Commonwealth Redress Scheme for Institutional Abuse
On 26 October 2017, the Federal Minister for Social Services introduced a Bill into Parliament which if passed will introduce a national Redress Scheme for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse.
Essentially, it proposes:
- A 10 year scheme.
- Low level of proof.
- A flexible, non-legal and informal approach.
- A test of “reasonable likelihood”: (higher than “plausible” but lower than the “balance of probabilities”.)
- Survivors will not be required to provide supporting material above a minimum requirement.
- Institutions will be asked to respond but a decision will not be delayed whilst the Institution investigates the matter.
- Institutions will not be able to dispute any decision.
- A cap of $150,000, as well as access to counselling services and a direct personal response by way of an apology will be given.
- There is a three month period for a survivor to accept an award under the scheme, and to sign a deed of release giving up rights to sue, or the award effectively lapses and civil litigation would be anticipated.
- The scheme is said to be opt-in or opt-out; not all state governments have opted in. There is a range of views from support to criticism: the latter relating to the question of natural justice and lack of ability to challenge evidence or the decision.
- It is unclear whether individual church authorities would opt-in or whether there would be a “whole of church” opt-in process.
The compensation cap of $150,000 and the release by the survivor if an award is accepted, are designed as incentives for participation by Institutions in the scheme.