Support Grows For National Redress Scheme
Tuesday, 29th May 2018 at 4:56 pm
The federal government has agreed in principle to all recommendations from a Senate inquiry into National Redress Scheme legislation, as South Australia and Northern Territory become the latest jurisdictions to opt-in to the scheme.
Social Services Minister Dan Tehan tabled the government’s response to the Senate inquiry report on Tuesday, paving the way for the national child sexual abuse redress scheme to commence in July this year.
The scheme offers eligible abuse survivors a redress payment of up to $150,000, access to psychological counselling, and a direct personal response from the responsible institution if requested.
Legislation to establish the scheme was introduced in October last year, and the bill was subsequently referred to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee for inquiry and report on 28 March.
The report made 11 recommendations to the government, including to consider changing the period of acceptance for redress from three months to six months, and to reconsider plans to exclude criminal offenders from the scheme, as this could lead to institutions responsible for child sexual abuse “not being held liable”.
Minister Tehan said the government’s response had allowed the National Redress Scheme to move a step closer to reality.
“This is another positive step towards the planned start of the scheme on 1 July 2018, clearing the way for broad support when the Parliament votes on the final bill in June,” Tehan said.
“While the Commonwealth bill has now been replaced by the national bill, many of the issues raised by the committee overlap both pieces of legislation. The government has provided this response to clarify the government position on these issues.
“I thank the members of the committee for their constructive work, and I welcome their support for the fundamental design of the scheme.”
The government response comes as SA and NT announced they were opting into the scheme.
The newly elected Marshall Liberal government announced on Monday that SA would join the scheme, to provide financial and therapeutic support for those sexually abused as children in government institutions.
“Joining the National Redress Scheme is an important step in the state government taking responsibility for and helping to heal the pain caused by the sexual abuse of children in government institutions,” Premier Steven Marshall said.
“Nothing can undo the inexcusable abuse that survivors experienced as children, but we can acknowledge what they have been through and provide financial compensation and emotional support.”
SA will require the passage of state-based legislation which adopts the national scheme and administrative arrangements before the scheme can operate at a state level.
SA Attorney-General Vickie Chapman said this would pave the way for private institutions in the state to formally opt-in to the scheme.
“We will continue to work with the Commonwealth on arrangements between the state and federal government that will enable South Australian survivors of child sex abuse to access the scheme,” Chapman said.
“The scheme is complex to implement because it requires identification of all potentially relevant institutions and their records, including those which may have ceased operation many decades ago.
“At this stage we anticipate it could take up to 12 months to finalise all arrangements, including engaging with service providers and stakeholders about implementation at a local level.”
NT also announced it was joining the scheme, and NT Attorney-General Natasha Fyles said protecting victims was a priority for the government.
“Providing survivors of institutional child sexual abuse with the support they deserve is an absolute priority for the Northern Territory government,” Fyles said.
“We have worked with the federal government to make sure the National Redress Scheme works in the unique context of the Northern Territory.
“I’d like to thank Minister Tehan for supporting the Northern Territory and for his commitment to territory survivors.”
New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory, SA, NT and the Commonwealth have now committed to the National Redress Scheme.
It leaves Western Australia as the only state or territory yet to opt-in to the National Redress Scheme.
The Turnbull government said it was continuing “to work constructively” with the WA government and non-government institutions to encourage them to commit the scheme.