Survivors, lawyers welcome end of legal loophole in SA child abuse claims

30 November 2021
Leading abuse law firm Maurice Blackburn has welcomed the Parliament’s passage of new South Australian laws that will help institutional child abuse survivors seek justice.

Under the bill that passed the Parliament today, 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.

Maurice Blackburn associate Ric Traini said the end of the legal loophole through the Civil Liability (Institutional Child Abuse Liability) Amendment Bill was a long overdue but welcome step.

“For survivors, it is an incredible relief to know that offending organisations can no longer hide behind the Ellis defence to avoid paying compensation for child abuse,” Mr Traini said.

“This reform means that from now on, abuse survivors in South Australia can access justice through the courts in the same way as survivors in other states.”

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.

South Australia is the last state to end the Ellis defence, after it was recommended by the Royal Commission more than six years ago.

Media contact: Chee Chee Leung, Maurice Blackburn, 0412 560 584 or

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