A new law for the National Redress Scheme

A new law to improve parts of the National Redress Scheme for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse passed the Australian Parliament on 20 March 2024. Below we explain what the new law does and share our thoughts on the new law.

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The information in this blog post must not be relied upon as legal advice. Seek legal advice about your own particular circumstances.

What does the new law do?

The new law is the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Amendment Act 2024. It changes some things about how the National Redress Scheme (NRS) works.

The first round of changes came into effect on 4 April 2024. The final change is due to come into effect before early October 2024.

We talk more about these changes below.

Changes that came into effect on 4 April 2024

The following changes came into effect on 4 April 2024.

  • Applications from jail: Survivors in jail can now apply for redress.
  • Survivors with serious criminal convictions: The special assessment process is now limited to survivors who have received a jail sentence of 5 years or more:
    • for unlawful killing, a sexual offence or a terrorism offence, or
    • where the NRS considers there are exceptional circumstances that may bring the NRS into disrepute or affect public confidence in the NRS.
  • Internal reviews: Survivors are now able to provide new information when asking the NRS to review their redress offer, the NRS can request new information as part of the review process, and there is some protection against a redress payment being reduced as a result of the review.
  • Protected information: The NRS is now able to give applicants information about non-participating institutions and to disclose protected information to public trustees in relation to financial management orders. Institutions that belong to a participating group of institutions will be able to disclose protected information to other group members for the purpose of investigation and disciplinary procedures.  

Change due to come into effect before early October 2024

The following change is due to come into effect before early October 2024.

  • Re-assessment of some finalised applications: There will be a new re-assessment process for some applications where:
    • the survivor had their redress application finalised with at least one non-participating institution, and
    • at least one of the non-participating institutions later joined the NRS or was later covered by a government under the NRS’s funder of last resort arrangements.

This may allow the survivor to receive a higher redress payment and direct personal response (DPR) from the institution(s) that later came to participate in the NRS. The NRS has said that it will provide further information about this process before it commences.

What does knowmore think about the new law?

knowmore welcomes the new law as an important step to improve survivors’ experiences of seeking redress. We support the changes to:

  • allow survivors in jail to apply for redress
  • allow the NRS to give applicants information about non-participating institutions
  • allow finalised applications to be re-assessed if an institution later joins the NRS.

At the same time, we have some concerns. We are especially concerned that the Australian Government has not provided adequate funding for support services to meet the increased demand resulting from the new law. We estimate there are many thousands of survivors in jail who are now eligible to apply for redress. Without more funding, it will be impossible for support services to meet the increased demand.

We are also concerned that, under the new law:

  • a redress payment can still be reduced on review in some circumstances, including as the result of new information
  • there are limited safeguards in relation to the NRS requesting new information as part of the review process and in relation to the disclosure and use of survivors’ information.

The new law leaves much unfinished business from the second year review of the NRS. The Australian Government’s final response to the second year review expressed the government’s support for recommendations that have not been fully implemented and that are not addressed by the new law — for example, combining the recognition of sexual abuse payment and the impact of sexual abuse payment to recognise that child sexual abuse impacts the life of every survivor.

The Australian Government has also supported recommendations where it isn’t clear if and how the recommendations have been implemented. These include recommendations to:

  • improve redress for survivors who experienced sexual abuse in a medical setting
  • improve the treatment of prior payments, including Stolen Generations payments
  • improve counselling support
  • improve direct personal responses
  • improve access to survivor support services, including additional funding for services.

knowmore continues to advocate to improve the NRS so that it provides redress in a way that is survivor-focused, trauma-informed and culturally safe. Read more about how we are leading change through law reform and advocacy.