The ACT Government has followed the Commonwealth’s lead in barring Forrest Tennis Club from accessing funding and publicly naming and shaming it for failing to sign up to the National Redress Scheme.
On Thursday (24 February), the government announced it had strengthened its ability to crack down on institutions that fail to sign up to the Scheme and block them from accessing grants or other similar support, as well as identifying them publicly.
Late last year, the club was declared ineligible for Federal Government funding. It was one of only three institutions across the country that did not sign up to the Scheme.
The Scheme – which lets victims of child sexual assault access redress, including monetary payment, counselling and can facilitate an apology with the offending institution – was created in 2018 in the wake of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Initially, organisations had been expected to sign up, but when many failed to, the Federal Government introduced the possibility of financial penalties and naming and shaming as punishments.
Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury said the new ACT regime would allow the government to consider imposing its own sanctions as soon as the Commonwealth imposes some. It will also allow for more government transparency.
“It is important that non-government institutions (NGIs) that decline or delay their participation in the Scheme are subject to appropriate consequences.
“If they fail to uphold their moral obligation to join the Scheme, the ACT Government will consider imposing sanctions on non-participating NGIs on a case-by-case basis,” he said.
Two survivors of child sexual abuse at the club came out publicly last year to urge the club to sign up to the Scheme.
The victims’ abuser, former coach John Cattle, was sentenced to prison in 2020.
Both said in a statement the abuse, which began 38 years ago, had taken a significant physical, emotional and financial toll on them.
“Despite this, we consider ourselves lucky to have survived child sexual abuse. Many victims did not survive. We see it as our duty to do everything we can to ensure all victims of abuse are given a voice and an opportunity to heal and survive their ordeals,” the statement read.
Federal Minister for Families and Social Services and Minister for Women’s Safety Anne Ruston has said it’s “unacceptable” that these institutions were failing in their moral obligation to join the Scheme.
“These are institutions know they have been named in applications and yet they have chosen to shirk their responsibility to finally do the right thing by these survivors,” she said.
Representatives from Forrest Tennis Club have repeatedly declined Region Media’s requests for comment on the matter, but a spokesperson last year reportedly told the ABC the club is in talks with officials from the National Redress Scheme but is unable to comment further on the matter for legal reasons.
Some reports have emerged of the club citing financial reasons for its failure to sign up.
The ACT Government joined the National Redress Scheme in 2018, as did other Australian jurisdictions.
If this story has brought up any issues, you can contact the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre’s support line on 6247 2525 between 7 am and 11 pm for all counselling-related inquiries, including all appointments and referrals.
1800RESPECT, the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service, can be contacted 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 1800 737 732.