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Child sex abuse redress scheme to cap payments at $150,000 and exclude some criminals

October 26, 2017 · 

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Social Services Minister Christian Porter said the response of institutions to claims of child abuse were “inadequate”.

“No child should ever experience what we know occurred,” he told the House of Representatives.

“The establishment of this scheme is an acknowledgment that sexual abuse suffered by children in institutions operated by a number of governments was wrong, a shocking betrayal of trust and simply should never have happened.”

Mr Porter said the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse had estimated there were 4,000 institutions across Australia where child sexual abuse happened.

Of those:

  • 2,000 were Catholic institutions
  • 500 were run by the Anglican Church
  • 250 were run by the Salvation Army

He said 20,000 victims were estimated to have been abused in government-run institutions and 40,000 in non-government facilities.

Criminals excluded from compensation

The bill excludes anyone convicted of sex offences, or sentenced to prison terms of five years or more for crimes such as serious drug, homicide or fraud offences.

Social Services Minister Christian Porter said it was an agonising decision to exclude sexual abuse survivors, but the Government had to set boundaries.

“No-one disputes what the royal commission said, which is that many times people who were the victims and survivors of abuse as a child can often go on, because of those terrible circumstances, to themselves commit wrongs in their life but a view was taken and it was not an easy decision to make,” he said.

He said the Government had taken “deep consultations” with the attorneys-general for each of the jurisdictions involved before making the decision to exclude those victims.

“A view, which was almost unanimous in my recollection, was put that to give integrity and public confidence to the scheme, there had to be some limitations,” Mr Porter said.

‘They were once children’

Care Leavers Network (CLAN) CEO Leonie Sheedy condemned the selective inclusion.

“They were once children and they deserve redress just like any other care leaver who was sexually abused in an orphanage, children’s home or foster home,” she said.

“If the churches and charities and the State Governments had looked after us properly, those care leavers would not have committed crimes against society.

“They’re at fault and everybody should get compensation even if it’s a reduced amount for people who come under this category.”

Hetty Johnston from Bravehearts says the selective inclusion is disappointing.

“When you see governments coming up with these half-baked ideas, it really does put paid to that hope that we thought, ‘Finally we were going to get the nation to understand this issue and to support these people who were so traumatised as children, that it’s impacted their whole entire lives’,” she said.

The Federal Opposition said the Government had two years to encourage the states to opt in to the national redress scheme.

Labor’s social services spokeswoman Jenney Macklin saying it should have been addressed earlier.

“We have legislation presented to Parliament today that does not have the agreement of any states and territories, not one, and this Government has had two years to get that agreement and they have completely failed,” she said.

But New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she was pleased the Commonwealth was pushing forward with the scheme.

“The state already has a scheme up and running for our state victims … but obviously we are looking forward to the national Government putting through the legislation,” she said.

“We already have a scheme supporting victims in New South Wales and we’ll work with the other states and the Commonwealth to see if there’s anything further we need to do.”

Up to states, churches, charities to sign up

The Government will now put renewed pressure on the states and territories to sign up to the scheme.

“It’s a national opt-in scheme, and any state or territory, or indeed any church or charity, can — and we say should — opt into the scheme on what’s known as a responsible entity-pays basis,” Mr Porter said.

“If you’re an institution and you’re responsible for the terrible things that occurred, then you become responsible, of course, for paying the redress.”
Mr Porter said the compensation had been capped at $150,000 in order to maximise the number of states and other bodies opting in to the scheme.

“To maximise the ability of the Commonwealth to have the greatest amount of opting-in from states, territories, churches and charities, we consulted over the last year … about what was the amount to set the maximum redress payment at that would maximise the amount of opt-in,” he said.

The other reason the redress scheme requires buy-in from the states and territories is because it contains a clause where the victims sign that they will not apply for further compensation from the institution.

“Accepting the offer of redress has the effect of releasing the participating institutions from any further liability … this means the survivor … will undertake not to bring or continue any civil claim against the responsible participating institution in relation to the specific abuse,” he said in the House of Representatives.

The churches and other non-government institutions who could sign up would only do so if they could have that guarantee across all court systems around the country.

Ms Sheedy said she hoped Mr Porter had put pressure on the states and territories to follow through with scheme.

“The State Governments were our legal guardians and they had a duty of care to us. They abdicated responsibility to the churches and charities. They didn’t have the necessary checks and balances,” she said.

“People are dying while they are waiting for justice.”
If the redress bill is passed, victims will be allowed to apply for compensation from July 1 next year.

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