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How the National Redress Scheme is failing survivors


Written by:
Leanne McDonald
National Practice Leader | Abuse, Dust Diseases and Federal Compensation

As Christmas approaches, families look forward to spending precious time together. This Christmas was supposed to be extra precious for Vernon Wilson and his family. Gravely ill, Vernon is facing the prospect that this may be his last. Vernon was hoping that the claim he put into the National Redress Scheme for abuse he received while in the Australian Defence Force would help provide him and his family a stress-free and special time. Yet, by the beginning of December and more than nine months since he had submitted his claim, Vernon was still waiting to receive his money.

Greatly concerned for Vernon, Shine Lawyers had him placed on a priority list within the Scheme some 7 months ago, which basically resulted in no change with his application. It simply wasn’t good enough. Vernon is a very sick man and he shouldn’t have to spend the end of his life frustrated and angry because the Redress Scheme is failing to keep up and deliver what it was set up to do. Vernon has been through enough having been sexually abused during his career in the Australian Defence Force. All he wanted was for his abuse to be acknowledged and to be paid the compensation he deserves, so his family can enjoy what is probably going to be their last Christmas together.

Despite the request from Shine Lawyers and attention on Vernon’s case in the media, it seemed like nothing was being done. Eventually Page MP, Kevin Hogan, heard about Vernon’s plight and was so upset he personally spoke to the Minister urging for Vernon’s claim to be processed. This pressure eventually led to Vernon’s claim being accelerated.

While, it’s great that Vernon’s claim was accelerated due to media attention and Page MP Kevin Hogan taking up Vernon’s fight, what about the remaining tens of thousands of victims who still have no clarity on the status of their application? We are yet to hear from the Scheme on how this terrible backlog came about and what measures will be put in place to ensure these delays are rectified.

The lack of compassion shown for victims who are terminally ill is an issue with the Scheme that needs to be addressed. These victims deserve more than a scripted response which causes much frustration and anger for victims who are already suffering enough. Vernon and others like him shouldn’t be spending their lives frustrated and angry because the National Redress Scheme is failing to keep up and deliver what it was set up to do. This National Redress Scheme failure is not what sexual abuse survivors expected and the delays have been extremely difficult for them to deal with.

There needs to be an explanation for the delays and specific timeframes introduced that stipulate how long a claim will take to be processed. The Scheme’s own figures show that they have only processed a very small portion of applications which is infuriating for sexual abuse survivors who were told when it was introduced that the scheme would provide timely compensation payments without legal involvement.

The worrying problem with the Redress process is that a common law claim, which requires one or, sometimes, two medical reports along with other extensive information gathering is taking less time to resolve then a Redress application, which was originally designed to reduce the timeframe and therefore the clients’ pain and suffering.

Hopefully Vernon’s courage to speak publically about his very personal case will continue the conversation around Redress Scheme delays and lead to immediate change benefitting the thousands of sexual abuse victims who are stuck in the Redress backlog.

Written by Leanne McDonald. Last modified: December 23, 2019.

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