The original press release by Senator Lyn Allison appeared on the Australian Democrats website and can be viewed here.
Senator Lyn Allison
Parliamentary Leader and Democrats Senator for Victoria
The Democrats succeeded in having the Mercy Ministries referred to the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission for allegedly misleading troubled young women into thinking they would receive free, specialist mental health services but instead, bombarding them with extremist and damaging religious ‘instruction’.
“It is high time this religious group was investigated and called to account for what their victims describe as emotional and spiritual abuse,” Senator Allison said.
Mercy Ministries invite young women ‘suffering from the effects of eating disorders, self harm, abuse, depression, unplanned pregnancies and other life-controlling issues’ into the program claiming to offer “…… professional support from psychologists, dieticians, general practitioners, social workers, counsellors and program staff who all contribute to provide daily education for the young women in our care”.
“It was not free and it certainly was not therapeutic. By all accounts Mercy Ministries staff had no accreditation or counselling qualifications and, according to the victims, the mental health issues that brought them to the program were ignored while they underwent exorcism and bible study.
A number of the young women who participated in Mercy Ministries’ live in program reported suicidal depression following the ‘counselling’ and ‘guidance’.
The Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs Chris Bowen advised Senator Allison yesterday that the matter had been referred to the ACCC following her Senate motion in March.
“Mercy Ministries may claim that, their service is ‘free’, and therefore not governed by the Trades Practices Act, however, these young women had to sign over all their benefits to Mercy Ministries. There should be no doubt they were charged to be part of the program and therefore have a right to be protected from misleading practices.
“If the courts find this not to be the case then the law should be changed to protect such vulnerable people.
“It is also reasonable to expect Centrelink to make proper checks on the credentials of non-government organisations to whom they make direct payments on behalf of their clients,” Senator Allison concluded.