Vic law changes set to ensure a fairer approach from institutions for survivors of child abuse

22 November 2016
Maurice Blackburn Lawyers has welcomed new laws to ensure institutions take greater responsibility in preventing and responding to future abuse claims, by forcing institutions responsible to prove they took steps to protect children under their care.

The laws, to be introduced to State Parliament today by the Andrews Labor Government, will reverse the “onus of proof” so organisations will have to prove that “reasonable precautions” were taken to prevent abuse.

Although not retrospective, the laws are aimed at preventing future abuse and preventing institutions, organisations, facilities and government bodies that supervise children to demonstrate they did not have knowledge of abuse of children by their staff. It is hoped the laws will also help to improve the process in future for survivors seeking compensation.

Maurice Blackburn Principal Dimi Ioannou, who heads the firm’s Victorian Abuse Practice, welcomed the move as an important and critical step in providing access to justice for survivors.

“This was a key recommendation of the Royal Commission and is an important step towards ensuring that institutions take greater responsibility in future not only for the prevention of abuse, but also in acknowledging what has taken place and responding appropriately and more fairly - something that has let survivors down in the past,” Ms Ioannou said.

“For too long, the balance has been skewed against victims in abuse cases, and the Victorian Government is to be congratulated for continuing to act on the many recommendations of the Royal Commission to ensure that in future survivors are treated fairly and with the respect they deserve.

“We call on all states yet to act on this important measure to do so, it is a critical step in providing greater access to justice by ensuring that institutions can no longer rely on the defence that they had no prior knowledge this was occurring on their watch,” she said.

Ms Ioannou also called on the Victorian and Federal Governments to continue to work together to ensure participation in a national redress scheme for Victorian survivors of abuse as soon as possible.

“Many states are still yet to confirm if they will opt in to a national redress scheme, with discussions continuing, including in Victoria,” Ms Ioannou said.

“While it is important to get this process right, we believe that a national redress scheme is the best way forward for all states to ensure consistency for survivors, and we urge the Victorian and Federal Governments to continue working on this to ensure Victoria, along with all other states and territories, can opt-in to the national redress scheme as soon as possible.

“Maurice Blackburn has represented many victims of historical abuse and we will continue to help survivors in their fight to right the terrible wrongs that have been committed against them in the past,” she said.

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