CASA cops blow to funding

The efforts of a key local agency to support Gippsland clergy abuse victims suffered a critical blow with the recent news it missed out on expected Federal Government funding.

The Gippsland Centre Against Sexual Assault this week vowed to continue supporting its local clients as they prepared to have their stories heard by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, but that task had been hindered.

In June Ms Boyle told The Express the Royal Commission – which held the first of a series of private sessions in Melbourne last week – had triggered trauma in local abuse victims and led to an increase in the demand on her organisation’s services.

She said GCASA had been “relatively prepared” for the response, expecting the hearings would result in more clients needing therapeutic care or, at the least, information on the inquiries’ processes.

A funding submission to the Federal Government, if successful, would have allowed GCASA to employ an additional part-time counsellor to deal with extra demand and implement a “host of other supports”.

Now, Ms Boyle said, it would struggle under the strain of that demand and she expected to see CASA’s waiting list escalate, which had only recently eased.

Mid last month about $45 million was allocated to “support survivors of sexual assault” but CASAs were “completely passed over”, despite being the state’s specialist service in this range of services, according to a CASA Forum spokesperson.

Ms Boyle said in Gippsland agencies including Relationships Australia and Berry Street received a portion of the funds while a significant sum went to Melbourne-based agency Drummond Street Services.

While she did not doubt the “fantastic” work of Relationships Australia, Ms Boyle said she was concerned about the “message” the government was sending to the community.

“It says this about relationships but it’s not, it is a crime,” she said.

The CASA Forum spokesperson said failing to fund CASAs showed “a concerning ignorance for the expertise that has been built up over three decades”.

GCASA would, nevertheless, continue to support clients as they readied to face the Royal Commission and Ms Boyle said the agency was keen to allay the concerns of existing clients.

She said GCASA intended to also meet with RA “to see how we can manage this together” and would explore any opportunity to tap into excess government funds.

One GCASA client, in a letter to the agency, said she was “very distressed” by the recent funding news.

She said she understood the “potential impact to all Victorian victims and survivors of sexual assault if CASA’s workload increased without an increase in funding”.

The sex assault survivor also wrote to the Federal Government, saying its failure to fund CASAs would “impact severely on Victorian victims and potentially put more victim’s lives at risk”.

“It is impossible to over-estimate how important it is to have access to specialist services when recovering from the trauma of sexual assault,” she said.

People affected by sexual assault in an institution can register to tell their story to the Royal Commission by phoning 1800 099 340 or emailing [email protected]

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