Scouts Tasmania flags asset sell-off to fund child sex abuse redress payments
By Nicole Price and James Dunlevie
ABC Radio Hobart
Scouts Tasmania is being forced to sell some of its properties in the wake of claims made under the national redress scheme to victims of sexual abuse, with the state president warning the organisation is “faced with insolvency” unless action is taken.
- The initial sell-off may need to be expanded, the state president of Tasmania’s scouting peak body said, in order to cover costs over the scheme’s 10-year duration
- The “decision wasn’t taken lightly or quickly” and if action is not taken, the 112-year-old organisation will be “faced with insolvency, he said
- The sale of properties owned by the organisation would have a “devastating” effect on groups that use the facilities
The 112-year-old organisation is one of a number of Tasmanian institutions which signed up to the national redress scheme, established in July 2018 in response to the royal commission into institutional responses into child sexual abuse.
Scouts Tasmania state president Corey McGrath said the organisation “doesn’t have a lot of cash” and will need to sell three properties.
“The decision wasn’t taken lightly or quickly, it’s been a long process,” he said.
“We are faced with insolvency if we don’t do something now … we could get ourselves into trouble later on by not having the cash.”
While it is unclear how many former Tasmanian scout members have already come forward as part of the scheme, Mr McGrath said “it’s bigger than I expected”.
“Maybe I’m naive — I didn’t think we would get any, to be honest.”
The properties owned by the organisation earmarked for sale are the Harry Abbott hall in Launceston, Kaloma Lodge and Campsite in Wynyard and the Lenah Valley scout hall in Hobart.
Mr McGrath said the Lenah Valley hall was one of its higher-valued properties — but that it is used extensively and its sale would have a “devastating” impact on the youth groups and children who use it.
With the scheme set to run until 2028, Mr McGrath said Scouts Tasmania may also have to consider selling a number of their remaining 12 properties, including the Lea at Kingston.
“It’s the unknown, we have another eight-plus years to go, we have no idea what the future may bring.”
The Tasmanian Government announced in May 2018 it would sign up to the scheme, with the cost to the state estimated at $70 million.
The scheme, which the Government said intends to “provide support to people who experienced institutional child sexual abuse” also “acknowledges that many children were sexually abused in Australian institutions” and “holds institutions accountable for this abuse”.
Under the national scheme, people who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse “gain access to counselling, a direct personal response, and a redress payment”.
Other organisations which have opted in include Tasmania Police, churches, schools, the Salvation Army, children’s service providers and correctional services.
In 2018, the Anglican Church announced it would sell off more than 100 properties, including churches, to fund its contribution to the scheme for sexual abuse survivors.
However, after a backlash from parishioners, the list of properties earmarked for sale was reduced.