Many people who suffered institutional child sexual abuse in New South Wales and Victoria are being left out in the cold by “unnecessarily strict eligibility requirements” for compensation, according to the Australian Lawyers Alliance.
Speaking last week, ALA spokesperson Dr Andrew Morrison RFD SC said eligibility exclusions for non-citizens and non-permanent residents from the Commonwealth’s Redress Scheme would, he argued, exacerbate the injustices suffered by those persons, and lead to further litigation.
“It is unfortunate that eligibility exclusions in the Commonwealth’s scheme will prevent genuine applicants from seeking justice, and will only lead to further litigation and likely increase compliance costs for institutions,” he said.
“The Commonwealth’s draft law currently excludes non-citizens and non-permanent residents from accessing the scheme, regardless of how compelling their claim might be, with the option of creating rules to exclude others, such as people convicted of crimes.”
The exclusions ultimately mean that the promise of justice for some of the community’s most vulnerable people will not be realised, he said.
“Any exclusion will only compound the trauma that survivors of institutional abuse experienced as children,” Dr Morrison continued.
“The only eligibility requirement for accessing the scheme should be having experienced child abuse that a participating institution is responsible for.”
Given the current proposal, he suggested the scheme allow an external appeals process, and compel participation by linking redress to an institution’s charitable status.
In addition, he said the scheme should honour the recommendation made by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse for a $200,000 cap on compensation, rather than capping payments at $150,000, as is currently tabled.
“The Royal Commission engaged in extensive work prior to making its recommendations for a Redress Scheme, including speaking to thousands of survivors, in-depth research and actuarial modelling,” he commented.
“This is the scheme that should be established – anything less will merely perpetuate injustice for survivors.”
Dr Morrison did, however, welcome the news that NSW and Vic had joined the Commonwealth’s Redress Scheme, calling it a “major step in the right direction” by facilitating justice for survivors of abuse in institutional contexts.
“[The two states] are to be congratulated for joining the national Redress Scheme,” he said.
“This is a major step forward in providing justice for survivors of institutional child abuse.”