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Cult survivors fall through the cracks in child abuse redress scheme

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Women who were raped by the late founder of Kenja Communications say they have been failed by a scheme set up to acknowledge and compensate the survivors of child sex abuse if it only applies to organisations that agree to join it.

The National Redress Scheme [NRS] was established by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse for survivors to access counselling, an acknowledgment and apology from the institution and a payment of up to $150,000.

Michelle Ring was regularly abused by the leader of Kenja from the late 1980s when she was in her teens.

Michelle Ring was regularly abused by the leader of Kenja from the late 1980s when she was in her teens.Credit:James Brickwood

Some 459 organisations have signed up to the scheme and $439.5 million has been paid to survivors. A further 443 applications have not been processed because the institution no longer exists or is unwilling or unable to join.

A two-year review of the NRS recommended making the government the funder of last resort in cases where the institution is defunct or does not have the financial means to join the scheme.

But this would not extend to institutions that could join and have chosen not to.

Kenja, a personal improvement cult, is among four organisations that have declined to join, despite having been named in the royal commission or having claims against them. Its founder Ken Dyers died by suicide in 2007 while facing 22 charges of sexual assault. His widow, Jan Hamilton, who now runs the group, has maintained Kenja should not have to join because no sexual abuse ever took place.

Milana Milos, 42, who was sexually abused by Dyers in the early 1990s, said the scheme was pointless if organisations could elude it by claiming the abuse never took place. She lodged a claim when it was first announced in 2019, only to be told it could not proceed because Kenja had not joined the scheme.

“I had to go through the whole process, you have to talk about everything that happened which was really daunting for me because I hadn’t really spoken about it to anyone,” Ms Milos said.

“When they told me they couldn’t do anything because Kenja hadn’t signed on, it just didn’t make sense to me. They’re not going to sign on because they’ve spent so many years trying to prove their innocence.”