In late 2012 then Prime Minster Julia Gillard announced the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. After a five-year inquiry, in December 2017 the Royal Commission detailed its findings in a final report it handed to the Governor-General of Australia.
Among its findings, the Royal Commission recommended the establishment of a single National Redress Scheme (NRS) for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse, to help make amends for the terrible wrongs such people had suffered. This scheme was established on 1 July 2018, meaning those who suffered institutional child sexual abuse prior to that date may be eligible for the three things the scheme can provide: counselling, a redress payment, and a direct personal response from an institution (such as an apology).
If institutional child abuse has occurred after this date, other options such as civil legal action may be appropriate.
In what follows we’ll look at the factors that both confirm or affect eligibility for the NRS, including what other options are available. In any event, if you have experienced institutional child abuse – or are advising or mentoring someone who has – contacting legal professionals with expertise in this area will help you work through the issues involved in seeking redress, and reduce the stress and time making such a claim entails.
Eligibility for the National Redress Scheme
There are a number of threshold factors which determine whether you can make an application to the NRS. These include:
- that you experienced sexual abuse when you were a child (under 18 years of age), and the abuse happened before 1 July 2018, and;
- an institution was responsible for bringing you into contact with the person who abused you, and;
- you were born before 30 June 2010, and;
- at the time you apply, you are an Australian citizen or a permanent resident.
The scheme notes that an application may be processed differently if the applicant was abused in an institution that hasn’t joined the NRS; is under 18 years of age; has ever been sentenced to more than five years in jail, or; has already received a payment related to the abuse.
It also sets out the circumstances in which you cannot make an application for redress, including where:
- You are serving a sentence in jail. You may still be able to apply once your sentence is served, or in some other exceptional circumstances.
- You’ve already applied for redress through the NRS.
- You did not suffer sexual abuse.
- You have already received a court-ordered payment from the institution.
In order to accept an offer of redress under the Scheme, you need to be 18 years of age. You can still apply under the Scheme if you are under 18 but will turn that age before 30 June 2028. In that situation, the NRS will conduct a preliminary assessment of your application and contact you about other support you may be able to access through the Scheme, without making a formal offer. Expert legal advice can prove invaluable here in helping you work out whether you should pursue redress through the NRS or look at other legal options.
Once you turn 18, the NRS will make a full assessment of your application and may make an offer of redress. It should be noted this offer may differ from that of the preliminary assessment because your circumstances might have changed.
NRS support services include a legal support service to help you clarify your legal options.
A special assessment process applies if you have committed a crime and received a single sentence of imprisonment of five years or more. In this situation you will be asked to provide some additional information about your offences and the relevant Attorney-General in your jurisdiction is also consulted before you are able to apply for redress.
If you have received payments from other redress schemes, victims of crime schemes or out-of-court settlements, this may affect your application under the NRS unless the payments are unrelated to the abuse you are now seeking redress for.
In some circumstances, you may have signed an agreement not to speak about your abuse or ask for any more money from the institution in which you were abused. In this circumstance, the institution cannot stop you from applying for or receiving redress through the NRS should you wish to do so.
Where you have been to court and received a judgment awarding damages in relation to the abuse you suffered, you cannot apply to the NRS for further payment from that institution.
Other legal options
There are other avenues to seek compensation from an institution in which you were abused either in combination with, or separate to, an application under the NRS.
Seek legal advice about your eligibility for a victims of crime compensation payment.
As a result of the Royal Commission, the Statute of Limitations which formerly restricted the time in which an action for compensation as a result of childhood sexual abuse could be brought has been changed in Australia’s states and territories. This reflects the unique nature of child sex abuse, where victims may not be ready to address what happened to them until many years after the event.
While time limits for bringing a civil action have been lifted, each state and territory’s legislation differs. In some cases the definition of abuse was extended to apply to other forms beyond sexual abuse, and to apply beyond abuse that occurred within institutions.
At Gajic Lawyers, our specialty is compensation claims. We bring compassion, understanding and persistence to progressing your claim through to a satisfactory resolution. Whether you’re considering a claim under the NRS or a civil compensation claim, we can guide you through the process to reduce both the stress and time involved in seeking compensation for the pain and distress you’ve suffered. Call us for an initial consultation today on 1800 431 508.