For survivors of Institutional sexual abuse, any amount of legal financial compensation may not be enough compared to the pain they have gone through. When it comes to abuse, survivors face psychological and physical injuries that may never heal properly throughout their life.
Moreover, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Childhood Sexual Abuse, has explored the legal history of survivors. Countless survivors have either chosen silence to hide their pain, or abusers and other individuals in authority forced them to receive inadequate settlements. Moreover, they also stopped them from applying for future claims.
Hence, after the changes to the law, survivors now have legal options that they can seek for compensation. These include a damages claim or a legal claim under the National Redress Scheme.
National Redress Scheme
The Royal Commission, among many recommendations, focused on introducing a National Redress Scheme. If the responsible institution participates in the scheme, the survivor will receive compensation.
Survivors may seek the following compensations through this Scheme –
- A calculated financial compensation based on type of abuse and institution. Depending on the severity of the cases, the highest amount it $150,000
- Payment for psychological treatment.
- The institution will receive a request for a personal apology. This could be either an explanation of the actions taken for the safety of children, or a senior member’s apology.
The Royal Commission also recommended governments introduce legal claims against recent or decades-old institutional abuse. The claim may differ in each state in Australia. However, the principles are identical. Here’s how a damages claim can help a survivor –
- A legal claim for the harm caused by the abuse. This includes loss of jobs and earnings in the past.
- A legal claim for the injuries and suffering of the survivor.
- Reimbursement of any past treatments and/or financial redress for future treatments.
- A personal apology from the responsible institution.
Which one do I choose?
One of the benefits of a damages claim is the financial compensation. Unlike the redress scheme, damages claim can be worth more than $150,000 for several cases. The Judge will calculate the payment with context to previous payments issued for survivors.
With the National Redress Scheme, the most severe case receives $150,000. However, many survivors will not be eligible for this payment, despite the impact of the abuse.
Since the National Redress Scheme was recently established, the processing times are unclear. Out of the 4,000 survivors who filed their claims, only 215 received their financial compensation. However, while the processing will speed up eventually, the Scheme is valid for 10 years only. The Scheme will stop accepting applications after 30 June 2027.
However, even if the Redress Scheme ends, you will be able to file for a damages claim – only if you have not accepted a payment through the Redress Scheme.
All survivors will not qualify for the National Redress Scheme. If the responsible institution has not participated in the scheme willingly, the government cannot force them. Hence, the survivor will not be eligible.
Moreover, only Australian citizens or permanent residents will be eligible for the scheme. If you are in jail or have served a sentence of 5 years or more, you will not qualify for the scheme.
However, there are no such restrictions to file a damages claim, unless you have already received a payment through the scheme.