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

6:42 pm

Photo of Maria VamvakinouMaria Vamvakinou (Calwell, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I'm very pleased to follow the member for Canberra and other colleagues in this place to speak on the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Bill 2018 and a cognate bill. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was highly significant to many constituents in my electorate. These individuals have struggled for decades to overcome the terrible memories, ongoing health problems, interrupted education and shattered trust resulting from institutional childhood abuse. One of those constituents is Wendy Dyckhoff.

I've mentioned Wendy in this place a few times before and I'm always pleased to acknowledge her again. Wendy herself was the victim of awful childhood abuse while growing up in a number of different institutions in Victoria. She's now a very hardworking advocate for the local forgotten Australians. She's a wonderful woman who always gives to us and to our community, despite her own personal grief and experiences. On behalf of those forgotten Australians in my electorate, almost all who suffered varying degrees of child sexual abuse, I acknowledge the important work that the royal commission has undertaken. I acknowledge how valuable the process has been by giving time, space and serious attention to the many horrific stories that these victims of abuse and their families have been able to tell.

I know that a forum with the status of a royal commission, in providing survivors with the chance to give their own account and, most importantly, be properly listened to and believed, has been of great healing benefit. Wendy and others have spoken to me in detail about the importance of this healing process. However, the healing process has not been completed and cannot be without the timely finalisation of an adequate national redress scheme. Sadly, for many, the healing can never be completed, including of course for those who have passed away, many much too early in their tragic lives. For others, however, it is vital that the work of the royal commission is given its full effect by paying heed to its recommendations. As the member for Jagajaga stated last week:

The Commissioners had spent five years considering their recommendations and they must not be ignored.

Those people who have already suffered such terrible betrayal of trust by those in positions of power are relying on us, the federal parliament, to ensure that they can now trust again. We have heard them and we will honour them.

A national redress scheme must be established as a vital step along the path to healing. No amount of money can make up for the pain and trauma experienced by survivors, nor can it bring back the years of lost education, replace lost health or rebuild shattered relationships. But it can make a difference to those who face real financial difficulty as they age, largely as a result of their past experiences. Wendy Dyckhoff has explained to me the high risk that ageing, forgotten Australians face of homelessness, serious health problems and lack of support networks as a result of having lost so many family links. In light of this, financial redress cannot be dismissed as insignificant and we must be as generous as possible.

Beyond that, redress is a vital process for our nation to acknowledge the hurt, distress and trauma that has been suffered. Along with redress payments, it's important that survivors have the opportunity to receive a direct personal response from the relevant institution and, of course, we need to ensure that survivors are able to receive appropriate and adequate support services, as well, including ongoing counselling.

I'm deeply concerned that the provisions of this bill will not be adequate in this regard. I'm also concerned about the limits that will be placed on those who have been sentenced to a term of imprisonment of five years or more. We know that the links between childhood abuse, severe childhood disadvantage generally and the likelihood of incarceration are well documented. In fact, the whole cycle of poverty, disadvantage and often a self-perpetuating relationship with the justice system are matters that warrant some serious attention, but that debate is for another time, and I acknowledge that.

I want to thank Wendy Dyckhoff and her fellow local activists for their passionate advocacy for the right to tell their stories. Wendy herself went back to school, at Kangan TAFE, to learn how to write well, specifically so that she could tell her story and encourage others to do the same. She offered enormous support and encouragement to all those she knew in making submissions to the royal commission and appearing before it. It is on Wendy's behalf, along with all the other forgotten Australians of Calwell who have put their faith in the royal commission and their hopes in a National Redress Scheme, that I urge the government to address Labor's concerns about this bill. So many people have invested their hopes in this outcome. It is important that we do not let them down. It is important that we get the redress scheme right.


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