Citizens Welfare Services of Victoria (CWS) Statement & Apology to survivors of institutional child sexual abuse

drummond street services signs-up to the National Redress Scheme, commitment to accountability, justice and healing

September 29, 2020

It is with sadness, shock and distress, that we have been advised that our organisation, operating historically under the name; Citizens Welfare Services of Victoria (CWS) has likely to have caused harm and abuse.

This has been devastating and confronting for the organisation and the staff, but this is incomparable to the abuse, harm and distress experienced by someone and all survivors and their families.  We also want to acknowledge the strength and bravery of the survivor that has submitted an application, and to all survivors.

Throughout our 133-year history of supporting communities, the organisation has evolved to respond to the community’s changing needs, to reflect broader societal changes and movements to ensure our services remained relevant to the very people we aim to support.

In 1887, the Charity Organisation Society of Melbourne was established. Thereafter renamed – Citizens Welfare Service of Victoria (CWS) in 1947, continuing under this banner until 1996, where it commenced operating as the Drummond Street Relationship Centre, and with our current operating name – drummond street services since 2010.

Having our own long history operating in a sector and part of a welfare system, which through the Royal Commission of Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse has showed the far reaching and shocking accounts of abuse, criminal behaviour, cover-ups and utter dereliction of a duty to care.  We have seen and heard first-hand the lifelong impacts of trauma.

We have had the privilege of working alongside so many courageous survivors, their families and loved ones. We have supported survivor’s advocacy, amplified their voices, listened and learned from them and most importantly – believed them.

This includes having our Survivors Support Team with staff that have their own lived experiences of abuse and healing.  Their guidance and knowledge, along with our clients and their families, has been essential as part of ensuring a safe, respectful and empowering service. Survivor’s stories, experiences, strength and healing continue to guide our behaviours now and into the future.

Our organisation at all levels; Board, management and staff, both professionally and personally are deeply connected and committed to supporting survivors in their pursuit of justice, accountability and healing, as always defined and led by the survivors themselves.  We do this in the knowledge that for some of us, “they are us”.

We will ensure that the organisation takes all efforts to accept responsibility for this harm and be led and guided by survivors.  Currently we are in the process of signing up to the National Redress Scheme as a participating institution.   We also understand the importance for survivors to access records and historical documents and we are taking all steps to facilitate this access.  We will also develop, to the best of our abilities, a transparent and trauma-informed restorative justice process for those who are unable to access the National Redress Scheme.

We will be undertaking these processes supported by, and in consultation, with survivors, as part of our sustained commitment to centering and valuing their voices.

We understand that survivor communities may look at our existing Support Service through a different lens, which may mean that we need to change how we offer support to survivors.  What will never change – is our commitment to survivor justice and healing, and for organisations or institutions – no matter who or what they are – to sign up to the National Redress Scheme as soon as possible and to accept accountability and make real amends for survivors, their families and loved ones.

Further information on how to access information will continue to be updated on our website; -welfare-services-justice-healing you can contact us on or on +61 3 8548 4970.

All of us at drummond street services again say sorry, for any and all harms and abuse. We believe you. We hear you. We make a commitment to compassion, healing and the work that needs to be done.

Karen Field, Chief Executive Officer

Professor Alun Jackson, President