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Published: 08 October 2014
Author: Penny Savidis

Royal Commission looks to Tasmania as national debate on redress continues

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse will hold public hearings in Tasmania next month.

The hearings in Hobart on November 19 will focus on allegations of abuse at the Hutchins school in Sandy Bay and the Anglican Diocese of Tasmania.

Private sessions held earlier this year heard evidence of abuse at St Virgil's school in Hobart in the 1950s.

Abuse survivors interviewed on the ABC’s 7:30 Tasmania program last week urged others to come forward and tell their stories.

The Tasmanian hearings come as the Royal Commission continues to debate the design and implementation of a national redress scheme, which may include making ex-gratia payments and providing abuse survivors with health and counselling services.

Tasmania has significant experience with its own state-based redress scheme, the Abuse in State Care Review, which made $54 million dollars worth of ex-gratia payments to 1800 people between 2003 and 2013.

The life cycle of the redress scheme was divided into four rounds. For the first three rounds, the maximum payment was $60,000, while the fourth round was capped at $35 000.

The Tasmanian government says the significant number of payments means it wouldn’t be fair to expect Tasmania to contribute in the same way to a national redress fund.

In its submission to the Royal Commission’s issues paper on redress, the Tasmanian government says the state should not be further financially-burdened, when other states including Victoria and NSW, haven’t had their own redress schemes.

“[A national scheme] would seemingly reward those states that have not established redress schemes to date and penalise those majority of states that have made significant efforts to address past abuse in care” the government said.

“Tasmania has spent almost $55 million over the last ten years on its Abuse in State Care Review...it would be inequitable for Tasmania to be asked to contribute at the same level as church or non-government institutions that abused children and other states who have yet to establish such schemes”.

Running parallel to the Tasmanian redress scheme in 2007-2008 was a reparations process for members of the Stolen Generation, also an instrument of Tasmanian state legislation.

The Stolen Generations of Aboriginal Children Act 2006 (Tas) made $5 million dollar of ex gratia payments to people separated from their families as children. There was some overlap with people receiving money under the Abuse in State Care Review.

Nevertheless, the Tasmanian government says in the event a national redress scheme is established, much can be learned from the state’s experience, such as the importance of providing counselling and protocols for reporting criminal matters to police.

Links:

Tasmanian abuse survivors urged to come forward, 7:30 Tasmania, ABC TV: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-10-03/child-abuse/5790186

Tasmanian government submission to the Royal Commission on redress: http://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/getattachment/712552ac-c447-4d57-a4cb-da31f30dc581/49-Tasmanian-Government

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