Australian National Redress Scheme – Joint Select Committee – Second Interim Report

On the 23 November 2021 the Australian Joint Select Committee on Implementation of the National Redress Scheme (“the Committee”) tabled its Second Interim Report (“the report”).

In tabling the report the Committee was keen to acknowledge that the National Redress Scheme (“the NRS”) require constant review and at times recalibration in order to effectively meet the needs of victims and survivors and society at large.

The Committee also noted that the efficacy of the NRS is also impacted by how attractive redress is as a means of dealing with these claims when considered against the broader access to civil compensation, which has been introduced by legislative changes introduced by the State and Territories throughout Australia as discussed in our earlier BLOG Reopening settlements in abuse cases – the approach in Australia – could it happen in other jurisdictions?

The report noted that “significant momentum was lost before the Scheme formally commenced and awareness of its existence is now limited”

The Committee accepts the observations of Ms Robyn Kruk AO at the time of publishing her Second Anniversary Review of the NRS in  June 2021 that there is only a very limited timeframe for making any meaningful changes to the NRS at this stage.

The Committee says that its focus is identifying those reforms that will improve survivor participation and experience and increase awareness and access to the NRS among First Nations people.

The Committee noted that 12,305 applications have been received, 7,093 offers made and 6,703 applications finalised. The 6,448 payments to survivors total approximately AUS$551.2 million, with the average Redress payment now approximately AUS $85,481.

The Committee noted that reforms made in the last 12 months to the NRS included:-

  • encouraging institutions to join by removing tax concessions and Federal grants;
  • legislating for AUS$10,000 ‘advance payments’ to elderly and terminally ill applicants and
  • expansion of the Funder of Last Resort provisions for defunct and financially incapable institutions.

However, despite these and ongoing reforms since the NRS was launched in July, 2018 the sense of the Committee is that the NRS is still more complex to administer than originally thought and this has been constant theme of the commentary on the NRS by victims and survivors.

The Committee makes 21 recommendations:

  1. The establishment of a First Nations panel to provide specific advice to the NRS on the design and implementation of cultural safety principles and practice; and the development and implementation of an intensive education campaign across regional, rural, and remote communities to drive awareness and improve access to the NRS for First Nations people.
  2. Formal evaluation of redress support services be established to ensure that the needs of survivors and their families are being met through professional and timely engagement.
  3. The NRS engage additional redress support services in regional, rural and remote areas that offer face-to-face support
  4. The NRS consider expanding current funding arrangements to provide after hours and weekend specialist services.
  5. The NRS produce public education materials to clearly explain and demonstrate how the assessment framework is applied to applications by Independent Decision Makers.
  6. The NRS introduce annual mandatory training requirements for Independent Decision Makers and that the agreed minimum training requirements are published for survivors to understand.
  7. The NRS implement an internal moderation and review process for all application determinations prior to being finalised.
  8. The NRS Scheme amend current review processes to ensure that applications are only reviewed by senior Independent Decision Makers, and allow for survivors to provide additional materials on matters raised by Independent Decision Makers.
  9. The NRS eliminate the practice of indexing prior payments made to survivors.
  10. The NRS commence indexing awards to an inflation measure.
  11. The NRS consider amending the NRS Rules so that the total financial award limit applies to each institution found responsible for institutional child sexual abuse, instead of each application (This recommendations is being made as the Committee are looking at the NRS being amended to provide that where an applicant has been abused across multiple institutions, the cap on redress payments should apply to each institution, rather than the cap being distributed among perpetrating institutions)
  12. The NRS undertake work with survivors and redress support services to determine appropriate alternative methods for the initiation of Direct Personal Responses and best practice guidelines.
  13. The NRS undertakes consultation to amend the application form as a matter of priority. The amended form should be designed for survivors who may have low levels of literacy and allow care leavers to self-identify.
  14. The NRS commence a series of face-to-face education sessions across Australia targeting known under-represented groups and regions. All sessions should be run by senior NRS employees and make provision for a question and answer component.
  15. The NRS engage additional free legal services for survivors to access.
  16. The NRS identify and fund legal services that can provide face-to-face, culturally diverse and trauma informed legal advice across regional, rural, and remote centres.
  17. The Minister’s Redress Scheme Governance Board prioritise preventing the exploitation of survivors by private law firms and works to immediately implement the following measures: 
  18. Make it unlawful for lawyers to charge contingency fees for services delivered with respect to NRS applications;
  19. Impose a legal obligation on lawyers to advise a potential client of the availability of free services (knowmore and the Redress Support Services), and to certify such advice has been provided, before executing a costs agreement for a NRS application;
  20. Consider a cap on fees that lawyers can charge for services delivered with respect to NRS applications;
  21. Make it an offence for any person to contact a person without their consent and solicit or induce them to make a NRS application; or give or receive any money or other benefit in exchange for a referral to make a NRS application;
  22. Establish a set of expected practice standards for lawyers and survivor advocates providing services with respect to NRS applications; and
  23. Establish a specific complaints process within the NRS to deal with concerns about the conduct of lawyers and representatives from survivor advocacy businesses.
  24. The Australian Government work with all Australian states and territories to examine child safety measures in relation to institutions that refuse to join the NRS.
  25. Funders of last resort arrangements are expanded to ensure that survivors of institutions who are unable or unwilling to join the NRS are able to receive all components of redress.
  26. Funder of last resort provisions be expanded to ensure that all survivors can access the NRS if they wish to do so.
  27. Future Parliament consider the establishment of a parliamentary committee to continue the work of providing oversight on the administration and operation of the NRS.

The Committee will proceed as required by its Resolution of Appointment to prepare a Final Report which will be finalised before parliament rises in May, 2022. The Committee is now accepting submission for that Final Report.

For those of you who may wish to read more about the Second Interim Report please click here.


Written by Sharon Moohan at BLM (sharon.moohan@blmlaw.com)

Supreme Court in Victoria launches new Institutional Liability List

On the 10 February, 2020 the Supreme Court of Victoria embarked on a specialised Institutional Liability List to deal only with civil claims related to institutional abuse.

The new list will include claims for damages which have arisen from or following the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and/or the State Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Organisations.

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Queensland’s State Parliament passes new legislation to support victims of abuse in pursuing compensation claims

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.

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Cardinal Pell appeals convictions

On 5 June 2019 at the Victoria State Court of Appeal, Cardinal Pell’s legal team launched an application for leave to appeal his conviction on one charge of sexually penetrating a child under 16, and four counts of committing an indecent act on a child under 16 in a Melbourne cathedral more than 20 years ago. The Court is also hearing the appeal against the conviction at the same time.

Cardinal Pell was sentenced to six years in prison, which he is currently serving in a Melbourne prison and it is reported that he is being held in special protective custody because due to the nature of his convictions he is regarded as being at higher risk of harm from other prisoners.

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Australian Redress Scheme about to get underway – 1st July, 2018

On the 10th May, 2018 the National Redress Scheme (the Scheme) legislation was introduced to the Parliament for Australia. This legislation replaces the Commonwealth legislation previously introduced and this allow for States and territories that join the Scheme to participate under law. Continue reading

Royal Commission recommendations for advocacy, support and therapeutic treatment services

Volume 9 of the Final Report of the Royal Commission (RC) examines what the commission has learned about the advocacy and support and therapeutic treatment service needs of victims and survivors of child sexual abuse in institutional contexts, and outlines recommendations for improving service systems to better respond to those needs and assist survivors towards recovery.

There is a continuing need and demand for advocacy and support, and therapeutic treatment services. However there are barriers to help-seeking and effective service responses and it is noted that inadequate service responses can re-traumatise survivors of child sexual abuse. The Final Report seeks national leadership to reduce stigma, promote help-seeking and support good practice. To these ends, there are nine recommendations, many of which require additional Australian government, state or territorial government funding:

  1. Dedicated community support services.
  2. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healing approaches.
  3. Support services for victims and survivors who are disabled.
  4. A legal advice and referral service for victims and survivors.
  5. A national website and helpline as a gateway to accessible advice and information on childhood sexual abuse.
  6. Existing sexual assault service gaps to be addressed.
  7. Primary Health Networks to facilitate joined up, collaborative care and support services.
  8. Government, state and territorial government agencies to ensure relevant policy frameworks and strategies recognise the needs of victims and survivors and the benefits of implementing trauma-informed approaches.
  9. A national centre to raise awareness and understanding of the impacts of child sexual abuse, support help-seeking and guide best practice advocacy and support and therapeutic treatment.

Whilst some of these are jurisdiction specific many are likely to be similarly recommended by the IICSA and the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry.

As ever the potential block on ensuring these recommendations are actioned will be the availability of government funding.


Hughes_Frank Written by Frank Hughes, partner at BLM

Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse in Schools

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Childhood Sexual Abuse has published its final report.  Chapter 13 specifically considers Childhood sexual abuse in schools and makes a number of recommendations to prevent abuse from happening, and where it does to ensure an effective response.

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Support Services for survivors

As reported last week the Royal Commission has published its final and lengthy report. It covers many subjects, themes and organisations and in the next few weeks there will be further commentary on this blog about some of those topics and crucially the recommendations made.

One theme which has run through the work of the Royal Commission has been that of redress. Two years ago a redress scheme was recommended and it has now, in an amended version, been approved in principle to take effect from 1 July 2018. Redress means many different things to different people. As Lambeth Borough Council sought yesterday, amid some confrontation, to approve a scheme which seeks to make the path to redress simpler, it is clear that it is by no means straightforward to achieve. Shirley Oaks Survivors Association (SOSA) retweeted a range of negative comments about the scheme which had taken over a year to draft and had had significant input into it from SOSA itself and its legal team. Yet it still remained the subject of damning criticism from some.

One issue which will always be a challenge is how to assess a monetary value in compensation for the abuse and its consequences. The Royal Commission recommended a scheme with maximum payments of A$200,000 (£114,760); the Australian Government Scheme implementing the Royal Commission recommendations will award up to a maximum of A$150,000 (£86,070); the Lambeth Scheme has a maximum payment of £125,000; the Northern Ireland recommendations which have made no progress since being published in January 2017 were for payments of up to £100,000. These are maximum payments for the most severe abuse. These may or may not be life changing sums of money, for some whatever the sum it is the recognition of the harm done which is what the money represents and for others no sum however big or small will compensate for what happened and what the consequences of the abuse have been. No matter what approach an organisation takes in assessing a monetary value for redress it is likely it will not be considered right by all victims and survivors. Making that assessment can be very difficult for all involved and a clear and easy formula for making a fair assessment which could be understood and applied by all is needed and remains elusive.

The Royal Commission’s 2015 report concluded that redress should include not just monetary payments but also a direct personal response as well as counselling and psychological care. The final report has expanded the response to victims and survivors to include the provision of a much wider, integrated and cohesive range of support services. Those recommendations include that there be a dedicated system of community-based support services which provides advocacy and support, including counselling and case management. The creation of a national service to assist victims and survivors understand the legal options and navigate the legal system is proposed, along with a national telephone helpline and website to provide information and assistance. The national service should, the Royal Commission concludes, be funded by the Australian Government and provide advice including about accessing, amending and annotating records and options for initiating police, civil litigation or redress processes. It will be interesting to see which of these recommendations are effected and which will be similarly recommended by the inquiries in England and Wales and Scotland when they in due course report on redress and support for survivors.


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Written by Paula Jefferson, partner and head of abuse and neglect at BLM.