The below update has been sourced from a media release distributed by the Victorian Attorney General Jill Hennessy. The original media release can be found here.
Proposed new legislation is set to be introduced by the Andrews Government in Victoria, which will allow survivors of institutional abuse to apply to the courts to overturn unfair historical compensation payments under new reforms.
The Victorian State Government has proposed to amend the Limitation of Actions Act 1958 (Vic) to give discretion to a court to set aside a past deed of release or court judgement relating to child abuse.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found survivors of child sexual abuse take an average of around 22 years to report abuse, due to the significant power imbalances between survivors and perpetrators, along with deep feelings of shame, guilt and embarrassment.
By the time many survivors started considering their civil law options, the short limitation periods which had previously applied meant they either had to take the compensation offered or receive no assistance.
Deeds of release were often required to be signed by victim survivors in order to receive this compensation, requiring survivors to forgo their rights to sue.
In many cases victim survivors received inadequate compensation or were not provided with appropriate legal advice before signing a deed of release.
Allowing the courts to set aside these deeds if it is just and reasonable to do so ensures victim survivors are not left worse off. The reforms will not just be limited to sexual abuse, it will include other forms of child abuse where a deed of release was signed.
The reforms will enable courts to consider any amounts paid under a previous judgement or the previous settlement agreement when awarding damages or costs.