On the 19 June the Australian Parliament passed legislation to establish the National Redress Scheme for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse, ensuring the scheme can begin on 1 July 2018.
As previously indicated in other blogs the scheme will run for 10 years, offering access to psychological counselling, a direct personal response from the responsible institution, and a monetary payment.
Minister for Social Services Dan Tehan, the Minister with responsibility for implementation of the Scheme said the bill was the product of extensive consultation with stakeholders, including survivors, support groups and advocates.
Mr Tehan said “The establishment of a National Redress Scheme is a significant step in addressing the past wrongs and providing a just response to survivors.” He said it is the Government’s response to the recommendations and findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
The National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Bill 2018 was passed by the Senate on the 19 June and is expected to receive Royal Assent this week.
From 1 July, people who experienced institutional child sexual abuse will be able to apply to the scheme to make an application for redress.
The other significant development in relation to redress in Australia is that on 27 June the Western Australian Government indicated that it will join the National Redress Scheme.
Western Australia will need to pass legislation in order to participate, which may happen early next year, but people can still apply from 1 July 2018.
This announcement means that the Scheme is now truly national, every state and territory government have now agreed to participate.
The decision by Western Australia to join gives effect to one of the central recommendations of the Royal Commission to establish a single national redress scheme to deliver justice for people who experienced institutional child sexual abuse.
This commitment means people who experienced institutional child sexual abuse in Western Australian Government institutions will now be able to access redress. It will also allow non-government organisations to provide redress for abuse which occurred in Western Australia.
Six major churches and charities have also agreed to join the Scheme– the Catholic Church, Anglican Church, Uniting Church, The Salvation Army, YMCA and Scouts Australia.
Mark McGowan who is the current premier of Western Australia has become the first Australian premier to formally apologise to victims of child sexual abuse at state institutions after his Government announced it would sign up to the National Redress Scheme. Mr McGowan has also indicated that his Government will also accept 289 recommendations put forward by the commission, with some requiring further consideration.
Mr McGowan said that past abuse had to be addressed and “The courage of survivors to share their experiences must be met by all organisations’ acknowledgement of past failures.”
It is worth remembering that the Royal Commission was established in January 2013 and it recommended a National Redress Scheme in August, 2015. It has taken almost three years to give effect to that recommendation and to secure buy in from all the major stake holders.
There can be little doubt that IICSA and those engaging with the Inquiry will be following developments in Australia with interest, in particular how some five years after the Royal Commission was established a National Redress Scheme has been recommended, agreed and is about to be launched.
The current position in Australia is proof that a National Redress Scheme involving both government and non-government organisations is achievable and it is difficult in the current climate to imagine how IICSA will resist a similar recommendation in England and Wales in due course.
Authored by Partner Sharon Moohan