Closer to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Survivors

Published:

The Joint Select Committee on the Implementation of the National Redress Scheme has tabled its first Interim Report today.

The Interim Report is a key part of the Committee's role to monitor the implementation of the National Redress Scheme.

The Committee chose to release the Interim Report both to reassure survivors that their voices are being heard and to help direct the Second Anniversary Review of the Scheme, set to commence prior to 1 July 2020.

Committee Chair Senator Dean Smith believes these proactive steps are necessary.

"Time is now the enemy of many survivors," he said.

"With the Second Anniversary Review rapidly approaching it is important to produce an Interim Report to highlight priority issues and inform the direction of the Review."

 "It also tells survivors that their experiences have not been forgotten and the issues they have identified will be front and centre as the Scheme evolves over the next twelve months."

The Interim Report notes that, while progress has been made, much more needs to be done to improve the experience of survivors when seeking redress through the Scheme.

This Interim Report recommends the Second Legislated Anniversary Review be undertaken by an individual familiar with the operation of redress schemes, include the participation of survivors, and report by 30 January 2021.

A number of issues identified in the Interim Report can be addressed immediately to improve the survivor experience, including:
  • removing the requirement for a Statutory Declaration to accompany each application for redress; and
  • amendment to the indexation of prior payments, so that indexation is applied up until the date an application is submitted, rather than the date of payment offer.

Institutions that have so far failed to join the Scheme remain the Committee's most pressing issue and it has recommended the Scheme obtain a written statement from each institution that has not joined prior to the deadline of 30 June 2020.

These statements must detail reasons for their delay, a list of the key officers of the institution, the expected joining date, and all financial benefits accrued by means of their charitable status and/or other sources of public funding or concessions received.

The Committee has recommended the list of institutions and their written statements be published on the National Redress Scheme website one week prior to 30 June 2020.

"The Committee feels strongly that every possible action must be taken against those institutions which fail to uphold their moral, social and ethical responsibilities by declining or delaying their participation in the Scheme," Senator Smith said.

"It believes early and full disclosure of non-participation by institutions is absolutely justified in the pursuit of justice for survivors of institutional sexual abuse."

The Committee has also recommended that the Minister for Social Services convene the Minister's Redress Scheme Governance Board by 30 July 2020 to review those institutions that have declined to join the Scheme, and to determine what actions will be taken to remove the charitable status and/or other sources of public funding or concessions from non-participating institutions.

Further recommendations in the Interim Report include:
  • greater transparency, including timeframe flowcharts to help survivors track their application and a direct complaint avenue for them to use;
  • adequate, timely access to counselling and psychological care services; and
  • immediately take steps to be as responsive as possible to the potential psychological and logistical effects COVD-19 may have on survivors. 

The Interim Report does not consider all aspects of the National Redress Scheme, but the Committee has agreed to examine certain complex matters in greater detail and provide a second Interim Report by 30 January 2021.

In the meantime, Senator Smith thanked survivors, their families, and the advocacy groups who have made themselves available and shared their experiences.

"Our efforts must be placed on meeting the expectations set by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and then by the official Apology, so we can deliver justice and some closure for survivors and their families," he said.

"Most importantly, survivors can be re-assured the Parliament continues to hear you."
 
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