This article by Toby Walker originally appeared in the Sunshine Coast Daily and can be viewed here.
A Christian care group accused of mistreating troubled young women will close its Sunshine Coast home.
Sydney-based Mercy Ministries issued a statement on its website this week citing “strategic and resourcing issues” as the reason behind the closure of its Glenview home.
It said the closure at the end of next month would not disadvantage any women currently enrolled in its program.
“The majority of the young women receiving care in the home will be able to graduate prior to the closing,” it read.
“The other residents will have the opportunity to complete the program in the Mercy Ministries Sydney home.”
Executives for the group, an international organisation that has operated in Australia since 2000, declined to elaborate on the reasons behind the closure when contacted by the Daily yesterday.
On its website, Mercy Ministries claims to treat women aged 16 to 28 by “providing homes and care for young women suffering the effects of eating disorders, self-harm, abuse, depression, unplanned pregnancies and other life-controlling issues”.
Earlier this year, Mercy Ministries became embroiled in a national controversy when three girls who had gone through the program, including two on the Sunshine Coast, went public with their claims of mistreatment.
They alleged the six-month programs left them suicidal due to the “emotionally cruel and medically unproven techniques”, such as exorcisms and “separation contracts” between friends.
Last month, the Democrats called on the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to investigate the group, alleging it had misled young women by making them think they would receive free treatment..
News of the Sunshine Coast home’s closure was welcomed yesterday in a joint statement on website mercysurvivors.com, a blog set up to record stories of alleged abuse and neglect told by young women formerly placed in the Mercy Ministries program.
“The closure of the Sunshine Coast home brings us one step closer to our goal of protecting other young women from mistreatment and abuse at the hands of Mercy Ministries,” it said.
“Unfortunately, many of us turned to Mercy Ministries because we could not afford treatment at other reputable facilities.
“It’s become clear that there is a great need for professional, quality mental health care regardless of each person’s socio-economic status, and that such treatment programs must be held accountable to the government so that others will not suffer mistreatment like the residents of Mercy Ministries.”