This article by Anne-Louise Brown originally appeared in the Sunshine Coast Daily and can be viewed here.
CHRISTIAN charity Mercy Ministries, which ran a home for young women in need on the Sunshine Coast, has admitted to false, misleading and deceptive conduct.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said the Sydney-based group, established in Australia since 2000, had apologised for misrepresenting its services and repaid about $120,000 to affected women.
The charity ran two homes for troubled young women – at Glenview on the Coast and in Sydney.
Both homes have closed. The Glenview centre shut its doors last July amid controversy.
ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said Mercy Ministries had advertised its services as free, but then asked residents to sign over their Centrelink payments in return for treatment.
“We found misrepresentations were occurring,” Mr Samuel said.
“Firstly as to whether or not the service provided by Mercy Ministries was free when clearly it was not.
“There was an assignment of Centrelink payments to Mercy Ministries for the duration of the stay of those who used their services.
“Also, Mercy Ministries misrepresented that it offered professional support from qualified specialists when in fact that was not the case.”
On its now defunct website, Mercy Ministries claimed 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”.
Last year, the group 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 had left them suicidal.
However, two other Coast women publicly said they owed their lives to the controversial organisation.
Nobody from Mercy Ministries could be contacted for comment yesterday.