Interim response by the Australian Government to the Final Report of the Second-year Review of the National Redress Scheme
Trigger warning: This blog contains explicit references to subject matter and material that may be traumatising or upsetting for survivors and their families. Reader discretion is advised.
Yesterday, the Australian Government released its interim response to the Final Report of the Second-year Review of the National Redress Scheme (‘the Scheme’).
The Scheme has now been operational for nearly three years. With the cooperation of the States and Territories, the National Redress Scheme now covers all Commonwealth, State and Territory institutions, as well as 450 non-government institutions.
According to Australian Government statistics (released 28 May 2021), the Scheme has processed and finalised more than 5,835 applications for redress made by survivors of institutional child sexual abuse – and paid out more than $490 million in redress payments.
This Interim Response reaffirms our government’s stated commitment to continually improving the National Redress Scheme, to make it “…more trauma-informed, efficient and ultimately more survivor-focussed.”
I was recently invited to discuss the Scheme on Newcastle Live radio, with Tracy Mac (host) and Lauren O’Brien (local lawyer and co-host of Newcastle Live’s informative and engaging Legally Blonde segment). I was asked a question about funding for the Scheme. Essentially, listeners wanted to know how the Scheme is funded and whether survivors would be able to access the Scheme if, for example, the institution responsible for the sexual abuse they suffered is now defunct – or has failed to join the Scheme.
The answer is that the governments across Australia are working together to ensure that they are the “funders of last resort” when survivors would otherwise be unable to obtain redress payments. Indeed, one of the recommendations adopted in the Interim Response released yesterday addressed this very issue.
Recommendation 5.2 (see page 17 of 22) states that, where an applicant “names an institution that is not participating in the Scheme and a determination would otherwise be suspended or delayed, governments should prioritise declaring themselves as the funder of last resort for:
- named institutions that are defunct and where no link to a parent or government institution can be found; [or]
- those named institutions that have been assessed to not possess the financial means to join the National Redress Scheme but are willing to do so.”
Other supported recommendations include the following:
Simplification of the application process, including:
- provision of more assertive support, including culturally appropriate and easily understood information, to assist in the completion of the application.
- removing the statutory declaration requirement and simplifies identity checks.
- removing the requirement to provide banking details in the application form, deferring this requirement until a determination is made. (R3.6)
- providing advance payments of $10,000 to eligible survivors born before 1944, or 1964 for applicants that identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander, and those with terminal illnesses. The Scheme will adjust gross redress payments for these survivors by a corresponding amount. (R4.2).
- providing additional policy guidance regarding child sexual abuse in a medical setting, amending inconsistencies and providing greater clarity for independent decision makers in the exercise of their judgement. (R3.3).
There is still much room for improvement, but we are encouraged by the Australian Government’s commitment to continually improving the National Redress Scheme. The Scheme provides survivors with an avenue for acknowledgment, support and redress (in circumstances where applications demonstrate a reasonable likelihood that the applicant suffered historical child sexual abuse under the care of a responsible institution).
There are of course other compensation options which may be available to survivors, which is why it is important for survivors and their families to seek expert legal advice in relation to their own personal ordeals.
If you would like to speak to a solicitor for advice regarding institutional child sexual abuse, please contact our office on (02) 4050 0330 for an obligation-free consultation, or book an appointment online.
If reading this blog has upset you, or caused you emotional distress, and you would like some support and counselling, we encourage you to reach out to one of the leading support services listed below.
Beyondblue https://www.beyondblue.org.au/ 1300 224 636
MensLine Australia https://mensline.org.au/ 1300 789 978
Lifeline https://www.lifeline.org.au/ 13 11 14