Victoria on Brink of National Redress Scheme for Sex Abuse Survivors
By Farrah Tomazin
February 24, 2018
Premier Daniel Andrews has given the strongest signal yet that Victoria is on the brink of signing up to a national compensation scheme for child sex abuse survivors.
Speaking during a whirlwind trip to the US, Mr Andrews also confirmed his government was preparing new laws that could invalidate a controversial legal tactic preventing survivors of clergy abuse from suing the Catholic Church.
As revealed by The Age on Saturday, the passing of such laws in Victoria could expose billions of dollars in assets of the Catholic Church and other religious bodies to potential legal action for the first time in more than a decade.
"We'll very soon introduce into the Parliament a bill to deal with that. What's more, we are very hopeful of being able to sign on to a true national redress scheme as well,” Mr Andrews told Sky News in Washington.
“The Prime Minister and I, and I think perhaps the Premier of NSW, will have more to say about that quite soon.”
A national redress scheme was an early recommendation by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse, to compensate tens of thousands of Australians who suffered abuse in places where they should have been safe: from churches and schools, to out-of-home care and sporting groups.
If the states sign on, the $4 billion fund could begin from July 1, giving victims access to psychological support and individual payouts of up to $150,000.
While Victoria has long given its in-principle support to such a scheme, key details are still being thrashed out with the Commonwealth. These include whether physical abuse would form part of the scheme; how counselling would be delivered; whether survivors with criminal histories would be barred; and general governance arrangements between Canberra and the states.
However, on Saturday, Mr Andrews said: "I'm very confident that we can agree on many of the outstanding matters. We've made some real progress in the last few weeks and that's really important to give to those Victorians, and indeed Australians who have lost so much, a sense of justice.”
|Premier Daniel Andrews|
The Premier’s comments came during a three-day trip to the US where he joined Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and other state premiers as part of Australia's most significant delegation to America, designed to build trade connections with US governors.
Victoria attended in a bid to promote its key growth sectors – defence, cyber security and health and med-tech research.
But at a major meeting of US governors, Mr Andrews was also planning to spruik the state’s “know-how” when it comes to infrastructure projects delivered in partnership with the private sector.
Victoria currently has dozens of public-private-partnerships, from new schools in outer growth suburbs, to tolled roads and high capacity trains.
“So we've got lots of things to build, and the US can help us there, but we've also got an expertise in building those big infrastructure projects, and that's exactly what President Trump and state governors ... are looking for,” Mr Andrews said.
“They've got a $200 billion infrastructure agenda, and I think with Victorian know-how and our proven track record, we can definitely play an important part of that.”