Talking Point: Child sex abuse scheme fails on too many levels

By Catryna Bilyk
November 23, 2016

LIKE many Tasmanians, I was shocked and appalled by evidence given at the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse.

All abuse of children is horrendous, but it is particularly abhorrent for abuse to be committed by people entrusted with the care of those children.

I welcome the Turnbull Government’s decision to fund trauma counselling and other support, and to appoint an advisory committee of survivors and their supporters.

However, I have concerns about the Government’s proposed opt-in redress scheme. Under the proposed scheme, states, territories and institutions responsible for allowing child sexual abuse to take place can opt-in. This means if the institutions that perpetrated the abuse do not want to pay, they won’t have to. This is not good enough.

Leonie Sheedy from Care Leavers Australia Network (CLAN) described allowing the states to opt-in as a cop-out. We must do better.

The Federal Government admitted this month that not a single state, territory or institution had agreed to be part of the scheme. Until these negotiations are finalised survivors have little certainty that they will get the redress that they deserve.

The Government should immediately secure the agreement of the state and territory governments and institutions, to make this a truly national redress scheme.

A national scheme should provide a consistent response to anyone who may have been abused by an institution, wherever they are in Australia.

Justice for abuse survivors should not be dependent on which state or territory they reside in or whether it took place in a government or non-government institution, or multiple institutions.

“ A national scheme should provide a consistent response. ”

As Blue Knot Foundation’s Cathy Kezelman said: “Survivors of institutional child sexual abuse have waited a long time to hear that a fair and equitable scheme will be established, one which does not depend on the institution or state in which they were abused.”

I have been a strong advocate for child protection for years. This is why, on entering the Senate, I established the cross-party group Parliamentarians Against Child Abuse and Neglect, of which I remain co-convener. I was also a strong supporter of the establishment of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and I applauded former PM Julia Gillard’s courageous decision to establish this inquiry.

The Royal Commission has played a key role in giving a voice to the thousands of people affected by these crimes, and builds on the former Labor government’s apology to the forgotten Australians and former child migrants.

The Royal Commission recommended a national redress scheme. In its final report on redress and civil litigation, it determined that about 60,000 survivors of child sexual abuse should be given access to redress.

Labor announced a plan for a national redress scheme in October 2015 — before the last federal election.

While no amount of money can make up for the pain and trauma survivors of child sexual abuse experience, redress is an important step on the road to healing. The abuse survivors have experienced has in many cases affected their health, ability to complete an education, establish satisfactory personal relationships and provide the basics of life. For some, a monetary payment provides assistance to overcome those difficulties. For others, it is acknowledgment of the failure of the institution.

The rights of survivors and their entitlement to compensation is not dependent on state borders or the institution in which they were abused. Survivors want a redress scheme that is fair and consistent.

Labor will scrutinise the detail of the Government’s scheme and do all we can to ensure survivors have access to one national scheme, as recommended by the Royal Commission.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.