House debates

Wednesday, 1 September 2021


National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Amendment Bill 2021; Second Reading

12:12 pm

Photo of Fiona MartinFiona Martin (Reid, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to support the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Amendment Bill 2021. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse handed down its final report in December 2017. This was after decades of denial of responsibility, of hiding the truth, of institutions and individuals silencing survivors and avoiding reality. We were provided with the stark reality of the crimes, trauma and acts of evil that had been perpetrated against children over many years, often by those tasked with caring for them.

The royal commission shone a light on the experiences of survivors of child sexual abuse. They told their stories and we listened. We believed them. More than 4,000 individual institutions were reported as places where abuse had occurred, with the youngest victim the royal commission interviewed being just seven years of age. More than half of the survivors were aged between 10 and 14 years when they were sexually abused. We know the journey for survivors of child sexual abuse is traumatic and extremely challenging. For many survivors the abuse they suffered can have profound and broad-ranging impacts, with individuals experiencing a diverse range of ongoing health problems, including mental and physical health problems.

The Morrison government remains absolutely committed to survivors of institutional child sexual abuse. The government has introduced this amendment bill in response to the Final report: second year review of the National Redress Scheme, undertaken by Ms Robyn Kruk AO. That review made clear that changes were needed in order to ensure that the scheme meets it intention of being survivor centred, humane and a less onerous option than civil action.

The government remains committed to continuing to improve the Redress Scheme over its 10-year life. As it stands, the Redress Scheme covers approximately 66,400 sites across Australia. In addition, over 6,100 payments, totalling approximately $519 million have been paid to survivors to date. This amendment bill will establish a $10,000 advance payment for applicants who are elderly or who are terminally ill. This will ensure that survivors have a form of recognition of their abuse early in their application process while they wait for their redress outcome. To assist survivors, they will not need to apply for the advance payment—rather, this scheme will identify eligible applications after receiving a valid redress application or at any time during the application process. It will then offer the advance payment to the survivor.

The bill also changes the date for which indexation of a prior payment is calculated to when a survivor submits an application to the scheme, rather than the date their application is determined. It will also enable flexibility to extend the period in which an applicant can accept their redress offer, and will allow the period for the survivor to seek a review to be extended to be consistent with the acceptance period. It will also introduce the ability for the scheme operator to make redress payments in instalments, to give survivors choice and control over how they receive their payment. The bill also removes the requirement for a statutory declaration application form.

On this last point: while it may seem small, I believe it will have a profoundly important impact. We note that one of the key things we heard and learned from the royal commission was that simply an acknowledgement of belief in a survivor's story can be very significant. Let's remember that some survivors have spent their lives just fighting to be believed. As the second-year review noted, many survivors consider the requirement for a statutory declaration questions the integrity of their application.

The review also made clear that some survivors have difficulty in complying with this step due to being homeless, living in a community where they do not have a birth certificate or if they have concerns about confidentiality, especially in regional communities or for people who have literacy difficulties. Survivors are also required to provide proof-of-identity documentation despite, in many instances, being in receipt of other national government health or social care payments.

The measures in this bill have been agreed to by all states and territories, and the government has committed $80 million over four years in the 2021-2022 budget to support implementation of the recommendations of the second-year review. I recognise that this bill does not address all of the review's 38 recommendations. The government has made clear that it will continue to progress the other recommendations, many of which constitute major changes to the scheme. It will continue to work with stakeholders, and plans to release a final response to the review in early 2022.

From the outset, the government has always been committed to ensuring survivors have access to redress, and the measures in this bill, along with the other work of the government, will ensure the scheme is more survivor focused and trauma informed, enabling fairer outcomes for survivors. It will enhance a survivor's access to redress.


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