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Church Sell-off to Benefit Australian Abuse Survivors

The Anglican church in Tasmania is planning to sell more than half of its 133 churches to help pay compensation to victims of child sexual abuse. 

Many parishioners on the island state of Tasmania in southern Australia are upset to lose many of their churches, some which are more than 130 years old, but survivors of abuse say the move sends an important message of atonement.  They have welcomed the Anglican Church’s decision to pay for what campaigners have said were the “sins of the past.”

The sale aims to raise about $6 million for abuse victims.

The Bishop of Tasmania, Richard Condie, said the “pain and sadness” of selling off dozens of churches was a necessary sacrifice that would deliver justice to those who endured abuse.  

“The last thing a bishop wants to do is to sell a church building and close a church down,” said Condie. “I would prefer to be opening new ones.  The last thing I want to do is that.  We are doing this because we have an obligation to survivors of sexual abuse.”  

The sale by Anglican authorities in Tasmania will also include church halls, houses and vacant land. A final list of properties to be sold will be drawn up within weeks.

Compensation for victims was a key recommendation of a five-year Royal Commission investigating the sexual exploitation of children in Australian institutions.  It handed down its final report last December.  A national redress scheme for those who were abused is due to start in July.  

The Royal Commission, Australia’s highest form of inquiry, gathered evidence of sexual assaults on children in religious organizations, including the Anglican and Catholic Churches, as well as in foster homes, charities, sporting groups, schools and the military.  The inquiry has led to many prosecutions.  

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