House debates

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Matters of Public Importance

National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Bill 2018, National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2018; Second Reading

6:47 pm

Photo of Dan TehanDan Tehan (Wannon, Liberal Party, Minister for Social Services) Share this | Hansard source

I thank all members for their contributions on this bill. As I have said, this bill will establish a National Redress Scheme for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse. It will create a simple and supportive redress scheme. The establishment of the scheme is an acknowledgement by the Australian government and participating governments that sexual abuse suffered by children in institutional settings was wrong. It was a betrayal of trust that should never have happened. The scheme recognises the suffering survivors have experienced and accepts that these events occurred and that institutions must take responsibility for this abuse. I commend the governments of New South Wales, Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory, Queensland, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and South Australia for signing up to the scheme and I acknowledge the consultative way that the Western Australian government has cooperated, and I look forward to their joining the scheme.

As I have told the House, the scheme will provide survivors with three elements of redress, comprising a monetary payment of up to $150,000, access to counselling or psychological services, and a direct personal response from the institutions responsible. The scheme will adopt a survivor-focused approach. Access to redress will be simple and support will be available throughout the application and acceptance process. The scheme is not intended to replace criminal law or common law avenues to seek justice; it is intended to provide a survivor with the means to access a sense of justice through monetary redress and through restorative supports. It is intended to be faster, simpler and less distressing for survivors and provide governments and institutions with the means to deliver justice to their survivors.

We consulted with a broad range of stakeholders in developing the scheme and this bill. The bill aligns with the views of the independent advisory council on redress, which included many survivor groups, as well as the views of other jurisdictions and nongovernment institutions. I've listened to members' speeches and want to make clear some elements of the scheme that they have raised. First, a maximum redress payment of $150,000 will be available under the national redress scheme, a position which is supported by states, territories and nongovernment institutions. This amount balances the need to provide a payment that provides a tangible means of recognising the wrongs suffered by survivors, while encouraging institutions to opt into the scheme. In addition, the average payment under the national scheme is expected to be around $11,000 higher than under that proposed by the royal commission.

Second, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse recommended that the scheme should adjust relevant prior payments for inflation. Relevant prior payments are payments made by a responsible institution in recognition of the harm caused by abuse for which the institution is responsible or in recognition of such abuse itself. The scheme will not deduct payments that were made to cover expenses of medical or dental treatment, or payments to cover any other expenses. The purpose of adjusting relevant prior payments for inflation is to recognise that some institutions have made efforts to do the right thing in the past, and to account for changes in the value of money over time. This is different to attempting to take into account any growth in the amount of the prior payment due to interest or investment. The scheme will calculate how much a prior payment would be worth in today's dollars if it were paid today, not how much the payment would be worth if it had been put into a bank account from when it was paid until today.

Third, the current legislation enables applications from child migrants who are now Australian citizens or permanent residents, or who will be at the time of application. With regard to the eligibility of survivors who do not live in Australia, only people who are Australian citizens or permanent residents will be able to apply for redress. This is in line with other government entitlements. Noncitizens and non-permanent residents will be ineligible in order to ensure the integrity of the scheme.

Fourth, through the development of the national bill with other jurisdictions, it became apparent that it would be difficult to ensure appropriate redress support services for all survivors in prison. As a result, the national bill states that people who are in jail will not be able to apply to the scheme while they remain in custody; however, they will be able to apply to the scheme when they are released. A person who has been released on parole or licence is not in jail. The national bill also allows the scheme operator discretion to accept an application from a person in jail if there are exceptional circumstances warranting the application. Such circumstances might include when a survivor is unlikely to be released from prison before the end of the scheme.

Finally, the scheme will provide access to counselling and psychological care to eligible survivors as one of the three components of redress. This will be in addition to Medicare funded services, which continue to be available to survivors, and the significant counselling and family support services funded by the government. Survivors will access counselling and psychological care in one of two ways: where a jurisdiction has elected to provide a lump sum payment, the survivor will receive a tiered lump sum payment of up to $5,000 based on the severity of the sexual abuse they have experienced; where a jurisdiction has elected to provide state based counselling services, survivors will be referred through a state or territory government to appropriate counselling services. Survivors will be able to access counselling in one of these two ways based on the jurisdiction they reside in at the time of submitting an application for redress. If an eligible survivor resides overseas, they will receive a lump sum payment.

The scheme paves the way for all governments and institutions to take responsibility and provide long-awaited redress to survivors who suffered sexual abuse as children while in their care. It is time to acknowledge the wrongs of the past and provide survivors the recognition they deserve. Survivors of abuse have had a long wait for this. It is time we in parliament delivered for them. We can do this by providing them redress by 1 July this year.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.


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