Redress scheme legislation welcome, but must remain consistent with Royal Commission recommendations

26 October 2017
Lawyers have today broadly welcomed progress made by the Federal Government in implementing a national redress scheme, but said it was critical any final scheme remained consistent with the full extent of recommendations made by the Royal Commission.

Maurice Blackburn Abuse Law Principal Michelle James said that the introduction today of legislation for a national redress scheme was a welcome step for survivors, but said concerns remained about some key aspects of the proposed scheme.

“The Bill introduced today acknowledges that of the 74 recommendations made by the Royal Commission that were relevant to redress, 63 of these have been adopted by the Government, and we welcome the government’s action to address these recommendations,” Ms James said.

“However, we do believe that the recommendations not adopted or only partially adopted are also significant for survivors, and we would urge the Federal Government to further consider ensuring these recommendations are acted on in full in any final scheme.

“This includes the decision to cap redress payments at $150,000 as outlined in the Bill today, despite the Royal Commission recommending such payments be capped at $200,000.

“We believe $150,000 is inadequate, particularly given that the Bill makes clear that in accepting redress through the scheme survivors will be signing away their rights in being unable to also bring a civil claim through the courts.

“The decision to only allow survivors three months to consider whether they will accept compensation through the redress scheme, when the Royal Commission had recommended 12 months, is a further cause for concern.

“The Minister has said on radio today that in opting for three months he is designing the structure of the scheme ‘in real world conditions’, as distinct from the Royal Commission ‘proposing a structure of a scheme in a courtroom’ [1].

“Respectfully, we disagree with that proposition – having assisted hundreds of abuse survivors we know that for many the process of deciding to take action and seek compensation is an incredibly difficult process that often takes considerable time.

“In our view it is critical that survivors are given appropriate time to consider whether the compensation they have been offered is adequate, and three months is insufficient for this.

“We would also like to see some support for family members provided, in acting for survivors we have seen countless examples of the very damaging impact this abuse also has on the broader family, and it is critical these people are also supported in some way,” she said.

[1] ABC AM 26/10/2017 Government to release details of institutional abuse redress scheme

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