What is the $4 billion child abuse national redress scheme?

Published 11 Dec 2017

A long-awaited national redress scheme for abused children could be on the horizon in Australia, following news that the Federal government has tabled a bill that would provide survivors with compensation.

The legislation will need to pass through parliament before coming into force, but the Department of Social Services has hailed the initiative as a clear acknowledgement that institutional abuse should not have happened.

The scheme would cost approximately $4 billion to fund, according to estimates from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. But how will the scheme work? And will institutions be forced to contribute?

How much compensation is available?

Child abuse victims would be entitled to a payment of up to $150,000 under the redress scheme. Access to counselling services and a direct response from institutions - such as an apology - will also be encouraged.

Controversially, survivors who have been sentenced to five or more years in prison will not be eligible for payouts. This is problematic because the trauma of child abuse can contribute to individuals becoming involved in crime later in life. 

Minister for Social Services Christian Porter admitted in an interview with ABC News that the decision to exclude people who have committed serious crimes was "agonising".

"A view was taken that having some boundaries and reasonable limitations to the applicants and the quality of their applications was necessary to have public faith and confidence in the scheme," he stated.

Who will receive compensation?

There are approximately 60,000 victims of institutional sexual abuse in Australia, Mr Porter said. He added that the national redress scheme is a "foundational and critical step" that will reach about 1,000 people.

One potential problem is that the opt-in nature of the scheme means government and non-government organisations can simply refuse to take part.

The South Australian government has indicated strong opposition to the initiative, partly because the state already has a child abuse compensation scheme. State and territory holdouts could have a knock-on effect, with charities and churches indicating they would only opt in if all governments were on board.

Furthermore, victims may not be eligible to bring a civil case for compensation against offending institutions if they accept a national redress payout.

Only time will tell whether the initiative will successfully pass through parliament. Child abuse survivors should therefore seek legal advice regarding their current rights and entitlements to compensation under existing processes.

Please contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers if you would like more information on how we can help you.