Mediator appointed to settle Children Of God litigation
By MICHAEL MAGAZANIK and DAVID SAUNDERS
A recently retired Supreme Court judge will try to bring the long-running Children of God litigation to an end through mediation.
Mr Kenneth Marks, QC, will be paid $3500 a day to bring together the opposing parties - the Department of Health and Community Services and the members of the Children of God - avoiding a trial, conservatively forecast to cost more than $2.5 million.
Mr Marks, who retired from the Supreme Court last week after 17 years on the bench, will begin work on the case today. He was appointed under the Children and Young Persons Act, which provides for the appointment of mediators.
His appointment comes 20 months after dawn raids by police and officials from the Department of Health and Community Services (then known as Community Services Victoria) on two properties in country Victoria took 56 children into custody. There were simultaneous raids in NSW.
The department alleged mistreatment, including sexual and psychological abuse, and the long-running battle to take the children from their parents began. The children were later released back to the custody of their parents.
The decision to mediate follows a similar move in New South Wales in November 1992, when a settlement between the Family and the NSW Department of Community Services was brokered by the state's former Chief Justice, Sir Laurence Street.
In December the former Victorian chief magistrate, Mrs Sally Brown, and the senior Children's Court magistrate advocated mediation, saying it would lead to a "greater chance of achieving resolution".
Last November the State Government agreed to fund both the prosecution and defence cases.
Mr Marks was recommended for the job by the Attorney-General, Mrs Wade.
The sect's lawyer's are applying under the Freedom of Information Act for documents held by the department, which they say are vital to their defence. The matter continues today before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, where the first of 35 applications will be heard.