Sexual Abuse Victims and the National Redress Scheme – 6 years on and still growing
The National Redress Scheme was set up in response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in 2017. The Scheme started on 1 July 2018.
The Scheme provides access to a redress payment of up to $150,000 and a payment of up to $5,000 for counselling services to victims of sexual abuse recognising the harm that abuse has caused.
Redress payments are available to victims who were a child (under 18 years of age) when they were abused, the abuse happened before 1 July 2018, and an institution was responsible for bringing the child into contact with the abuser.
Applications for redress under the Scheme can be made for 10 years from the Scheme’s commencement with 30 June 2027 being the last day for applications. The Scheme has run for 6 years so far.
There have been a significant number of applications although less than half of them have been finalised.
The National Redress Scheme has noted:
“As of 2 June 2023, there have been 26,802 applications to the Scheme. We have contacted 13,185 applicants to advise them of the outcome of their application.
Of all applications:
- 12,374 have been finalised (determined as either eligible or ineligible, with offers of Redress either accepted or declined);
- 11,795 payments have been made totalling approximately $1,044,000,000;
- 907 have been withdrawn by the applicant;
- 13,521 applications are current, of which:
- 739 are with applicants, awaiting a decision on whether they accept their offer of Redress;
- 1,213 are with institutions, awaiting a response to a Request For Information;
- 3,484 are on hold (for reasons such as at the request of the applicant; where further information has been requested from the applicant; where there is difficulty contacting the applicant or due to a non-participating institution);
- 8,085 are in progress with the Scheme, of which:
- 5,460 are being actioned;
- 2,625 are temporarily unable to be actioned (for reasons such as awaiting contact from the applicant or awaiting extra information).”
Institutions must agree to join the National Redress Scheme so that they can provide redress to people who experienced child sexual abuse in relation to their institution.
The Commonwealth pays out the redress claim and recoups that payment from the institution.
The institutions that have joined up to the Scheme include the Commonwealth, all state and territory governments many of the major churches and charities including the Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, the Uniting Church, the Salvation Army, the YMCA and Scouts Australia.
Where the Scheme receives an application naming an institution that is not a participating institution, the Scheme will contact the institution and give them six months to join. Should that institution fail to join the Scheme within six months, the institution will be publicly identified and sanctioned.
The Scheme is not available to child migrants who chose not to become Australian citizens or permanent residents however the Government is in the throes of changing eligibility to include these victims as well.
Whilst the Scheme appears to provide an alternative to a damages claim against an institution it is not.
The redress payment is not compensation. It is a payment made in acknowledgment of the harm caused.
A redress payment is assessed against 5 categories recognising the sexual abuse, its impact, the impact of non-sexual abuse factors, the victim’s institutional vulnerability and whether there were any extreme circumstances of sexual abuse. The redress payment is capped at $150,000.
There are published guidelines on the assessment of redress payments which can be found here:
5.1 Redress payment (monetary payment) | National Redress Guide (dss.gov.au)
A redress claim is made by lodging a prescribed form without the need for any Court proceedings.
However, victims cannot receive damages and a redress payment.
Accepting a payment under the Scheme will extinguish all claims that the victim has against the institution responsible for the harm, including all rights to pursue the institution for damages.
Victims of sexual abuse can pursue damages claims against their abuser and institutions that failed to take reasonable care for them. There is no time restriction in Australia to prevent a person from bringing a damages claim for injury and harm caused by sexual abuse no matter when the abuse occurred.
A decision to accept a redress payment has important consequences and brings to an end any rights to compensation or damages.
Significant damages will be awarded to a sexual abuse victim where an institution has failed to take reasonable care for a child they were responsible for, but all rights to damages will be lost when a redress payment is accepted.
Also, the redress payment will generally be much less than a victim would receive if they had claimed damages for the harm they suffered and proved that the institution failed to take reasonable care.
For victims it is also important to note there is no cap on damages where the redress payment is capped at $150,000.
Applications for redress under the Scheme can be made until 30 June 2027.
As victims become aware of their rights and look to claim damages instead of redress under the Scheme, the flow of applications under the Scheme should be slowing. However, there were approximately 5,600 applications lodged in the last 6 months which accounts for about 20% of all applications lodged over the first 5 years of the Scheme. There are no signs that redress applications are slowing.
But with more than 50% of redress applications yet to be finalised, we wonder how many victims will refuse to accept redress offers and pursue damages instead.
If you have made an application for redress under the Scheme or are thinking about making an application or you know someone that has made an application who needs a hand, reach out to us if you need any advice or assistance.