Federal redress scheme critical in providing access to justice for abuse survivors

4 November 2016
The announcement this afternoon of a federal redress scheme for survivors of institutionalised sexual abuse is a critical step forward in providing access to justice, Maurice Blackburn Lawyers said today.

Maurice Blackburn Principal Michelle James said the announcement of a redress scheme was long overdue, having been recommended more than a year ago by the Royal Commission.

“We welcome the leadership being shown today by the Federal Government in taking responsibility for the delivery of a redress scheme for survivors of institutionalised abuse,” Ms James said.

“This measure has been a long timing coming – a national redress scheme was recommended by the Royal Commission more than a year ago, and survivor advocacy groups and others have long advocated for this scheme to be delivered by the Federal Government as a priority.

“It is important however that the Federal Government show leadership not only in the delivery of a redress scheme, but also in addressing the other key recommendations made by the Royal Commission.

“This includes prioritising a nationally consistent approach to the lifting of limitation periods for abuse claims - already a number of states have acted to address this including Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia and Queensland, but many states are still yet to do so and the Federal Government must play a role in ensuring this is addressed.

“Critically the Federal Government must also show leadership in ensuring both genuine participation in any redress scheme by the states and institutions, but also in making sure that institutions in particular cannot hide behind a redress scheme to avoid meeting their obligations to abuse survivors.

“Only recently our firm was advised by an institutional defendant that compensation for a survivor would not be forthcoming in the absence of a redress scheme.

“This is unacceptable, and we urge the Federal Government to play a role in helping to ensure that institutions act as model litigants in responding to claims being made by abuse survivors,” she said.

Ms James said ensuring the roll-out of any redress scheme remained consistent with the broader recommendations of the Royal Commission was also important.

“This includes ensuring that ongoing psychological support is provided to survivors, and to that end we welcome the Federal Government’s commitment today that options for counselling will be made available,” Ms James said.

“We also welcome the establishment of an independent advisory council to provide input and advice on the implementation of the scheme, again a key recommendation from the Royal Commission.

“Finally it is important that no fixed closing date for redress is put in place – as the Royal Commission hearings have repeatedly demonstrated, for many survivors it can take years to come forward and seek redress for the abuse they have endured.

“Survivors must be supported through a redress scheme, irrespective of when that occurs,” she said.

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