National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse (Commonwealth Powers) Bill
The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (17:08): I rise in support of this bill. Last year the royal commission into institutional child sexual abuse handed down its final report following a five year inquiry. The commission recommended that redress be made to victims of child sexual abuse, and the commonwealth government established the National Redress Scheme in response. I commend the Marshall government for signing up to the National Redress Scheme, as I understand the former government was unwilling to do so.
A person who has suffered sexual abuse at the hands of participating organisations will be able to make a claim through the National Redress Scheme. Their claim is then independently assessed for monetary compensation, access to counselling and psychological services and a response from the offending organisation, if a response is requested by the victim.
It was recognised that the civil process for victims of child sex abuse to receive compensation was arduous and often revictimising. It is hoped that by having the National Redress Scheme it will provide a better mechanism for victims to not only receive monetary compensation but also to receive access to counselling services and receive a response from the offending institution about the abuse. It can often take a long time for people to disclose their childhood abuse and often people do not feel that they can take on big institutions such as the church or the government. As a result, they simply do not try. It is hoped that the National Redress Scheme will assist with this.
I understand there is no scope to amend any of the details of the scheme as it is a national scheme established by the federal government. However, I would like to put on the record that I am concerned that the scheme will only run for 10 years. Whilst awareness of abuse has increased, it is still occurring in the community. It was only three years ago that Shannon McCoole was sentenced to 35 years in gaol for sexually abusing babies and young children in state care. If his victims take the average 20 years to disclose, they will miss out on the scheme. I understand that the government may be making other arrangements for those specific victims, but it seems short-sighted to close off the scheme for other victims.
Similarly, I am concerned that there is a monetary cap on access to psychological services. Given the long-term effect this sort of abuse has on a person, it also seems very short-sighted to put a cap on psychological and counselling services. Ideally this would be expanded so that victims can receive the support they need without having to fear that the clock is ticking and the money will dry up. Whilst I acknowledge that there is nothing that can be done to take back the hurt and harm caused to children who were abused when they should have been kept safe, I hope the National Redress Scheme will go a little way towards assisting in the healing.
My heart truly goes out to all victims, and I pay tribute to those brave individuals who have had the courage to fight and speak up about the abuse they suffered. I know there are probably many more who have been unable to have the same strength and I truly hope that the National Redress Scheme will help in some way for the pain and suffering victims have experienced.