A key recommendation of the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, the National Redress Scheme was established by the Australian Federal Government in 2018.
The National Redress Scheme acknowledges the historical sexual abuse of children in Australian institutions and it holds these institutions accountable. It also provides survivors of sexual abuse claims with a direct personal response from the institution, as well as access to counselling, psychological support services, and financial compensation in the form of national redress scheme payments.
What Happens Once Your Application Has Been Submitted?
Once the National Redress Scheme has received your application, someone from their team will contact you to confirm it’s been received. They might also ask you for additional information or to clarify certain details at the same time, or at any time during the assessment process if required.
If you want to update your contact details or add information to your application, simply call the National Redress Scheme directly. You can ask for your application to be modified or even withdrawn at any time before the assessment process is over and a final determination has been made.
Who Assesses Your Application For Redress?
Applications for National Redress Scheme Payments are assessed by Independent Decision Makers. These are highly experienced people with backgrounds in areas like case management, social welfare, and the legal system who consider each application for redress, before making a decision, and sometimes conducting reviews.
Each Independent Decision Maker is required to pass a rigorous selection procedure including a multi-stage vetting and screening process and a national police check before getting final approval by the Minister for the Redress Scheme’s Governance Board. Part of this process to become an Independent Decision Maker includes requiring full disclosure of any actual, potential, or perceived conflicts of interest, both prior to being appointed and at any time afterwards.
It’s also important for survivors to be aware that Independent Decision Makers never assess any applications from a state or territory they’ve ever lived or have any kind of substantial connection with. They also do not handle applications relating to any institution they have a current or previous personal or professional connection with, from voluntary employment up to board memberships.
In other words, they are doing everything in their power to ensure they keep all the information in your application safe.
How Long Does It Take To Process An Application?
Because the circumstances of abuse are unique, the length of time it takes to assess each application will be different too. If the relevant institution has already joined the Scheme, most applications should take somewhere from 3 to 12 months to process completely. It’s important to understand that applications are unable to be processed until the relevant institution joins the Scheme. In these cases, you should discuss your options with a lawyer for child abuse cases.
Because assessment can take some time to be completed, it may be a good idea to get some kind of support. This can be from someone you already know or by connecting with one of the Redress Support Services at the bottom of this page.
How Are Decisions Made?
Once they have considered everything provided in your application as well as any additional information supplied by the institution, the Independent Decision Maker will determine the likelihood of abuse occurring. If they agree it happened, they will decide the appropriate amount required from the institution before making you an offer to access the funds under the redress scheme.
It’s important to note here that the Independent Decision Maker handling your case will need a much lower amount of proof than would be required in court.
What Happens Next?
When a decision has been made, someone will call you from the National Redress Scheme and send a letter detailing the outcome of your application. If your national redress scheme application has been approved, your letter will include an offer.
Once you have received an offer for redress, there are four options:
- Accept the offer
- Decline the offer
- Request the decision is reviewed
- Request the decision to revoked
You will have a limited time of up to 6 months to consider and decide your response before it expires. The date of expiry for your offer can be found on the first page of your letter, and a reminder will also be sent out when there are 30 days remaining.
If you haven’t already, this is a good time to seek legal advice before you make your decision. If you accept or decline the offer, you will no longer be able to request it be reviewed or revoked. This means you also waive your right to further legal action such as a criminal case or full financial compensation.
What Happens If I Accept The Offer?
If you decide to accept the redress offer, someone will call you from the National Redress Scheme to confirm the details of your bank account. They will also provide you with contact details so you can receive a personal response directly from the responsible institution if you wish.
Once you have decided to accept a monetary redress payment, you will also be required to sign a statutory release document. This is a legally binding agreement which states you will be unable to bring any future civil action against the institution, their officials, or any other associated institutions in relation to the abuse. It’s important to note that this does not stop you from bringing legal proceedings against your abuser.
For these reasons, it is highly recommended that survivors seek confidential and comprehensive legal advice about their options before signing any documents. Speaking with an expert lawyer for child abuse cases will help you understand all the available options, including whether accepting a redress offer would provide the best outcome.
What Happens If I Decline An Offer?
If you’re disappointed or unhappy in any way with your redress offer, it’s important to understand that you don’t have to accept it. You can either decline the offer letting the National Redress Scheme know in writing, or you can simply do nothing. Because if you do not respond to the redress offer or accept it within 6 months, they will assume you’ve declined anyway.
It’s important to be aware that you’re only able to make one application to the National Redress Scheme. That means if you decline the offer or do not respond in time, you will not be eligible to apply again. This is why it’s a good idea to seek legal advice before deciding to decline an offer.
What Happens If I Want An Offer Reviewed?
If you are unhappy with their offer or their decision, you’re able to request a review, as long as it’s received before the expiry date. Institutions on the other hand are unable to request a review.
Decision reviews are carried out by a different Independent Decision Maker than the original person, and they are unable to consider any additional information. There are four possible outcomes of an offer review:
- Original offer reconfirmed
- Original offer increased
- Original offer decreased
- Different eligibility decision
The new Independent Decision Maker will contact you in writing regarding the outcome. You will be given an additional 2 months to reconsider a reconfirmation of the original offer, whereas you will have another 6 months to consider any changed offer. Again, you should seek legal advice before deciding to apply for a review.
What Happens If I Want An Offer Revoked?
If you disagree with the National Redress Scheme’s offer or decision, you can ask for it to be revoked. Whether you’ve discovered new information about the abuse or you’ve had a significantly important memory about your suffering which wasn’t included in the original application, you can apply to the Scheme for their original decision to be withdrawn.
If your application for revocation is successful, the additional information will be included in your application before making a new decision. If it is refused, the original decision or offer will still apply. If you’re considering applying for a revocation, you should seek legal advice beforehand.
Should I Seek Legal Help First?
Seeking justice for sexual abuse is deeply personal. And there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution to the healing process. For many survivors of institutional sexual abuse, no amount of financial compensation could ever take back all the pain and suffering they’ve experienced.
For survivors seeking acknowledgement of the abuse and suffering they’ve experienced, the National Redress Scheme is an excellent alternative to going through the criminal or civil court system. But the child abuse laws in Australia are very complex, and there are some significant limitations with the Redress Scheme. That’s because redress isn’t about compensating survivors sufficiently for their losses.
It’s important to understand that accepting an offer from the National Redress Scheme prevents institutional abuse survivors from pursuing a claim for common law compensation. And some survivors would be much better off seeking a common law claim for damages first and then applying for Redress as a last resort. Because remember, you can only do one of them and not both.
So for any survivors considering making an application to the national redress scheme, we highly recommend seeking legal advice first so you understand all of your options. As experienced institutional abuse lawyers, we can advise the most effective approach for you while ensuring all your legal rights are fully protected. Contact us today at AJB to find out more.
How Can I Get Support?
For many survivors of institutional child sexual abuse, talking about and remembering childhood trauma in adults can be difficult, emotional, and overwhelming. So if you need any help at any time during the process, there are several free and confidential support services available. If you need emotional support right now, there are some below.
- Lifeline - 13 11 14
- Beyond Blue - 1300 22 4636
- 1800 Respect - 1800 737 732
- Mensline - 1300 78 99 78
- Suicide Call Back Service - 1300 659 467
- Emergency Triple Zero - 000