Child sex abuse compo: How the National Redress Scheme works
Up to 1700 South Australians are expected to apply to a scheme offering compensation for victims of institutional child sex abuse, described as a “line in the sand” by the Government.
South Australia was the final state to join the National Redress Scheme, which opens today, and its inclusion means survivors of abuse in institutions operated by all state and territory governments are now covered.
However, many non-government institutions are yet to sign up, meaning victims of abuse perpetrated within those organisations cannot yet receive compensation.
Royal Life Saving Australia, Surf Life Saving Australia, the Lutheran and Uniting churches and Anglicare have not yet joined the scheme in any state or territory.
The Anglican Church has joined in some states but not South Australia.
None of the state’s largest independent schools have joined, but St Ignatius College Adelaide has opted in as part of the Jesuits.
The Adelaide and Port Pirie dioceses of the Catholic Church have also signed up, as well as the Scouts, the YMCA and the Salvation Army.
Federal Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher urged churches and non-government institutions to “accelerate their efforts” to join the scheme.
“The wellbeing of survivors is at the centre of redress so we need institutions to get on board so people can access the support and acknowledgment they need and continue the healing process,” Mr Fletcher said.
The Scheme was established in response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which estimated that 60,000 people experienced institutional child sexual abuse in Australia, including about 3800 South Australians. It was officially launched in July last year when other jurisdictions began accepting applications.
Latest Social Services Department figures show 28 survivors had been compensated in the first six months, out of 2335 applicants.
There are fears demand on the scheme will lead to lengthy delays in paying compensation.
The South Australian Government has put aside $146.4 million to fund compensation claims, based on estimates that nearly 1700 applications will be approved.
The money has been released from the state’s victims of crime fund and will be managed by SAicorp, the government’s insurance arm.
Individuals can apply for up to $150,000 compensation.
The scheme — which is an alternative to seeking compensation through the courts — will also offer counselling and an opportunity for a response from the institution accused of enabling the abuse, such as an apology.
A person cannot apply if they are in jail but may apply once released.
The criminal history of applicants became a point of contention when the scheme was being developed.
Initially it was planned to exclude anyone with such a criminal history but advocates argued this was unfair and experts proffered research on links between childhood trauma and criminal behaviour.
Now, any applicant who has been sentenced to serve more than five years in prison, here or overseas, will have to provide details of their offence, sentence and any rehabilitation. Their application will be assessed by state or federal Attorneys-General.
Survivors who may have already received lesser amounts of compensation through a former state-based scheme will be able to apply for a “top up” to the $150,000 cap.
The new redress scheme will take applications which would have come through the state-based Children in State Care ex-gratia payment scheme, which has been operating since 2010. That scheme will close today.
It may take between three and 12 months to process an application and survivors will be given up to six months to consider accepting the offer made. Applications will be accepted until June 30, 2027. If someone dies after completing an application, and they are made an offer of redress, their estate can receive the payment.
State Attorney-General Vickie Chapman has said the State Government would step up as the “funder of last resort” in cases where the institution responsible for abuse had closed or was unable to pay — and the government was equally or partly responsible for the abuse.
“Nothing can undo the unspeakable abuse suffered by children but today marks a line in the sand moment where we can hope to move forward and give people the support, counselling and acknowledgment they need, with a view to right past wrongs and make amends,” she said.
“Today marks a tremendous day in the acknowledgment of victims of institutional child sexual abuse.”
Redressing victims’ rights
Australian citizens and permanent residents can apply to the National Redress Scheme if they:
■ Experienced sexual abuse under the age of 18.
■ That abuse occurred before July 1, 2018.
■ An institution brought them into contact with their abuse.
■ They were born before June 30, 2010.
The scheme can offer applications counselling, a compensation payment up to $150,000 and the option of a personal response from the institution, such as an apology — but the institution responsible for the abuse must have joined the scheme.
A person cannot apply if they are in jail at the time or have already received a court-ordered payment from the institution.
It may take between three and 12 months to process an application.
Applications will be accepted until June 30, 2027.
If someone dies after completing an application, and they are made an offer of redress, their estate can receive the payment.
For more information on the scheme visit nationalredress.gov.au or phone 1800 737 377.
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