Jewish Care responds to alleged fear of bullying at Melbourne’s Yeshivah Centre

February 11, 2016 by J-Wire Staff
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Bill Appleby, the CEO of Melbourne’s Jewish Care CEO has formally responded to an article that has been published in The Age newspaper entitled “Yeshivah Centre Abuse Victims Fear Bullying, Intimidation”.

Bill Appleby

Bill Appleby

The story was published this week in The Age . It indicates that pupils at the school still experience bullying and intimidation when it comes to reporting on cases of child sexual abuse.

The CEO of Melbourne’s Jewish Care has issued the following response to the article:

“Last December, we announced that we would assist the Yeshivah Centre in the operation of their Redress Scheme which was established to offer assistance to victims of child sexual abuse.

Jewish Care agreed to operate a confidential 1800 number and email address for abuse victims. In addition, our president Mike Debinski was engaged in a personal and separate capacity to oversee the operation of the Scheme.

Our Board agreed to assist Yeshivah because we felt that we were uniquely and appropriately placed to offer assistance to the victims and that we have the relevant expertise in the area to most effectively respond to survivors of abuse; ensuring a caring and empathetic initial response to what is no doubt a traumatic disclosure.

The Board and I are extremely disappointed with the article as it contains a number of serious factual errors. Unfortunately, Jewish Care has been mentioned in The Age article as having breached a victim’s trust after an email sent to the Board of Jewish Care was sent to a member of the Committee of Management at the Yeshivah Centre.

Yeshivah

Yeshivah

It is absolutely vital to understand that the author of the email mentioned in the article did not identify as a victim, nor did the email contain any victim information. The content of the email only raised an issue of perceived governance concerns. Those concerns have been clarified by the Board with the assistance of independent legal advice.

The article also stated that Jewish Care is the administrator of the new sexual abuse Redress Scheme. This is incorrect. Jewish Care is not the administrator of the Yeshivah Redress Scheme. The Scheme is administered independently of Jewish Care and I have previously described our limited role above.

We believe the implication that Jewish Care directors released information about a victim to another body is defamatory and formally requested The Age newspaper on the 9th February to immediately retract these inaccuracies.

In closing, I want to give our community, clients, residents, staff and volunteers absolute confidence that we respect and keep confidential all client information in accordance with our statutory responsibilities. This is as you would expect.

As we have done for 168 years, we continue to serve the community professionally, providing vital support for those who are most in need.

We remain ready to assist and continue with our efforts on behalf of all those in the Victorian Jewish community who need our assistance.

J-Wire’s Toni Susskind reports:

In direct response to the Redress and Civil Litigation Report from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, a redress scheme for sexual abuse victims was created by the Yeshivah Centre last year. According to the Yeshivah committee of management spokesman Yechiel Belfer, the redress scheme is intended to give, “financial redress, access to specialist counseling, case management and support,” to sexual abuse victims who were under 18 at the time.

The compensation offered varies between $10,000-$80,000, however, according to Fairfax media, there are “at least four Yeshivah victims who have refused to take compensation from the centre……” This is due to the fact that the individuals are fearful of their confidential information being “handled poorly or leaked to third parties,” which can lead to “harassment and ostracisation”.

As a participant in the scheme, Jewish Care Australia now stands accused of leaking information. Tima Jacks from the Age Victoria reported, “Jewish Care Victoria – an organisation engaged by Yeshivah to receive initial inquiries from survivors of abuse – has already breached one victim’s trust, after a private email sent to the board of Jewish Care was leaked to a board member at Yeshivah,” and that “the Jewish Care board member who leaked the email is also a board member at Yeshivah Centre’s Committee of Management. They forwarded the email to a colleague on that board.”

 

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