In this blog post, we discuss knowmore’s advocacy to improve the National Redress Scheme for survivors, including our recent advocacy to federal parliament. We share the experiences of some of our clients and outline key improvements needed to make the National Redress Scheme fairer for survivors. We also explain how survivors can have their say.
knowmore works to support survivors on their journey to seek justice and healing for the harm they experienced as children.
Since the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse (the NRS) began in 2018, we have supported thousands of survivors from across Australia to navigate their legal options. Many have applied for redress under the NRS. From our experience, we know that for many survivors, their offer of redress has been truly lifechanging and has helped them on their healing journey. However, the NRS has not met the expectations of all survivors and departs in some significant ways from the redress scheme that was envisaged by the Royal Commission. Despite several independent reviews into the NRS, important recommendations remain outstanding.
knowmore undertakes systemic advocacy to improve the National Redress Scheme to help ensure that survivors can access the redress they deserve and that redress processes are survivor-focused, trauma-informed and fair for all survivors. Below, we discuss our recent advocacy to federal parliament to improve the NRS for survivors.
Our advocacy to the Joint Standing Committee and priority areas for reform
In July 2022, federal parliament created the Joint Standing Committee on Implementation of the National Redress Scheme to examine the operation of the NRS, including what is working well for survivors and what needs to be improved. In November 2022, the Committee began an inquiry into the NRS.
knowmore has contributed to the committee’s inquiry by making a detailed written submission and participating in a public hearing with committee members (see the hearing transcript or video recording). Through these opportunities, we were able to share the experiences and feedback of our clients and to highlight the improvements they want to see made to the NRS.
In our advocacy, we emphasised the urgent need for all Australian governments to implement the outstanding recommendations made by previous independent reviews into the NRS. We made 33 recommendations to improve the NRS, including in the following key ways:
1. Addressing unfairness, inconsistency and lack of transparency in redress decisions. Our recommendations included:
- The Australian Government should publish the NRS’s Assessment Framework Policy Guidelines which guide NRS decision-makers
- The Australian Government should prioritise addressing inconsistent and unfair treatment of prior payments received by survivors applying for redress
2. Ensuring that more institutions join the NRS and where institutions cannot or will not join, governments step in to provide redress for survivors. Our recommendations included:
- All governments should prioritise declaring themselves as funders of last resort for institutions named by survivors that are now defunct and institutions that are willing to join the NRS but do not have the financial means to do so
- The Australian Government should expand the funder of last resort legislative provisions to ensure that all survivors can access the NRS
3. Improving redress for survivors with disability. Our recommendations included:
- The Australian Government should develop a targeted communication strategy to increase awareness of the NRS among people with disability
- The Australian Government should provide more funding to ensure that all survivors with disability can access support throughout the redress process
- NRS processes should be more flexible to accommodate the individual needs of survivors with disability and all reasonable adjustments requested by survivors should be facilitated promptly
- The Australian Government should ensure that survivors with disability have lifelong access to trauma-informed counselling services that are appropriate and meet their diverse needs
4. Improving redress for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander survivors. Our recommendations included:
- The Australian Government should finalise the implementation of a targeted communication strategy for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander survivors
- The Australian Government should provide greater access to culturally safe and appropriate support services for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander survivors, including survivors living in regional, rural and remote locations
- The Australian Government should review the NRS’s identity document requirements to ensure they are more flexible for survivors
- All NRS staff should receive ongoing cultural awareness training and staff in key roles should receive tailored training to improve their awareness of the experiences of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander survivors
5. Ensuring that survivors can access the legal advice and support they need during the redress process. Our recommendations included:
- The Australian Government should provide greater access to support services for survivors, including by increasing funding and diversity among services
- The Australian Government must increase knowmore’s funding to the levels required to meet increasing demand for services, to ensure that more survivors can have timely access to free and independent legal advice and assistance
6. Protecting survivors from claim farming and other exploitative practices. Our recommendations included:
- The Australian Government should introduce legislative reforms to protect survivors accessing redress from exploitative practices
- All Australian Governments should ensure that nationally consistent laws are introduced to prohibit claim farming in relation to personal injury claims arising from child sexual abuse. These laws should draw on laws recently introduced in Queensland
7. Improving the information available to survivors and introducing greater protections for information provided by survivors. Our recommendations included:
- The Australian Government should introduce a legislative requirement for the NRS to give reasons if they withhold information from survivors and provide a right for survivors to review that decision
- The Australian Government should limit information about institutions that is protected by the NRS
- The Australian Government should ensure that the NRS can provide survivors with adequate reasons for their redress decision
- The Australian Government should amend the NRS’s legislative framework to ensure that the NRS and institutions obtain a survivor’s genuine and informed consent before disclosing their information
How survivors can have their say on the National Redress Scheme
The committee’s inquiry into the Scheme is ongoing. The committee is inviting survivors to share their experiences with the National Redress Scheme so that they can understand what is working well for survivors and what needs fixing.
Survivors can have their say by making a submission to the committee. Find out more if you are interested in making a submission or by contacting knowmore’s Law Reform and Advocacy team at firstname.lastname@example.org