Commonwealth redress scheme for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse
The Australian Government committed $33.4 million in the 2017–18 Budget to establish a Commonwealth Redress Scheme for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse (the Scheme).
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 sexual abuse suffered by children in institutional settings was wrong and should not have happened.
The Government is 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.
Initially, only the Northern Territory Government, Australian Capital Territory Government, and non-government institutions established in a territory will be able to opt into the Scheme and provide redress to survivors they are responsible for.
States will be able to participate in the Scheme after they refer sufficient powers to the Commonwealth. Non-government institutions in states including churches, charities and other community institutions will then also be able to participate in the Scheme.
The Scheme will provide eligible survivors with redress in the form of a monetary payment of up to $150,000, and the opportunity to access counselling and psychological services to address impacts of their experience.
In appropriate cases, and if they wish, survivors will also have the opportunity to receive a direct and personal acknowledgement of the abuse they have suffered from the responsible government or institution.
An Independent Advisory Council was formed in December 2016 to advise Government on the design and operation of the Scheme. The Independent Advisory Council brought together people with expertise from a range of directly relevant backgrounds, including survivors and their supporters, as well as experts on legal, psychological and redress issues.
A dedicated telephone helpline and website will be available from March 2018 to provide survivors with information about the Scheme, and connect survivors and/or their families with support services.
Survivors will be able to lodge applications for redress from 1 July 2018. Survivors will have access to community-based support services, including legal support, to assist them with the application process. Applications for redress will be assessed by independent decision makers against a range of factors and criteria.
The Department of Social Services continues to fund Royal Commission support services in every state and territory to provide 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 survivors who were sexually abused as children, before the commencement of the Scheme, at an institution that is participating in the Scheme. Commonwealth institutions will be participating in the Scheme and the Northern Territory Government, Australian Capital Territory Government, and non-government institutions established in a territory will be able to participate in the Scheme and provide redress to survivors they are responsible for.
States will be able to participate in the Scheme after sufficient powers are referred to the Commonwealth, and non-government institutions in states including churches, charities and other community institutions will then also be able to participate in the Scheme.
What redress will be offered under the Scheme?
The Scheme will provide redress to survivors in the form of:
- access to counselling and psychological services
- a monetary payment of up to $150,000 in tangible recognition of the hurt and harm suffered
- 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 to provide input to the design and operation of the Scheme. In line with the Royal Commission’s recommendations, the Council has brought 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 redress be assessed?
Building on the work of the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, applications will be assessed against a matrix, which is being developed in consultation with the Independent Advisory Council. The aim is to ensure consistency in providing survivors with fair and equitable redress. The severity of the sexual abuse, its impacts, and the vulnerability of a survivor when the abuse occurred will be relevant factors in assessing a survivor’s offer of redress.
What if the institution where the abuse occurred no longer exists?
If an institution no longer exists, and the Commonwealth or a participating state or territory government had an appropriate level of shared responsibility with that institution, then the relevant government may take the lead to provide redress on behalf of that institution.
Why isn’t the Scheme a national scheme as the Royal Commission recommended?
The Government has taken into account a range of complex considerations in considering how to implement the Royal Commission’s recommendations. This includes the need to strive for nationally consistent access to redress for survivors.
A national redress scheme, with states and territories participating on the responsible entity pays basis recommended by the Royal Commission, is the best way to ensure that survivors across Australia can equally access redress. However, a single national redress scheme can only be achieved with full cooperative legislative action by the Commonwealth and states, which requires a referral of powers under the Constitution.
The Government will continue to promote a nationally consistent approach to redress by working with states, territories and non-government institutions to encourage them to participate in the Scheme.
What happens if an institution refuses to participate in the Scheme?
The Government is exercising every endeavour to achieve maximum participation in the Scheme, and continues to work closely with state and territory governments and non-government institutions, including churches and charities. The Government remains confident there is a strong willingness from governments and 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 have been invited to participate in the Scheme.
How will redress payments affect Centrelink or other Government payments?
Redress payments will be non-taxable and protected from Commonwealth debt recovery processes. 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 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 sorts of counselling will be available under the scheme?
Community-based support services will be available to assist survivors through the application process. Survivors found eligible for redress will be able to access counselling and psychological services as part of redress offered 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 Partners
- Intensive Family Support Services.
See details of funded organisations at http://serviceproviders.dss.gov.au.