During the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the Commission heard from thousands of victims who described the abuse they suffered as children in in various Australian Institutions.
It seems that for far too long, survivors of institutional sexual abuse have either suffered in silence, sometimes for decades, or they’ve felt pressured into accepting inadequate settlement payments which included the waiving of their rights to make any future claims. Therefore in response, the Royal Commission recommended the government provide survivors with support with the creation of a National Redress Scheme.
What Is The National Redress Scheme?
Developed following the recommendations made by the Royal Commission, the National Redress Scheme is a support network created to help victims who suffered historical child sexual abuse in institutions all around Australia. This includes a wide variety of federal or state-run establishments, as well as private or religious institutions such as churches, schools, orphanages, missions, and secular organisations such as sporting clubs, medical centres, community groups, youth detention centres or the foster care system.
Officially established by the Federal Government in July 2018 and formally passed into legislation by each State and Territory Government later the same year, the National Redress Scheme NSW acknowledges that children in the care of Australian institutions were sexually abused and recognises the pain and suffering this abuse has caused. The Scheme holds each institution accountable for the abuse.
There are three main components of assistance offered by the National Redress Scheme, with a financial redress payment, psychological care and support through various counselling options, and a direct personal response from the organisation where the abuse took place. Offending institutions who are participating in the scheme have all agreed to provide redress to victims of institutional child sexual abuse with the support and acknowledgment for the next 10 years.
It is important to remember the main purpose of the National Redress Scheme is the recognition and acknowledgement of institutional child sexual abuse and the impact of related abuse on victims. In particular, the redress payment is not the same as damages in common law, so it will not include specific amounts like pain and suffering payments or for loss of income.
What Is The Eligibility For Redress & How Do You Apply?
Victims of historical sexual abuse at Australian institutions will be eligible for the National Redress Scheme as long as they meet certain requirements. It is currently estimated that around 90% of survivors who were sexually abused will be eligible to make a redress claim through the scheme.
Applicants must be an Australian citizen or a permanent resident who is or will be over 18 years old before June 30, 2028 who experienced sexual abuse as a minor before July 1, 2018, and the institution responsible is officially participating in the scheme. A person or their legal nominee can apply for redress by completing an application form at any time before June 30, 2027. Approved application forms are available online from either the National Redress Scheme’s website or their myGov account.
For the application to be considered valid under this Scheme, it must include all required documentation and information, including correct completion of the included statutory declaration form after it has been witnessed and notarised. All other external applications for redress will not be accepted by the scheme. If you’re looking for the phone number for national redress scheme Sydney or the contact number for royal commission, you’ll find this information available on their website.
If they’ve previously received payments through past claims, court actions, or other redress schemes, survivors of institutional sexual abuse are still eligible to apply again through this scheme. However, all of the relevant previous payments will be taken under consideration. Also, when survivors have been sexually abused in multiple institutions as a child, only one application for redress can be submitted.
An applicant or their legal nominee can also attach any of this relevant information to support their claim, including anything they submitted to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. This can also include information about the abuse in the form of notarised copies of previously written testimony, evidence of payments, or court ruling documents from any past inquiries, schemes, court cases, or class actions.
Because not all survivors of institutional sexual abuse are eligible under the scheme to make a claim for redress, the Operator of the Redress Scheme will determine eligibility after each valid application has been received. While there are some circumstances when an application may be assessed differently, where the Operator can exercise discretion about their eligibility, there are only limited options for reviewing or appealing any decisions regarding eligibility for redress.
When a survivor accepts a monetary redress payment, they will be required to sign a Statutory Release which acknowledges they will be unable to commence civil proceedings regarding the abuse against the named institution or any of its officials. Anyone providing false or misleading documents or any other information to the Operator when applying for redress will be subject to a civil penalty as it is an offence punishable under Criminal Code 1995.
As you can see, there are many reasons why survivors should definitely seek professional legal advice regarding their options before making an application. After discussing their history of institutional sexual abuse with their lawyer, some survivors may decide a redress claim may not be their most appropriate course of action.
What Institutions Have Signed Up To The Redress Scheme?
The Commonwealth Government wants to ensure that as many people as possible who experienced institutional sexual abuse as a child can get access to the redress scheme. So, the Federal Government as well as all state and territory governments have all passed legislation required for them to join the National Redress Scheme, covering any historical abuse within any of their extended organisations.
As for non-governmental institutions, there are a total of 224 of them located at over 51,000 different sites around the country who are participating in the National Redress Scheme. This number includes many major Catholic, Anglican, and Uniting churches, as well as other charity organisations like the YMCA, the Salvation Army, and Scouts Australia. Any of the institutions who are already participating are allowed to add any other additional sites or associations, and there are 156 additional institutions who have also indicated their intention to join.
Where an application regarding a previously unnamed and non-participating institution is received, they will be notified directly with a deadline of 6 months to join the Scheme. If they aren’t officially participating within 6 months, the institution will be identified publicly in accordance with legislation governing the Redress Scheme and may even have appropriate sanctions applied.
The contact number for the royal commission national redress scheme is available on their website, along with a complete list of the thousands of institutions, including the names of some institutions which do not exist anymore. In this situation, the National Redress Scheme will see whether any of the other participating institutions would consider taking on the responsibility.
What Happens To Institutions That Did Not Sign Up?
Because institution participation is voluntary, there are some liable non-governmental institutions who have refused to participate in the government Redress Scheme for victims of abuse. Survivors can still complete an application regarding any institution that has refused to participate, but unless the institution changes their initial decision and opts in, survivors will have to consider other methods of redress or compensation.
According to the Federal Government, as of July 1, 2020 there are 55 applications from abuse survivors currently unable to be processed as a result institutions not signing up to participate. Each one of these six institutions who decided not to participate in the National Redress Scheme before the deadline were then publicly named by the Federal Government.
While two of these have since indicated that they now intend to opt in, there are still four institutions who are continuing to hold out, namely Kenja Communications, Jehovah's Witnesses, Fairbridge Restored, and the Lakes' Entrance Pony Club. The Federal Government has informed these hold outs they are now ineligible to apply for any Commonwealth funding, and that they are also investigating all other options available to them, such as revoking charitable statuses or any other tax concessions.
How Much Are Redress Payments?
Under the redress scheme, those survivors of institutional child sexual abuse who are eligible have a range of redress options, which includes a monetary payment. Applications for redress will be assessed individually on a case-by-case basis, with payments reflecting the severity of the abuse and impacts on the survivor. While the total amounts awarded can range anywhere from less than $10,000 to a maximum possible amount of $150,000, the average is expected to be somewhere around the $76,000 mark.
If a survivor has already received previous payments regarding this abuse, that amount will be taken under consideration. In many cases, that means the total amount of any previous payments will be deducted from the total of this redress. Once compensation through the National Redress Scheme has been accepted, all rights to bring future legal claims against that institution are waived.
The National Redress Scheme can also provide free access to psychological support and other counselling services. Because access to the National Redress Scheme support services will depend on where each applicant lives, a one-off payment up to a maximum of $5000 is available if no services are within an accessible distance. A direct and personal response like an apology from the institution responsible is also offered for any applicant if that is something they want.
It’s important to remember that redress is about acknowledging the impact and harm caused by the institutional sexual abuse. Because it only provides survivors with an alternative to seeking compensation through the legal system, survivors looking for compensation should seek individual professional legal advice.
Why is it beneficial to have a lawyer working on your behalf?
While a lawyer is not a requirement to make an application for redress, this is a complex area of Australian law. There have been some significant changes to the laws regarding institutional sexual abuse in the wake of the Royal Commission, and the Scheme has many caveats.
Survivors now have two options available to them when seeking compensation. They can either apply for the National Redress Scheme NSW or seek a full claim for damages. Those who will benefit the most from this scheme will have already made a claim many years ago when this was still a relatively new area of law, which means they didn't receive very much in compensation.
Because of limitations on payment amounts from the sexual abuse redress scheme, many survivors may actually be better suited to using other means to seek compensation. Most survivors who apply for redress won’t receive anywhere near the maximum amount of $150,000, with the majority well under $100,000. In contrast, survivors who make a claim for damages would generally receive a much higher payment.
It’s also important to know that once a redress payment has been received, it bars any future civil claims regarding the abuse against both the institution and any of its officials. That means you will never be able to bring a common law damages compensation claim against them, even if the payment amount would likely have been higher. Plus, there is no external process for appeals, which means that if you decide that you are unhappy with the amount offered, the only available option would be through the High Court of Australia.
An Abuse Claims Lawyer will be experienced in this area, so they will be able to assess your eligibility for the Scheme, as well as provide you with advice regarding a civil damages claim. For a better understanding of all possible options, people should research all possible avenues first before making an application for redress. Ultimately, it is essential to ensure that whatever decision you make is the best one for you and your specific circumstances.
For many survivors, there is no amount of financial compensation that could ever undo the hurt and pain caused by their experiences. That’s because the psychological effects of institutional sexual abuse can be severe in many cases, it can negatively affect survivors throughout the rest of their lives.
By talking to a claims lawyer with experience in institutional abuse cases, they can provide you with the best advice regarding the most suitable approach for your specific situation, while also ensuring your legal rights are fully protected.