Survivors still facing major delays

The National Redress Scheme was set up to assist survivors of child sexual abuse access redress payments from institutions like churches, community groups, and state-run bodies such as schools and orphanages.

However, in April this year the scheme’s governance board revealed that compensation payments to survivors continue to be severely delayed almost two years after they were due to have commenced.

According to the board’s communique, despite the 30 June deadline that has been set for institutions to sign up, many of those with the financial capacity to join the scheme are still not doing so.

Who are we waiting on?

At last count, more than 45 institutions specifically named in the Royal Commission have yet to sign up to the Redress scheme. Almost half of these have not indicated whether they intend to do so. We anticipate there are many more institutions that were not specifically named in the Royal Commission where abuse occurred.

Survivors deserve a scheme that stands true to the recommendations of the Royal Commission and it is vitally important that institutions sign up to the scheme, as until they do so survivors cannot have their applications processed.

I also believe that survivors must understand the implications of Redress and their compensation options available to them before being forced into choosing their path. We’ve discussed the limitations of the Scheme previously.

With so many institutions continuing to drag the chain, including some that were specifically identified in the Royal Commission, some survivors are now dying before they receive compensation.

A recent settlement won by our WA team saw a terminally-ill man receive more than $850,000 in compensation with only two months to live. With the support of the Supreme Court, we managed to push his application through in sixteen days. There are many others who were not as lucky.

Institutions must sign up or lose funding

What’s clear is that “softly, softly’ approach currently employed by state and federal governments when dealing with these institutions is failing survivors.

Whilst plans are afoot for the public naming and shaming of institutions that have failed to sign up to redress, to my mind strict financial penalties are also needed. This should include the stripping of the charity status of institutions and the removal of state and federal funding.

It was therefore pleasing to learn in February that institutions in Victoria that fail to sign up to the National Redress Scheme by the deadline now risk losing state government funding. The Andrews Government has said that it has identified more than 40 non-government organisations likely to be captured under these new measures. There are many more nationally that I am aware of, with similar laws now needed across all Australian states and territories.

There are no excuses for institutions that have known for many months that they have been named in a redress application but have refused to join. These institutions should have nowhere to hide.

Survivors have waited long enough, it’s time for these institutions stop putting economic considerations before the welfare of survivors and sign up to the National Redress Scheme in line with the recommendations of the Royal Commission.

RELATED LEGAL SERVICES: Abuse law

Share this article on:

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 ...

Read more

See all contributors