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Published: 09 March 2018
Author: Penny Savidis

Victoria opts into national redress scheme but devil still in the detail

The Victorian and New South Wales State governments have announced they will opt into a national redress scheme for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse.

The national redress scheme, due to commence in July this year, was originally recommended to start in mid-2017 by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse, which handed down its report on redress back in 2015.

The federal government’s bill to establish a national redress scheme, the Commonwealth Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Bill 2017, was introduced into parliament last year and referred to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee for inquiry and report. Ryan Carlisle Thomas made a written submission to the Senate Committee and appeared at the Senate Committee public hearing in Melbourne on 6 March 2018.

The Senate Committee is due to hand down its report on 13 March 2018. Members of the Committee have voiced concern at some of the limitations of the current Bill, including its exclusion of those who have suffered physical and psychological abuse not connected with sexual abuse who currently stand to miss out on the national scheme.

When introducing the Bill, the then Minister for Social Services Christian Porter also foreshadowed that abuse survivors with criminal convictions of 5 years or more would also be excluded from redress.

The Bill also includes a $150,000 maximum monetary payment for abuse survivors as opposed to the $200,000 cap recommended by the Royal Commission.

To complicate matters further, no government has yet volunteered to be "funder of last resort" in the event that an institution no longer exists or has no means to pay abuse survivors.

In announcing that Victoria would join the national redress scheme, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews stated, "We acknowledge that the scheme does not contain every element that every survivor of abuse may wish to see in it, however this is a ground-breaking agreement which will benefit thousands of people."

With Victoria and New South Wales now on board it is hoped the other states, religious and other institutions will follow to ensure the redress scheme is truly national. The broader the scheme’s scope, the greater the chance that justice will be delivered to abuse survivors. But until the Bill is passed, the devil will remain in the detail.