Published: 22 September 2020
Author: Jessica Steele and Tara Dakin
New workplace sex abuse and harassment Redress Scheme set up for police
While a new Redress Scheme has been set up to compensate police for sexual abuse and harassment, it may not be your best option for compensation. We explain why.
When and why was the police abuse scheme established?
In December of 2015, an independent review was conducted by the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission into sexual harassment in the workplace at Victoria Police. The first phase report, published in December of 2015, found ‘substantial evidence of an everyday sexist climate, with a high tolerance for sexualised behaviour and interactions in the workplace.’ Additionally, of those surveyed by the Commission, nearly one in five female participants had experienced harassment in a Victoria Police workplace within the five years prior to the survey.
The Commission made a recommendation to the Victorian government to set up a redress scheme and restorative engagement for those who, while working as police, had suffered from sexual harassment or sex discrimination. On 20 October 2018, the Victorian government accepted the recommendation and appointed an independent body to have carriage over the scheme. The scheme commenced making offers to eligible applicants on 1 July 2020.
Who is entitled to police redress?
Both current and former Victoria Police who, before 12 December 2019, experienced sexual assault, harassment or sex discrimination, are entitled to apply. The conduct must relate to a workplace of Victoria Police, have occurred during work, and the perpetrator an employee of Victoria Police. For more information see: Restorative Engagement and Redress Scheme.
However, the restrictive nature of the scheme and narrow context of harassment that is being compensated is disappointing. The scheme does not account for toxic culture that can permeate and extend from the workplace but is still integrally related to it.
What is the process?
Survivors of police sex abuse are required to complete an application form containing a sworn statement and then submit this for assessment. The independent assessment team will then review the application and a letter of offer will be made. Notably, the standard of proof is that of plausibility, which is a lower standard than the civil balance of probabilities, and no further documentation or evidence is required other than the sworn statement of the survivor.
It is noted that the scheme has been designed so the application process is straight-forward and that applicants are not required to have legal representation in order to make an applicaiton.
What will successful applicants receive?
There are three available outcomes to applicants who apply to the scheme; counselling, financial payments and restorative engagements. The financial payment made is awarded regarding the assault, harassment or discrimination experienced and is a one-off payment.
The potential financial payments available are either:
- $45,000 - Rape, sexual assault (with aggravating features);
- $25,000 - Sexual harassment involving some contact and non-contact behaviours such as: sexual assault, sexual exposure, threats, stalking, predatory sexual harassment; or
- $10,000 - Some forms of sexual harassment or systematic targeted sex discrimination that is part of a campaign or series of behaviours and focused on an individual.
On the one hand, the establishment of the Victoria Police Redress Scheme is a positive step in recognising the damage that sexual assault, harassment and discrimination can have on individuals. However, it is disappointing to see that despite this recognition of the longstanding harm caused by such behaviour, the Scheme has been established with a paltry maximum cap of only $45,000.
The cap of $45,000 mirrors the cap in place for survivors of Defence Force abuse, who can make a claim for a reparation payment.
Better options are available for survivors
An application to the Victoria Police Redress Scheme may not be your best or only legal option, as a higher payment may be possible elsewhere. There may be a number of alternative means of accessing justice for sexual abuse'
In particular, if you have been a victim of sexual harassment, sex discrimination, or assault in the course of your work at Victoria Police, you may also have entitlements under state or federal equal opportunity laws and/or the WorkCover system.
If you suffer a psychological injury (i.e. depression, anxiety etc.) as a result of your trauma, and are unable to work and/or require medical treatment, you should lodge a WorkCover claim form as soon as possible. In addition to entitlements to weekly payments and medical and like expenses, you may also have an entitlement to lump sum compensation. As time limits can apply to lump sum compensation, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible, even if you are yet to lodge a claim.
If you are unsure of your legal options and would like to discuss the options available in your circumstances, we encourage you to contact our office on 1300 366 441 to arrange a free, no-obligation interview to discuss your eligibility for compensation.
If this story has raised any issues for you, we recommend contacting the following services: