What are the options for abuse survivors to claim compensation?
Survivors of abuse have different compensation options:
- a civil damages claim
- a claim for a Redress payment under the National Redress Scheme
If you're unsure about your options for compensation, get in touch, we're here to help. Maurice Blackburn lawyers can help you understand your options and advise you on which option may be best for you.
It’s important to know that if you accept a Redress payment, you will not ever be able to make a civil damages claim against that particular institution. So it’s a good idea to explore your options before making a claim to make sure you make the best decision for you.
Select an option below for more information.
- Civil damages claim
- National Redress Scheme
What is a civil damages claim?
A civil damages claim is a legal process. In almost every case the institution is sued on the basis they're legally responsible for the conduct of the perpetrator.
The outcome of a civil damages claim is a payment of monetary compensation (also known as 'damages') to you, the survivor of abuse.
Compensation will be assessed and calculated based on the individual circumstances of your case. A civil damages claim entitles you to be compensated for:
- the psychological impact on you resulting from the abuse ('pain and suffering')
- lost income, to the extent your working life and career earnings have been affected including ongoing lost income if you're not yet of retirement age
- treatment costs (e.g. medication and counselling) you've already paid
- ongoing treatment costs.
You may also seek a personal response from the responsible institution, including an apology.
The claim can differ according to the state you live in, but the principles are the same.
Who can make a civil damages claim?
You may be entitled to compensation if you were sexually or physically abused as a child by someone that was associated with an institution, while you were in the care of the institution. An institution can include:
- a church or other place of worship
- an orphanage or children's home
- a public or private school
- any sort of youth or sporting club
- a foster home
- a reformatory school
- a juvenile detention centre
- a prison.
A person associated with an institution would include, for example, a volunteer, a religious minister or priest, foster parent, someone employed to work at the institution, or a sporting coach.
What compensation will I receive from a civil damages claim?
The assessment and calculation of 'damages' are not capped. Damages are assessed in-line with court decisions in the same state or territory where you bring your claim.
What are the time limits for making a civil damages claim?
Generally speaking, provided the abuse occurred before the age of 18, there are no time limits on making a legal claim for compensation. We do recommend seeking legal advice as soon as you feel able to so you understand your legal rights about bringing a claim and what options for compensation are available to you.
What is the National Redress Scheme?
The National Redress Scheme aims to acknowledge harm done to survivors of sexual abuse.
The Scheme can help survivors of institutional abuse to seek:
- a payment which is calculated based on the type of the abuse and the type of institution
- a further small payment for psychological treatment
- a request for a personal response from the institution responsible for the abuse. This could include an apology from a senior member of the institution, or an explanation of what that institution does today to protect children.
What compensation will I received from a National Redress Scheme claim?
The maximum payment you can receive is $150,000. However, many survivors won't qualify for the maximum amount. The amount you'll receive is in many cases less than that of a legal claim.
Who is eligible to make a National Redress Scheme claim?
Not everyone is eligible for the National Redress Scheme. You're not eligible if:
- the institution hasn’t signed up to the scheme voluntarily
- you're not an Australian citizen or permanent resident
- you're in jail
- you've ever been sentenced to a jail term of five years or more.
Frequently asked questions about abuse law
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse was announced in 2012 in response to years of allegations of abuse in institutional settings. Public hearings commenced in April 2013 and the final report was released in December 2017.
A Royal Commission is a public inquiry that receives submissions and hears evidence on a particular topic of national importance. Usually they have a set focus of investigation and a timeline to complete it by.
If you were sexually or physically abused as a child by someone that was associated with an institution, while you were in the care of the institution, you may be able to claim compensation.
The National Redress Scheme may help with the following payments:
A compensation payment, which is calculated according to the type of the abuse, and the type of institution in which the abuse happened. The maximum amount awarded is $150,000 (for the most severe cases).
A further small payment for psychological treatment.
The National Redress Scheme receives applications and can ask for more information, if needed. An independent decision maker then considers the application and will decide if someone can access redress under the scheme, and what that redress should be. If this happens, an offer of redress will be made and the applicant can accept or decline the offer, or ask for a review.
It's important to note that if you accept an offer from the National Redress Scheme, you will be required to sign a legally binding agreement which means you cannot take any further legal action against the institution.
Understanding the differences between the National Redress Scheme and a civil damages claim for compensation can be difficult. Maurice Blackburn lawyers can help you understand your options and advise you on which option may be best for you.
Process for making a claim
Our abuse claim lawyers will assist you with your claim and make sure you know and understand your rights and options.
If you or someone you love is a survivor of childhood abuse, our experienced lawyers are here to help get the justice you deserve. The majority of cases settle out of court. Sometimes, it is necessary to go to court to get the correct outcome; and we will do that if we have to.
Get in touch.
Tell us your story, we're here to listen. Our experienced, trauma-trained lawyers will review your circumstances with care and provide you with the best advice.
We’ll prepare your claim.
We take care of the legal process on your behalf. You will be kept informed of all stages along the way, including what fees are payable.
If your claim is successful and damages are awarded, we'll process your payment as soon as we receive it.
'Maurice Blackburn made me feel comfortable to speak up. I didn’t have to feel like I wasn’t important. Worth came back in.'
We’re here to help. Get in touch with your local office.
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We have lawyers who specialise in a range of legal claims who travel to Australian Capital Territory. If you need a lawyer in Canberra or elsewhere in Australian Capital Territory, please call us on 1800 675 346.
We have lawyers who specialise in a range of legal claims who travel to Tasmania. If you need a lawyer in Hobart, Launceston or elsewhere in Tasmania, please call us on 1800 675 346.