The Turnbull Government today took an historic and critical step towards providing justice to survivors of child sexual abuse in institutional settings.
Minister for Social Services, Christian Porter, said the Commonwealth Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Bill 2017, introduced into Parliament today, aims to recognise and begin the task of alleviating the impact of past institutional child sexual abuse by enabling eligible survivors to access the three elements of the Scheme:
- a redress payment of up to $150,000;
- access to psychological counselling; and
- a direct personal response from the responsible institution, if requested by the survivor.
“Through this legislation the Turnbull Government is demonstrating national leadership by providing redress to its survivors of institutional child sexual abuse and providing the framework for all states, territories and non-government institutions which are also committed to providing redress to their own survivors of sexual abuse,” Minister Porter said.
“The Redress Scheme outlined in the Bill includes all Commonwealth institutions and makes them accountable for the terrible wrongs done to some of the most vulnerable people in our community – young children in their care. The Bill also covers Territory institutions, once the two Territories have joined the Scheme.
“The Royal Commission estimated that 60,000 children were sexually abused in Australia’s institutions.
“These were shocking and inexplicable acts by people responsible for the care and protection of children. It was a grave betrayal of trust and no child should ever experience what they did. While nothing will ever completely alleviate the harm and suffering experienced by survivors, the Turnbull Government hopes that its Redress Scheme eases their pain and brings them justice.
“The Independent Advisory Council on Redress appointed by the Prime Minister included survivors and their supporters, and they have worked tirelessly to deliver the Government with a blueprint for a survivor-focused redress scheme that we are now delivering. I thank all 15 members of the Advisory Council for working collaboratively and in good faith on this most sensitive and difficult issue.
“Following that expert advice, this legislation has also been developed in close consultation with the states, territories and non-government institutions to build upon the productive negotiations that have taken place as we seek to deliver a national redress scheme for all survivors.”
Of the Royal Commission’s 74 recommendations relevant to redress, the Government has adopted 63 recommendations and substantially or partially adopted six.
In the 2017–18 Budget, the Turnbull Government provided $33.4 million for the initial establishment of the Scheme and to continue access to support services for survivors ahead of the Scheme’s commencement in July next year.
A dedicated telephone helpline and website will be available from March 2018 to provide information to survivors and their families. Survivors will also be connected with specialist legal, community and financial support services.
Assuming bi-partisan support for passage of this Bill, applications for redress to the Scheme can be made from 1 July 2018 and applications will be assessed by expert independent decision makers based on their consideration of individual cases.
“After the introduction of the Bill in Federal Parliament, given the limits of the Commonwealth’s constitutional powers, the next key step will be the receipt of a referral of power from a state to allow the Redress Scheme to be broadened and able to deliver a national redress scheme,” the Minister said.
“That is why I have been undertaking extensive consultations and negotiations with state and territory governments and non-government institutions, such as churches and charities, to ensure the Redress Scheme provides comprehensive coverage for survivors across Australia. With the introduction of this critical legislation, the Turnbull Government renews it call to all states and non-government institutions to commit to opt in to the Scheme as soon as possible and so provide certainty for their survivors.
“The states, territories and non-government institutions are in the final stages of considering joining the Redress Scheme and I look forward to continuing to work with them to deliver a nationally consistent redress scheme for all survivors.
“By joining the Redress Scheme, all state and territory governments and non-government institutions would be providing equal access for survivors to all three redress elements on a “responsible-entity pays” basis, in accordance with the Royal Commission’s recommendations.
“It is essential that all government and non-government institutions are held accountable and take responsibility for providing redress to those people who were harmed in their care.”
The Minister said action on preventing all child sexual abuse anywhere in Australia and overseas does not stop with addressing these past wrongs.
“The Turnbull Government is working with state and territory governments, law enforcement agencies, the community sector and researchers to help keep children safe,” the Minister said.
“For example, the Government is combating child sexual abuse through the introduction of tough new legislation that will see child sex offenders spend longer in jail, be less likely to be granted bail and parole, face mandatory minimum sentences and be closely supervised following their release. This is in addition to work under the National Framework to Protect Australia’s Children to develop the national statement on Principles on Child Safe Organisations, as well as funding for a range of early intervention and prevention services”.
Survivors of child sexual abuse who need assistance can access services through the Royal Commission, while those who need immediate assistance should contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Further information about the Commonwealth Redress Scheme is available on the Department of Social Services website.