The National Redress Scheme in Australia began on 1 July 2018 and will run for 10 years.
The scheme was recommended by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which was first announced on 12 November 2012 by the then Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. The commission was established in response to allegations of sexual abuse of children in institutional contexts that had been emerging in Australia for many years.
The terms of reference were established and six commissioners were appointed on Friday 11 January 2013: The Hon. Justice Peter McClellan AM was the chair of the Royal Commission and worked with the five other Commissioners, Mr Bob Atkinson AO APM, Justice Jennifer Coate, Mr Robert Fitzgerald AM, Professor Helen Milroy and Mr Andrew Murray.
More than 16,000 individuals contacted the Royal Commission and over 1,000 survivors provided a written account of their experience.
On 15 December 2017 the Royal Commission presented a final report to the Governor-General, detailing the culmination of a five year inquiry into institutional responses to child sexual abuse and related matters.
“We now know that countless thousands of children have been sexually abused in many institutions in Australia. In many institutions, multiple abusers have sexually abused children. We must accept that institutional child sexual abuse has been occurring for generations,” the report said, adding that child sexual abuse had occurred in almost every type of institution where children reside or attend for educational, recreational, sporting, religious or cultural activities.
“It is now apparent that across many decades, many of society’s institutions failed our children. Our child protection and criminal and civil justice systems let them down. Although the primary responsibility for the sexual abuse of a child lies with the abuser and the institution of which they were part, we cannot avoid the conclusion that the problems faced by many people who have been abused are the responsibility of our entire society. Society’s values and mechanisms which were available to regulate and control aberrant behaviour failed,” the report added.
The report warned that there is a need for the continuing development of effective government regulation, improvement in institutional governance and increased community awareness of child sexual abuse in institutions. There is also a need for community education on risks to children and the understanding of the needs of those who have been abused need to be developed and those needs should be responded to.
The Royal Commission highlighted in its final report that the number of children who are sexually abused in familial or other circumstances far exceeds those who are abused in an institution.
“The sexual abuse of a child is intolerable in a civilised society. It is the responsibility of our entire community to acknowledge that children are vulnerable to abuse. We must each resolve that we will do what we can to protect them. The tragic impact of abuse for individuals and through them our entire society demands nothing less,” said the report.
The Commission’s Redress and civil litigation report recommended that the Australian Government establish a national redress scheme for survivors of child sexual abuse in institutions. In response, the Australian Government announced a national redress scheme that would include psychological counselling as an element of redress.
States and territories and institutions would be able to opt into the scheme on the basis that they fund the cost of eligible redress claims made against them.
The Australian Government also announced that there would be a dedicated telephone helpline and website to provide information to survivors and their families about the redress scheme.
Legislation to establish the Commonwealth Redress Scheme was introduced into federal Parliament in the Commonwealth Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Bill 2017 on 26 October 2017.
The National Redress Scheme acknowledges that many children were sexually abused in Australian institutions, recognises the suffering they endured because of this abuse, holds institutions accountable for this abuse, and helps people who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse gain access to counselling, a direct personal response, and a Redress payment.
People who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse who can apply for redress and Redress Support Services including free, confidential emotional support and legal and financial counselling for people thinking about or applying to the scheme.
Independent decision makers consider applications and make recommendations and conduct reviews.
Individuals can apply to the Redress Scheme if they:
- experienced institutional child sexual abuse before 1 July 2018
- are aged over 18 or will turn 18 before 30 June 2028
- are an Australian citizen or permanent resident
- are applying about an institution that has joined the National Redress Scheme, and
- apply between 1 July 2018 and 30 June 2027.
The National Redress Scheme can help individuals to access counselling, a Redress payment and a direct personal response from an institution, such as an apology.
Redress payments will be decided on an individual basis and will range from less than $10,000 through to $150,000. Any earlier payments related to the abuse such as out of court settlements will be deducted from the redress payment.
A direct personal response is a process and may involve an apology where the institution acknowledges the individual’s personal story and impact of the abuse on them or an explanation by the institution on what they have done or will do to stop abuse from happening again.
As the Redress Scheme has now been operational for two years, Ms Robyn Kruk AO has been appointed to conduct the independent review of the Scheme.
Robyn’s role is to listen to feedback about the scheme and provide a report to government, which will consider Robyn’s report and publicly respond.
The review wants to hear from people who have applied for redress, as well as those who have not on issues including:
- Thoughts about the application process,
- Your experience accessing a support service,
- What you thought about the redress decision,
- Your experience accessing counselling,
- Your experience accessing a direct personal response, and anything you want to share, good or bad, about the Scheme.
For more information about the review of the Redress Scheme.