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Published: 01 February 2018
Author: Penny Savidis

Senate should tackle big gaps in National Redress Scheme

Survivors of physical abuse will miss out

Under the current proposed national redress scheme to compensate survivors of institutional abuse, those who have suffered from physical abuse or have longer criminal records will be excluded from compensation and counselling.

A Senate Redress Committee which will be chaired by Sen. Derryn Hinch will now examine the Commonwealth Government’s scheme in detail. That committee will sit in mid-February with a reporting date for submissions of 13 March 2018.

In our submission to that Committee, we have argued strongly for their inclusion, and that their continued exclusion would be manifestly unjust.

Physical Abuse

Our submission canvases our opposition to the exclusion from the scheme of abuse survivors who have suffered non-sexual abuse such as physical abuse, psychological abuse and neglect. The proposed scheme seeks to exclude such abuse unless it is “in connection with” child sexual abuse.

Many of our clients have suffered horrific physical abuse in institutional care, the emotional and physical scars of which often remain with them for life. Although the Royal Commission’s terms of reference did not extend to such abuse, we see no reason why the proposed scheme could not extend to include physical abuse, psychological abuse and neglect, even in the absence of child sexual abuse.

Criminal Convictions

Our submission also opposes the blanket exclusion from redress of those who have suffered sexual abuse, but who have served more than 5 years in prison.

A significant proportion of our institutional abuse clients have criminal records, especially those who were abused as wards of the states or in the juvenile justice system. Many of our clients with criminal records stopped offending years ago. To include an exemption for abuse survivors with sentences of 5 years or more would effectively punish them again for crimes for which they have already served the time.

The Senate Committee has the opportunity now to focus attention on deficiencies in the proposed redress scheme and hopefully galvanise public opinion in order to persuade the Commonwealth Government to change its mind.

Ryan Carlisle Thomas’ submission has been published at: Parliament of Australia: Submissions