Victorian Government begins process to introduce redress scheme for institutional child abuse

By Rachael Brown And Loretta Florance
ABC News
August 5, 2015

The Betrayal of Trust report recommended an independent avenue of justice of abuse survivors, administrated by the Government.

The Victorian Government has begun consulting with the community about the possibility of developing a redress scheme for survivors of child abuse, as recommended by a State Parliament inquiry.

Survivors of abuse in Victoria currently have to go back to the organisation of their abuse.

The parliamentary inquiry's Betrayal of Trust report, tabled in 2013, recommended the introduction of "an independent, alternative avenue of justice" operated by the state.

Victorian Attorney-General Martin Pakula said the consultation process would last a couple of months and would allow survivors of abuse to have a say on the scheme.

"We're not going to pre-empt what might ultimately be determined, but this is an important step in giving the community, particularly survivors, an ability to have some input into the way a redress scheme might work," he said.

Survivor of abuse Andrew Collins said an independent scheme was needed so people could have "some dignity and fair justice".

"For some people they just can't fathom to have to engage a lawyer, basically have that person go begging back to the organisation and just hoping that they will give you something, it's just not the way it should be done," he said.

"I'm currently going through it, and it's such a frustrating process, and it really is demeaning to have to go back the organisation that you were abused by."

Mr Collins said he had been trying to get compensation from the Christian Brothers and the Diocese of Ballarat for a "good couple of years", for abuse he suffered in the early 1980s.

He said a state redress scheme had to happen "as soon as possible".

"Literally there are still people dying, and taking their own lives, and the longer it goes on the harder it gets ... we can't wait 10 years, if we have to wait 10 years the cost of the scheme won't be measured in dollars, it'll be measured in lives," he said.

Victoria willing to participate in federal scheme: Attorney-General

Mr Pakula said the release of the consultation paper for a state scheme would not preclude Victoria taking part in a national scheme if one was introduced in the future.

"Whether we ultimately participate in a national scheme will be a matter for the Government to determine," he said.

"But with the Commonwealth saying that they don't want to administer or fund a national scheme it's difficult to see how one will get off the ground."

The Federal Government has previously said it did not support a national redress scheme because of the significant time and resources it would require.

Mr Collins said a redress system was needed, regardless of which level of government introduced it.

"When the Federal Government made an announcement that they wouldn't be interested in running a federal redress scheme, it absolutely shattered us, and we're glad to see that the State Government is looking into this," he said.

"It just has to be done, we don't care who does it."

Chief executive of support network CLAN Leonie Sheedy said she hoped the state redress scheme was broad enough to cover the unpaid labour of children in orphanages, children's homes and foster care.

"We were incarcerated in those places and we had no escape, we had no one to report to and we had no support," she said.

Ms Sheedy said she was holding out hope a state redress scheme would put more pressure on the federal government for a national scheme.

"Recently CLAN held a meeting with Minister for Social Services Scott Morrison in Canberra, and he made a commitment to CLAN that he'd get his department to do a scoping study on a redress scheme - who would be eligible and we're looking forward to the Minister [releasing] that report," she said.

Expected state scheme would be joint-funded

Mr Pakula said he expected a state scheme would be funded by both Government and non-government organisations.

"I have met with religious groups - with the Catholic, Uniting, Anglican churches and the Salvation Army - they have all suggested a preparedness to be involved in this consultation process, in a state scheme if a state scheme is where we end up or in a larger scheme if that's the ultimate outcome," he said.

"In terms of the way redress schemes have typically worked in the past, the institution funds those matters that have occurred under their care and the state funds those claims for abuse that's occurred in their care."

The consultation paper also covered the issue of apologies, the Minister said.

Mr Collins said he was hopeful a redress scheme would include financial compensation as well as ongoing support.

"There's a lot of people out there who are currently living on the disability pension, and those people are really doing it hard," he said.

"A lump sum would be great ... but there needs to be some sort of recognition there that there's a payment for the past suffering and some sort of ongoing care and help for the future."


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