Following on from knowmore’s advocacy to the Joint Select Committee on Implementation of the National Redress Scheme (NRS) earlier this year, knowmore made a detailed written submission to the independent second anniversary review of the NRS in September.
Our submission reiterated the importance of the NRS for many survivors of institutional child sexual abuse, especially those who would otherwise have no way to obtain justice for what happened to them. It also reiterated the importance of the design and operation of the NRS being improved to ensure that survivors receive equal access to justice, equal and fair treatment, and survivor-focused and trauma-informed redress.
We made 32 recommendations to improve the NRS in five key ways:
1. Getting more institutions to join the NRS, and ensuring that those who don’t join face consequences. Key recommendations included that:
- The NRS provides survivors with more transparency about the participation of institutions.
- Governments make institutions that refuse to join the NRS ineligible to receive any government funding or contracts, to receive any tax concessions including charitable tax concessions), or to engage in any child-related work.
- Consideration be given to making sure that survivors who name institutions that refuse to join the NRS can access some form of redress.
2. Making the NRS’s decision-making process fairer and more transparent. Key recommendations included that:
- The government publishes the NRS’s Assessment Framework Policy Guidelines.
- The NRS makes sure that survivors are given natural justice.
- The NRS makes sure that independent decision makers give detailed written reasons for their decisions.
3. Reducing unfairness and inconsistencies in NRS decisions. Key recommendations included that:
- The NRS puts a framework in place to ensure decisions are consistent and fair.
- Prior payments for non-sexual abuse should not be considered relevant when determining a person’s redress offer.
- The definition of sexual abuse should be made consistent with the Royal Commission’s approach, including with respect to “medical examinations” in residential institutions, which are not being adequately recognised as abuse by the NRS.
4. Improving the counselling and psychological component of redress. Key recommendations included that:
- There be a comprehensive review of the counselling and psychological component of the NRS within the next 12 months.
- All survivors be able to choose to receive either a monetary payment for counselling or access to services.
- The state and territory governments prioritise the implementation of Royal Commission recommendations to improve the support and therapeutic treatment services available to survivors, especially for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander survivors.
5. Protecting survivors from being exploited by some law firms and survivor advocacy businesses. Key recommendations included that:
- There be a cap on the fees that lawyers can charge to do NRS applications, and that lawyers be made to tell potential clients of the availability of the free services delivered by knowmore and the Redress Support Services.
- The NRS conducts targeted campaigns to increase awareness and understanding of the NRS among vulnerable groups of survivors, including Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander survivors, survivors in prison, and survivors with low levels of literacy.
The independent reviewer’s report will be given to the Australian Government in February 2021. Read knowmore’s full submission to the second anniversary review of the NRS.