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What Can You Do If Your Abuser Is Dead? Compensation In Australian Law

For survivors of historical child sexual abuse, the realization and acceptance of what happened often unfold over decades. The journey from acknowledging this dark chapter in their past to seeking justice and compensation is not only emotionally taxing but also intricately complex, especially when the abuser is no longer alive.

In cases where the perpetrator of child abuse is dead, the path to legal redress is fraught with challenges and requires a nuanced approach – but the path does exist. This article delves into the legal avenues to compensation available to child abuse survivors in Australia, focusing on historical institutional and domestic child sexual abuse cases where the abuser has passed away.

Seeking Justice Beyond the Grave: Civil Litigation if the Perp Has Passed

In Australia, the path to justice for survivors of child abuse doesn’t necessarily end with the abuser’s death. Civil litigation can be pursued against institutions where abuse occurred under the principle of vicarious liability. This holds institutions accountable for their employees’ dark actions.

Institutions held accountable for historical abuse by Koffels Solicitors & Barristers include:

  • The Catholic Church
  • The Orthodox Church
  • The Anglican Church
  • The Uniting Church
  • The Marist Brothers
  • The Salesians
  • The Salvation Army
  • The Patrician Brothers
  • The Jesuits
  • Catholic, Christian Jewish, Islamic and state-run primary and secondary schools
  • Military Academies and Cadet Training Facilities
  • Adoption Agencies & Foster Care Facilities
  • Homeless Shelters & Charitable Organisations
  • Youth Detention Centres and Prisons
  • Scouts Groups
  • Sports & Activity Clubs
  • and many more

Survivors of domestic child abuse can also consider civil litigation against a deceased abuser’s estate under certain circumstances and where there is a sufficient pool of assets against which to make a claim. These cases, while challenging, involve proving the abuse and the availability of estate assets. Such legal actions can bring a sense of closure and justice, even posthumously.

Civil compensation claims for historical child sexual abuse are uncapped, meaning there is no upper limit to the amount payable.

National Redress Scheme and Support for Institutional Abuse Survivors

The National Redress Scheme offers a crucial avenue for those who suffered institutional abuse at the hands of the institutions who have voluntarily signed up to be part of the scheme.

The NRS was designed to be a self-service program that doesn’t require legal representation to apply for. It provides survivors with access to counselling, a direct personal response, and a redress payment.

The institutional abuse compensation claims available through the National Redress Scheme are capped at AU$150,000, with the average payout being around half that amount. Any successful claim will also prohibit a survivor’s eligibility for further claims.

The Removal of Limitation Periods

A landmark shift in Australian law has been the removal of limitation periods for child sexual abuse cases. All states and territories enacted this position between 2015 and 2018 in the wake of the Royal Commission on Child Sexual Abuse. This change acknowledges the time it may take for survivors to come forward. It ensures that the path to seeking justice remains open, irrespective of when the abuse occurred, allowing survivors to pursue legal action even decades later.

Compensation in Domestic Abuse Cases Where The Abuser Has Died

Domestic abuse cases involving deceased abusers present unique legal and emotional challenges. Claiming against an abuser’s estate raises complex issues within family law and within families themselves, especially when it intersects with inheritance disputes or family dynamics. Survivors navigating these waters need sensitive and skilled legal guidance to balance the emotional aspects with the pursuit of justice and recompense.

The Road to Recovery: Support and Legal Guidance

The journey to recovery for survivors involves more than just legal battles. Psychological support is vital. In Australia, numerous counselling services and support groups specialize in helping abuse survivors. Legal advisors like Koffels can play a critical role in navigating the complexities of the law and understanding their clients’ emotional needs.

If you or anyone you know would like to speak with one of our historical child abuse lawyers, for free and in confidence, about your legal options, please fill out the form below to arrange an obligation-free call-back.


4 replies to What Can You Do If Your Abuser Is Dead? Compensation In Australian Law

  1. Is it true that there is a compensation even if the offender has passed away

    For the sexual abuse of me

    1. Hi Christine,
      In cases where an abuser has passed away, leaving no substantial asset, was never convicted and no authorities (police, GP, Child Protective Services etc) were informed at the time, a survivor of childhood abuse would still be able to make a report of what happened to the police, regardless of how long ago the abuse happened, and this would then make them eligible to make a claim to the Victims of Crime Support Scheme. They payouts available aren’t vast – they are capped at AU$10,000 – but are more intended to help with the costs of adequate mental health support etc.

  2. Hi,

    What actually happens when you go through the National Redress Scheme? My abuser died about 15 years ago (I was in high school when I first heard) and while I want closure for myself I don’t want to open a chapter of pain for that person’s family or throw dirt on the good things he did do for the community (especially since he was a well known figure of the community at the time, eg, he was a principal at a Christian primary school). I just wanna know how private it is all kept.

    Thank you

    1. Thank you for your openness and for sharing your concerns. Deciding to engage with the National Redress Scheme is complex, especially given the individual’s role in the community and the nature of your experiences.

      The National Redress Scheme is designed to offer recognition and support to people who experienced child sexual abuse in institutions. However, it’s important to be aware of its limitations. These include capped payouts and “no further claim” clauses, which can sometimes serve the interests of the institutions involved more than the survivors themselves.

      Confidentiality is a key component of the scheme. Your application and the details of your case are treated with a high degree of privacy.

      Despite its intentions, the scheme may not fully meet the individual needs for closure or justice due to its inherent constraints. This is why considering all your legal options is crucial. As a law firm specialising in historical institutional child sexual abuse compensation claims, we offer a free consultation to help assess whether the National Redress Scheme or other legal avenues might be the best option for your situation.

      If you’re thinking about this path or have any more questions, I encourage you to reach out to us. We can provide you with guidance tailored to your specific circumstances, helping you make an informed decision about how to proceed in seeking justice and closure.

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