuse survivors proven
15 February 2017
Federal funding grants for private schools singled out in the Royal Commission, including St Paul’s at Bald Hills in Brisbane, should be withheld until the schools’ claims that processes in place to appropriately respond to abuse claims can be independently proven, Maurice Blackburn Lawyers said today.
Maurice Blackburn Principal and head of the firm’s Abuse Practice Michelle James said claims of abuse at St Paul’s stretched well beyond the time frames identified in the Royal Commission’s report, but despite the school’s statements that things have changed, survivors of abuse were still being treated appallingly.
Ms James said she would be writing to both Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham and the Non-State Schools Accreditation Board today to call for funding grants to private schools implicated by the Royal Commission to be put on hold until claims of better treatment of abuse and treatment of survivors could be independently proven.
“Some of these schools have been receiving millions of dollars in taxpayer funded Federal Government grants – in the case of St Paul’s at Bald Hills they received $8.1 million in 2014,” Ms James said.
“The public expect that abuse survivors are being treated with dignity and care, and in the case of St Paul’s we know for a fact based on our own cases that this is not occurring.
“These schools should not be receiving Federal Government validation and taxpayer funds until we see something better from them when it comes to the treatment of survivors, and until it can be proven independently that is happening.
“Our firm has clear-cut cases of abuse at St Paul’s that occurred as recently as 2005, yet despite all that has been aired in the Royal Commission and the statements made by the school since that things have changed, we are still seeing survivor’s claims being deliberately delayed when they attempt to seek redress.
“Just last month we had a claim knocked back on an entirely redundant technical point, purely because the school is seeking to delay paying compensation and wanting to drag claims out for survivors for as long as possible.
“This is a claim that the school will end up having to accept, but they are showing no urgency to do so. Those actions are cruel and highly distressing for survivors.
“Any statements from schools like St Paul’s that things have changed are meaningless whilst they continue to treat survivors with such contempt.
“That’s why I will today be writing to the Federal Education Minister and the Non-State Schools Accreditation Board to ask that they step in to seek independent confirmation that these schools are acting as they say they are, and to withhold any funding grants until that’s found to be the case.
“Survivors and taxpayers expect better from the Federal Government.
“Federal funding should be withheld until the public can have confidence that these schools are genuine in practising what they preach when it comes to a fair process for abuse survivors,” she said.