Survivors, lawyers call for child abuse law reform to be prioritised in SA Parliament’s final sitting
19 November 2021
Leading abuse law firm Maurice Blackburn is urging the South Australian Government to ensure new laws to help institutional child abuse survivors seek justice are passed during Parliament’s final sitting of the year commencing 30 November.
Maurice Blackburn says abuse survivors are deeply disappointed that the disruption to this week’s parliamentary agenda has meant that important law reforms for abuse survivors continue to stall in Parliament.
Maurice Blackburn associate Ric Traini said the Royal Commission had recommended these reforms more than six years ago, and South Australia was the last state to implement the changes.
“This proposed law is a long overdue but welcome step that would close an unfair loophole currently preventing survivors in South Australia from suing some organisations for the abuse they suffered,” Mr Traini said.
“Survivors in South Australia have already waited years for these changes. Many of them are now aged in their 70s and 80s. They cannot wait any longer.
“The continued delay in this law reform is not only affecting the ability of survivors to seek justice through the courts, but is also having a significant impact on their mental health.
“If the bill doesn’t pass in the final November sitting, it will leave affected survivors in legal limbo for another six months. Some of these people simply may not survive to see the outcome.”
Under the Civil Liability (Institutional Child Abuse Liability) Amendment Bill, unincorporated organisations in South Australia will no longer be able to rely on a legal technicality – known as the ‘Ellis defence’ – to avoid being sued for historical child abuse.
The Ellis defence is based on a 2007 court decision in a case by survivor John Ellis against the Catholic Church. The defence essentially protects an unincorporated organisation from being sued because they are not a legal entity.