In October 2017, the Government introduced bills to Parliament outlining a proposed Redress Scheme and on 1 July 2018 the National Redress Scheme began operation.
National Redress Scheme
The National Redress Scheme allows survivors of institutional child sexual abuse to receive:
- a direct personal response, such as an apology, from the responsible institution;
- access to counselling and psychological services or a payment of up to $5,000; and,
- a National Redress Scheme payment of up to $150,000.
Which institutions are participating?
The National Redress Scheme website keeps a list of thousands of institutions that are participating, including some institutions that no longer exist. If an institution is not listed because it no longer exists, the Scheme will investigate whether an existing participating institution will take on responsibility.
As participation in the Redress Scheme is voluntary, some culpable non-government institutions refuse to participate. Where an institution refuses to participate a survivor can still make an application, however, unless the institution agrees to opt in, the survivor may need to consider other forms of compensation or redress.
How will the amount of redress be calculated?
The amount that a person will be awarded under the Redress Scheme is calculated taking into account the severity of the abuse, the impact of the abuse, as well as relevant circumstances.
The maximum payment of $150,000 will only be paid in circumstances of extreme abuse including penetrative abuse of a person who was institutionally vulnerable, where there was related non-sexual abuse and where it would be reasonable to conclude that the sexual abuse was so egregious, long-term or disabling to the person as to be particularly severe.
Prior payments made for abuse will be taken into account and deducted from any maximum payment amount offered to a survivor. Prior payments do not include payments received for medical care or legal costs and are adjusted for inf.
The amount of the redress compensation cannot be used to recover debts due to the Commonwealth and is not subject to income tax.
Standard of Proof
The test of ‘reasonable likelihood’ is the standard applied to assess applications for redress. ‘Reasonable likelihood’ means that the chance of an event occurring or not occurring is real – not fanciful or remote. When the Redress Scheme was being designed, some institutions argued that a higher standard of proof should apply because insurance companies will not allow the institutions to recoup their losses if the threshold is as low as ‘reasonable likelihood’. This concern was dismissed as irrelevant in the context of the overarching goal, which is to provide a survivor-focused redress scheme to those who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse.
Definition of sexual abuse
For the purposes of the Redress Scheme, sexual abuse of a child is defined as including:
“…any act which exposes the person to, or involves the person in, sexual processes beyond the person’s understanding or contrary to accepted community standards (e.g. exposing a child to pornography).”
Survivors will be able to include multiple episodes of sexual abuse and related non-sexual abuse suffered in multiple institutions in the one application. However, each survivor is limited to one application for redress. Individualised advice about whether abuse is sexual in nature should be obtained before making an application.
People with criminal convictions for which they served a custodial sentence of five or more years are still eligible to seek a redress payment. However, on this occasion the Redress Scheme applies a special process. This involves the Redress Scheme considering information about:
- the nature of the offence and length of imprisonment it carried;
- the period of time since the offence was committed and rehabilitation since the offence; and
- any other relevant information.
Acceptance of offers of redress
Survivors are able to choose whether to accept one, two or all three of the components of redress. Applicants who are offered a redress payment have six months to decide whether to accept the offer. The scheme may agree to an extension of time for a further six months in some circumstances if requested.
Survivors may find legal advice helpful at different stages of their application including:
- prior to the application so survivors understand eligibility requirements and the application process of the scheme;
- during the completion of an application;
- after a survivor has received an offer of redress and elects to seek an internal review; and,
- on the effect of signing the acceptance document, which contains the release of future civil liability for participating responsible institutions and its impact on the prospect of future litigation.
This advice can be provided for free by contacting knowmore. Survivors may also choose to engage private lawyers to help navigate the process, Shine Lawyers have an expert team of lawyers who are experienced in abuse law and can help you achieve justice. Contact Shine Lawyers today for a confidential, obligation-free consultation.
Deed of release
A person who accepts an offer of redress will be required to release responsible participating institutions from liability for the sexual abuse (and related non-sexual abuse) for which redress is being provided.
However, survivors who signed deeds of release when offered low payments from institutions in the past will have those deeds waived by participating institutions to allow these survivors to access a top-up payment through redress.