Advocating for legislative change for abuse survivors

Helping victims of childhood sexual abuse to win their court cases is just one way that Maurice Blackburn tries to make things better for survivors.

Another way we can help is by using our knowledge and expertise to try and persuade the government to change the way things are done.

We were delighted when the government at the time announced the Royal Commission. We knew this would be a great way for decision makers to hear directly from those whose lives have been directly impacted by abuse, and hopefully lead to change.

After listening to the stories, the Royal Commissioners came up with a report that took up 15 volumes, and made more than 400 hundred recommendations.

Maurice Blackburn has been working hard to make sure that those recommendations are implemented, and become law, in full.

Here’s some of the things we’ve been trying to get the government to listen to and act on:

  • We think that the National Redress Scheme is good for some people but not for others. The Royal Commission made some very specific recommendations about what the Redress Scheme should look like, and what it should offer victims. The Scheme that was put in place falls a long way short of what was originally asked for. We are asking the government to keep listening to those who are accessing the scheme, to find out where it is not proving to be survivor-focused.
  • As lawyers, we know that the laws in some States are better for victims than others. Some States have done a better job of making sure the appalling behaviours of the past can’t continue into the future. We’re trying to hold every State and Territory to account, to make sure that everyone is aiming for the most victim-centred set of laws. Here’s what we want:
    • Laws that make it impossible for institutions to protect their assets instead of paying proper redress,
    • Laws that actually require staff and volunteers of ALL institutions to report child abuse, if they become aware of it. At the moment, some occupations don’t have to report their suspicions that something is going on. We’re arguing that they should.
    • Laws that make it impossible for institutions to blame their staff or volunteers, rather than take responsibility for the fact that the abuse occurred on their watch
    • Laws that put more onus on the institutions to prove that they’re child-safe environments.
  • Organisations like charities and churches enjoy some fairly significant benefits from the government for the work they do – such as tax breaks and allowances. We believe that if a charity or a church can’t prove that its child safe, or refuses to sign up to the National Redress Scheme, then maybe it doesn’t deserve to be a charity.

It is important to remember that anytime Maurice Blackburn staff talk to government, anytime we address a Royal Commission, anytime we talk to the press about what’s going on, our opinions are always based on the experiences of the victims we represent. A survivor of child abuse standing up against the might of a church or a large organisation is not a fair fight. We will always stand with the victim. That’s how we fight for fair.

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Michelle James

Maurice Blackburn Brisbane
Michelle James is a personal injuries compensation Principal in Maurice Blackburn’s Brisbane office and the head of our national Abuse law litigation practice. Michelle has been working in the legal industry since 1998 and is a tenacious fighter for the rights of individuals. She ...

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