Lawyers say new law is a missed opportunity for sexual abuse survivors

16 February 2021
Lawyers for sexual abuse survivors have today called on the Federal Government to do more to improve the National Redress Scheme for abuse survivors, saying while minor changes have been made with the passing of a new Bill yesterday evening, the changes still fall well short of what’s needed to ensure the Scheme is consistent with the recommendations of the abuse Royal Commission.

Maurice Blackburn Abuse Law Principal Michelle James said that while the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Amendment (Technical Amendments) Bill 2020 addressed some aspects relating to the National Redress Scheme, the Bill still did not go far enough and had more been tinkering around the edges when substantial changes were needed to ensure the National Redress Scheme was properly delivering access to justice for abuse survivors.

“As has been well-documented, there are still huge gaps in the National Redress Scheme to what is needed to ensure that this is a Scheme that genuinely meets the needs of survivors,” Ms James said.

“This Bill has tinkered around the edges on some of these issues but it doesn’t go nearly far enough in bringing the Scheme up to where it needs to be, including ensuring that at a minimum it is aligned with what the Royal Commission recommended.  

“For example, while there have been some tweaks to funder of last resort provisions in this Bill, these only deal with a very small part of what is required when what is urgently needed is ensuring that governments step in to become the funder of last resort, even if they didn’t have any direct involvement with the defunct institution.

“That’s what the Royal Commission recommended to ensure that no survivor was left behind, yet the Federal Government is still yet to act to ensure that this is a clear part of any Redress Scheme.

“The Scheme overwhelmingly still also falls short in so many key areas including on the capped amounts for redress, with the current amounts falling well below the amount recommended by the Royal Commission.

“It is also disappointing that more consideration was not given to the amendments put forward to this week’s Bill by Federal Labor that may have helped to address some of these issues, including ensuring greater accountability for institutions even if they have become defunct and calling for governments in such circumstances to act as funders of last resort,” she said.

Ms James said the ongoing second anniversary review into the National Redress Scheme presented a further opportunity for substantive reform of the Scheme, and called on the Government to take action as part of this to better support survivors.  

“The Redress Scheme has a vital role to play in supporting survivors to seek access to justice, but our current scheme falls well short of what was recommended,” Ms James said.

“We must fix the Scheme urgently to ensure it can work as it should for survivors, including ensuring that the Scheme stays true to the recommendations of the Royal Commission.”

Media inquiries: Jacob O’Shaughnessy, Maurice Blackburn Lawyers: 0428 814 037