On 30 October 2019 the State Parliament of Queensland passed the Civil Liability and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2019 which has made it easier for victims of abuse in that state to successfully pursue claims. The legislation widens the definition of abuse to include serious physical and psychological abuse, thereby allowing more victims in Queensland to access compensation under Australia’s National Redress Scheme.
The legislation also imposes upon an institution a duty to prevent child abuse, in so far as the institution must “take all reasonable steps to prevent the abuse of a child by a person associated with the institution whilst the child is under the care, supervision, control or authority of the institution”. The institution is taken to have breached its duty unless it can prove it took all reasonable steps to prevent abuse. When deciding whether the steps taken were reasonable the Court will consider; the nature of the institution, the resources that were reasonably available, the relationship between the institution and child, the position in which the institution placed the abuser including the extent to which the position gave the person authority, power or control over the child and an ability to achieve intimacy with the child or gain their trust. By reversing the burden and placing the onus on the defendant, it is likely more claims will be successful.
The legislation also allows claimants to pursue the current holder of the relevant office in circumstances where the abuser who held the position is no longer incumbent. It also makes provision to ensure “continuity of institutions” to allow victims to pursue institutions which have been restructured, renamed or incorporated.
Finally, the legislation has amended the provision of the Limitation of Actions Act 1974 to remove the limitation period for actions for child sexual abuse (as defined above).
These combined amendments will allow greater access to the National Redress Scheme and make it easier for victims in Queensland to successfully pursue claims.
Written by Louise Roden, solicitor, BLM