Melbourne diocese of Anglican church received $16m in jobkeeper in 2020

Exclusive: Money received from wage subsidy scheme enough to cover church’s estimated sexual abuse compensation bill of $14.3m

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The Melbourne diocese of the Anglican church received almost $16m in jobkeeper subsidies in 2020, enough to clear its estimated sexual abuse compensation bill of $14.3m, accounts filed with the charities regulator show.

Accounts provided to the Australian Charities and Not-For-Profits Commission show revenue at the Melbourne Anglican Trust Corporation (MATC), which acts as the employer for church workers, tumbled last year.

MATC acts as the employer in the diocese and earns revenue by charging parishes for the cost of employment. During last year’s lockdowns it slashed the amount it charged parishes by about 30% after receiving estimates from parishes of their likely fall in revenue.

As a result, MATC’s income fell from $48.2m in 2019 to $35.4m last year, well in excess of the 15% drop required to trigger eligibility for jobkeeper for charities and churches.

The accounts also show the Melbourne diocese estimated its current liabilities to sexual abuse victims at $14.3m.

In 2019, after the child sexual abuse royal commission, the diocese estimated its liability for abuse at $15.8m, based on 126 potential claimants for compensation.

This dropped to $14.3m in 2020 after “subtracting any claims paid during the year”, the diocese said in its accounts.

Justin Lachal, the general manager of the Melbourne Anglican Diocesan Corporation (MADC), a church entity that has responsibilities including dealing with claims against the Melbourne diocese, said that during last year’s lockdowns the diocese surveyed parishes about their income.

“With this information, MADC determined that it would need to reduce the level of recoveries to parishes,” he said. “It did so not completely but by approximately 30%, which approximated the expected reduction in income levels of the parishes in aggregate.”

Jobkeeper enabled parishes to “maintain employment at similar levels to prior to the pandemic,” he said.

“Every dollar the diocese received from the government under the jobkeeper scheme was passed on to employees who qualified for the support in the same way other Australian workers did.

“No money was deducted for any reason including the paying of redress. The diocese is funding redress payments from a separate church budget and the taxpayer is not subsidising church redress.”

The child abuse royal commission heard that, across Australia, the Anglican church received 1,115 complaints of child sexual abuse between January 1980 and December 2015.


Ben Butler

The GuardianTramp

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