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National Redress Scheme: how it works

A survivor of child sexual abuse may not realize at the time that what happened to them was abuse. It is not uncommon for decades to pass before the person realizes he has been abused. 

Child sexual abuse can occur in the home, in an institution, or elsewhere. It includes cases when an adult uses his influence over a child to engage in sexual activity, including sexual touching. 

Every experience of child sexual abuse is different. Still, it always has severe consequences and is never the fault of the abused child. An adult should never harm a child or abuse a child in their care.

There are various statutory options in Australia for protecting children from sexual abuse. In addition, victims of sexual abuse can, in some circumstances, obtain redress through, for example, the National Redress Scheme.

What is the National Redress Scheme?

The primary purpose of the National Reparations Scheme is to recognize and mitigate the effects of past institutional child sexual abuse and to supply justice for the victims of this abuse.

Survivors of historical sexual abuse under the Scheme are entitled to receive:

  • A payment of up to $150,000, depending on the circumstances. But most people will not receive the maximum amount. The average payout is $80,000.
  • An apology or personal response from the institution that was responsible for the abuse
  • Counselling and psychological support

Suppose the Scheme establishes that a person suffered sexual abuse. In that case, the Scheme will also consider any related non-sexual abuse while determining the redress payment that someone will be entitled to receive.

The Scheme began its life on July 1, 2018, and was established to last for ten years.

The Failures of the National Redress Scheme

A step forward in protecting victims of sexual abuse, the National Redress Scheme has too many flaws and shortcomings that need to be corrected.

In 2021, Public Servant Robin Crook conducted an independent review of the Scheme. He concluded that the Scheme needed a significant and urgent reset to ensure that it was humane and less burdensome than a civil suit.

Among the main disadvantages of the National Redress Scheme we can highlight the following:

  • Unreasonably long processing of applications. 

Unfortunately, the application processing time is not optimal. On average, the Scheme takes 12.5 months to process an application and 13.4 months to process a priority application. Average processing time here means the time from the date an application is received to the date the application is completed, including redress. This indicator does not consider the time it takes for an institution to join the Scheme. Unfortunately, victims of sexual abuse who were sexually abused as children are usually elderly or have significant health problems. The government should prevent them from wasting time on formalities while waiting for redress. 

  • Unreasonable limitation of the number of persons eligible to apply for redress by imposing the additional requirements

When applying for redress, a person is entitled to redress for sexual assault under the National Redress Scheme if he is an Australian permanent resident or a citizen. In addition, there are several other restrictions and requirements for the applicant.

A person may not file an application for redress under the Scheme if:

  • such person has previously applied to the Scheme; or
  • the person is subject to a safety notice; or
  • the person is a child under the age of 18 before the date of termination of the Scheme; or
  • the person is in jail; or
  • the application is made less than 12 months before the date of termination of the Scheme.

Here we are immediately struck by the unreasonableness of the prohibition for a person in jail to apply for redress (except in exceptional circumstances).

  • A person can apply only once. 

This disadvantage displays itself most in the case of an application where the applicant specifies several institutions, and not all of them have joined the Scheme. It means he has the right to continue and get redress or wait until the other institutions have not joined the Scheme. Each of these options may not be advantageous to the applicant. If he agrees to receive the payment, he denies the opportunity to be redressed from the rest of the institutions he listed on his application. If he chooses to wait, it also causes a loss because it pushes back the date he will receive money and other types of assistance.

The Scheme has other disadvantages, which could be the subject of a separate discussion. Many of them you can find in the already mentioned Robin Crook’s Review.

National Redress Scheme VS Civil Claim

One of the most significant features of the National Redress Scheme that we must mention is the ratio of redress under the National Redress Scheme compared a civil suit. The latter also provides victims of institutional child sexual abuse the opportunity to recover from the trauma of their experience.

Before a person decides to use his Scheme’s rights, he should evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of the Scheme before filing the civil claim and receiving fair compensation.

A civil claim can provide compensation for physical or mental harm resulting from the institution’s failure to care for and protect the victim of childhood sexual abuse.

You can also file a civil claim against the perpetrator if the perpetrator is still alive.

One of the essential features of a civil claim is that there is no time limit for filing it. You are not limited by the time of the Scheme to be able to ask for help and claim compensation.

Furthermore, there is no limit on compensation payments in a civil claim. You will base your claim on the severity of the sexual assault injury and its impact on your life. At the same time, the Scheme limits the redress payment to $150,000, and not everyone receives the maximum amount.

One of the most meaningful differences between the Scheme possibilities and the civil claim is the need to pay a civil lawyer—some money you will pay up-front. Most of the costs you will pay will be from the compensation received.

Unlike civil claims, the Scheme’s redress payments do not adequately reflect the actual value of the damage.

Therefore, before you decide to apply for the National Redress Schemes, we suggest you get a consultation with a qualified lawyer. They will tell you about your rights and options as a victim of institutional child sexual abuse.

Koffels has lawyers who specialize in sexual abuse. Moreover, they have appeared as advocates before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Thus, this experience and our compassionate approach allow us to best help people who have been abused. 

Let our lawyers listen to you and help you if you want to by contacting us through the website contact form or at +61 (0)2 9283 5599.

2 replies to National Redress Scheme: how it works

  1. I have already touched base with Sharon Cai but I’m struggling to deal with this dark secret that’s been pushed deep down for slot of years .
    If she can contact me

    1. Hi Julie,
      Thank you for reaching out – we have been trying to reach you for a while. Both the numbers we have for you are showing as disconnected. Please call our office on 02 9283 5599 or PM us on Facebook with your current contact details.

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