Child sexual abuse compensation could be paid in state schemes

By Jane Lee
Sydney Morning Herald
March 15, 2016

NSW and Victoria have promised to become funders of last resort, where institutions no longer existed to compensate survivors, but only if a national redress scheme is established.
Photo by Craig Sillitoe

[with video]

Child sexual abuse survivors have joined the Catholic Church to call on the Turnbull government to commit to a national redress scheme, fearing they will receive different levels of compensation, depending on where they were abused, through state-run schemes.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse last year recommended the federal government establish a single national redress scheme for 60,000 survivors, which it said was "the most effective structure for ensuring justice for survivors" and the most cost-efficient model. The "next-best option" was for state and territory governments to run their own schemes, it said.

Social Services Minister Christian Porter told Parliament earlier this month that the government was working on a nationally consistent approach for state and territory schemes. This was because a single national scheme would require all states and territories to agree to it and South Australia had already indicated it did not.

Adults Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA), the Care Leavers Australia Network (CLAN), the church's Truth Justice and Healing Council, the Australian Council of Social Services and People with Disabilities Australia said in a joint statement a national scheme was needed to deliver "consistent and fair access, as well as treatment for survivors – regardless of the institution and its characteristics in which the abuse occurred and no matter where they live."

ASCA president Dr Cathy Kezelman said that while the federal government could not force states and territories to participate in a national redress scheme, there was a much better chance of consistent outcomes if all levels of government were accountable to one independent body.

"It's far more complex to have disparate schemes . . . what is optimal for (survivors is) having one place to go which is well-managed and sustainable, contributed to appropriately by governments and accountable institutions so it will meet the needs of survivors coming forward over time."

Survivors had had bad experiences with various state-run schemes, she said, citing a Western Australian scheme that slashed the maximum amount available to survivors when the government changed, from $80,000 to $45,000, after it realised more survivors than expected had been severely abused.

Mr Porter was responsible for administering the less-generous scheme as Western Australia's then-attorney-general.

NSW and Victoria have promised to become funders of last resort, where institutions no longer existed to compensate survivors, but only if a national redress scheme is established.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten has pledged that Labor will spend $33 million to implement a national redress scheme if elected. This would include $20 million for an agency and advisory council to work with all levels of government to develop and operate the scheme.

Fairfax has sought comment from Attorney-General George Brandis' office.



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