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
In noting my concerns about the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse redress scheme legislation, I point out that I have concerns about the support services being provided and the time limits, but I also have significant concern about the monetary limits. The National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Bill 2018 bill limits the redress available to survivors to a maximum of $150,000 to any one survivor. The royal commission recommended that the maximum amount payable to survivors should be $200,000 and the minimum should be $10,000, with the average payment being $65,000.
By accepting an offer for redress, a survivor will be signing away their right to pursue a claim for compensation against the institution. It is important that survivors are adequately remunerated through the redress scheme. Obviously, no amount of money will ever, ever repair the emotional damage done to survivors or go any way to regaining their stolen childhood or recovering the life opportunities that they have missed, but nevertheless money can help rebuild lives. This will be the one and only chance for these survivors to seek redress. I want to make sure it is adequate to rebuild their lives.
We're all aware of the horrific abuse that occurred in institutions that cared for child migrants, and we're also aware that abuse of children has occurred in immigration detention, but this bill limits the redress scheme to people who are living in Australia or are Australian citizens. It is unfair that survivors of child sexual abuse that occurred in Australia are not able to access the same redress scheme if they have returned to their country of birth and are no longer residing in Australia. So I call on the government to ensure that this group of survivors is also able to access the redress scheme.
The royal commission recommended that survivors who accept an offer under the redress scheme be able to access counselling for the rest of their lives, but the government bill only provides survivors with access to state-provided services for the length of the scheme or with a payment of up to $5,000 to put towards counselling. For survivors whose lives have been utterly shattered, who have had to face their tormenters to retell their stories and who will never truly get over the trauma that has been inflicted on them, the paltry provision of counselling in this bill is woeful. All of the elements of redress are important, but counselling needs to be ongoing to be of any utility at all. It is critical that the provision of counselling be addressed and revised urgently.
Survivors who have been led into criminality should not be denied access to redress. There is clear evidence that people with a history of childhood sexual abuse and trauma are more likely to be incarcerated later in life. Denying this group of survivors access to redress not only will deny them the ability to rebuild their lives but is likely to foster recidivism. Attorney-General Porter, I would suggest to you that this exclusion is cruel, short-sighted and unfair.
Although I have concerns about this bill, as I've outlined, a national redress scheme is crucial to the more than 60,000 survivors of institutional child sexual abuse. No amount of money can make up for the pain and trauma experienced by survivors, but redress is an important step along the road to healing for survivors of child sexual abuse. When the royal commission released their interim report in 2015, Labor was the first to announce support for a national redress scheme. It took the Turnbull government until 2016 to commit to a redress scheme. It is very encouraging that Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory have all publicly announced that they will participate in the national redress scheme. I encourage the three other jurisdictions to also sign up to the scheme. For survivors to obtain justice, the scheme must be a national scheme. I urge churches, charities, and other institutions to stand up and be counted and to opt into the redress scheme now. I urge the parishioners and supporters, people connected with these institutions, to tell them to sign up for the scheme now. Whatever has happened is in the past, but it must be remedied in the future, and the future must include a national redress scheme. Working together, Australia can move forward. We must not forget the past, obviously, but we must make sure it is never, ever repeated again, and that is a task for all of us.
Labor will work with the government to address these concerns, because a national redress scheme is so important, and it's important right now. The bills have been referred to a Senate inquiry. This inquiry will allow the community to be consulted on points of difference in these bills and the earlier Commonwealth legislation. The inquiry is due to report to the Senate before the Senate next sits. With the proposed start date of the bills being 1 July 2018, barely a month away, the Senate inquiry will not delay the start of the scheme. Labor fully understands the importance of a national redress scheme, so we will support this bill in the House and, as always, we will continue discussions with the government to resolve the concerns that we hold about these bills. A national redress scheme is too important to delay any further, and it is too important, equally, to get wrong.
So, to all of the survivors who had the courage to tell their stories and to sit in those rooms, both public and private, with the commissioners I say thank you. I will do all I can make to make sure the national redress scheme is the best that it can possibly be. To the commissioners and all their staff, I again say thank you. I would like to finish with the words of a survivor in a note sent to the royal commission so that the words of these courageous people who spoke up are the final words in my speech, because it is because of their courage that we have this legislation in front of the House right now:
Thank you for the opportunity to tell my story—you cannot know what it meant to be listened to with such respect and made to feel what happened to me really mattered. I hope my experience will help to promote the change needed to prevent this ever happening to another child.