Commonwealth redress scheme for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse
The Australian Government has committed $33.4 million in the 2017-18 Budget to establish a Commonwealth Redress Scheme for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse.
Subject to the passage of legislation, the Scheme will commence in early 2018 and will be available for survivors of child sexual abuse in Commonwealth institutional settings. This includes situations where the Commonwealth employed minors, delivered activities for children, delivered state functions in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory before self-government, held children in detention or was a guardian.
The establishment of the Scheme is an acknowledgement by the Government that child sexual abuse suffered by children in Commonwealth institutional settings was wrong and should not have happened.
The Government is demonstrating leadership in encouraging states, territories and non-government institutions to take responsibility for providing redress to their survivors and has invited them to opt-in to the Scheme. In addition, if states refer sufficient powers, churches, charities and other community based institutions will be able to opt-in to the Scheme.
The Scheme will provide eligible survivors with redress in the form of a monetary payment of up to $150,000, the opportunity to receive support through trauma-informed and culturally appropriate counselling to assist them in the redress process, and to address impacts of their experience.
If they wish, survivors will also have the opportunity to tell their personal story about their experience with a senior representative of the responsible agency, and to receive direct personal acknowledgement and response.
An Independent Advisory Council was formed in December 2016, and is advising the Government on the design and roll-out of the Scheme. The Council brings together people with expertise from a range of backgrounds, including survivors and their supporters, as well as experts on legal, psychological and redress issues.
From March 2018, a dedicated telephone helpline and website will be available to provide information about the Scheme and connect survivors and/or their families with support services.
From 1 July 2018, survivors of child sexual abuse in Commonwealth institutions will be able to lodge applications for redress. Applicants will have access to community-based support services to assist them through the application process. Applications for redress will be assessed by an independent expert panel against a range of factors and criteria.
The Department of Social Services continues to fund Royal Commission support services in every state and territory, including counselling, support and case management for individuals and their family members before, during and after their interaction with the Royal Commission. A complete list of support services can be found on the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse website.
Additionally, 24 hour telephone assistance is available through:
- Lifeline: 13 11 14
- 1800 Respect: 1800 737 732
- Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia: 1800 211 028
- MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978
- Media release 9 May 2017: Commonwealth Redress Scheme for Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse
- Media release 4 November 2016: Commonwealth redress scheme for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse
Questions and answers
Who will be able to receive redress under the Scheme?
The Scheme will provide redress to people who were sexually abused as children in Commonwealth institutional settings before 1 July 2018. Should state, territory and non-government institutions opt-in, it will also provide redress to survivors abused in other institutional settings.
What redress will be offered under the Scheme?
The Scheme will provide redress to survivors in the form of:
- access to trauma-informed and culturally-appropriate psychological counselling, to address the suffering of survivors and support them in accessing redress;
- a monetary payment of up to $150,000 in recognition of the hurt and harm suffered; and
- a direct personal response from the responsible institution, for those survivors who request it.
What do you mean by Commonwealth institutional settings?
The Commonwealth institutional setting will be determined on the individual circumstances of each claim. A Commonwealth institutional setting may include a circumstance where the Commonwealth employed children, delivered activities for children, or delivered state functions in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory before self-government.
What is the Independent Advisory Council?
The Independent Advisory Council was formed in December 2016 and provides input on the design and operation of the Commonwealth Redress Scheme.
In line with the Royal Commission’s recommendations, the Council brings together people with expertise from a range of backgrounds, including survivors and their supporters, as well as experts on legal, psychological and redress issues. The Prime Minister appointed members to the Council.
How will harm be assessed?
An assessment matrix and guidelines will be developed in consultation with the Independent Advisory Council to ensure that outcomes for survivors are as consistent as possible.
What if the institution where the abuse occurred no longer exists?
If an institution no longer exists and there is a clear link to the Commonwealth, the Australian Government will take the lead to provide redress.
It is important there is an equitable approach for all survivors beyond Commonwealth institutions and the Government is working with the Independent Advisory Council and consulting with state, territory and non-government institutions on this issue.
Why isn’t the Scheme a national scheme as the Royal Commission recommended?
In considering how to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission, the Government has taken into account a range of complex considerations. This includes the need to strive for nationally consistent redress for survivors.
A national redress scheme, with an option for states and territories to opt-in on the responsible entity pays basis recommended by the Royal Commission, is the best way of seeking to ensure that survivors across Australia will be able to access redress on an equal basis. However, a single national redress scheme can only be established with full cooperative legislative action of the Commonwealth and states and territories.
The Government will continue to work with the states and territories and non-government institutions to encourage them to join the Scheme to promote a nationally consistent approach to redress.
What happens if an institution refuses to opt-in to the Commonwealth Redress Scheme?
The Government is exercising every endeavour to achieve maximum participation in the Scheme, and will be working closely with institutions, including churches and charities over the coming months. The Government remains confident that there is a strong willingness from institutions to make amends and participate in a Scheme.
How can non-government institutions, for example a church, participate in the Scheme?
Non–government institutions will be invited to opt-in to the Scheme.
How will redress payments affect Centrelink or other Government payments?
Redress payments will be exempt from income tax and Commonwealth debt recoveries. Payments will also be exempt from any income tests that are relevant to other Government payments.
When will the Scheme commence?
A dedicated telephone helpline and website will operate from March 2018. Survivors will be able to lodge applications for redress from 1 July 2018.
How long will the scheme run for?
The scheme will run for approximately 10 years.
Can I register now for redress under the scheme?
Survivors will be able to lodge applications for redress from 1 July 2018.
What if I have already received redress under another scheme?
The arrangements for people who have already received some form of redress through another scheme have not been finalised. Survivors who have accessed redress under another scheme will not be excluded from applying to the Commonwealth Redress Scheme.
What sorts of counselling will be available under the scheme?
Community-based support services will be available to assist survivors through the application process.
Survivors will have access to trauma-informed and culturally appropriate psychological counselling under the Scheme.
What else is the Commonwealth doing to protect children?
The Australian Government works with state and territory governments, law enforcement agencies, the community sector and researchers to keep children safe. This includes work under the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children to develop the National Statement of Principles on Child Safe Organisations, as well as funding for a range of early intervention and prevention services, including:
- Children and Parent Support Services
- Communities for Children Facilitating Partner
- Intensive Family Support Services.
See details of funded organisations at http://serviceproviders.dss.gov.au.