Following the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Abuse, a number of changes were made to make it easier for abuse survivors to pursue compensation for their abuse. While this was great news for survivors who were yet to come forward, many survivors had already been forced to accept lower settlements because of the legal difficulties that were now being addressed.
Institutions like the Catholic Church, Anglican Church, Christian Brothers and State & Territory Governments used the legal situation to their advantage, offering settlements well below full value, knowing survivors would struggle to win the case in court.
From 2018 onwards, State Governments around Australia have addressed this situation by passing laws allowing courts to set aside past settlements relating to child abuse. Courts have the power to set aside these agreements if they consider it to be ‘just and reasonable to do so’.
Factors that a court may look at in determining if it is ‘just and reasonable’ to set aside an agreement may include the settlement amount, the bargaining position of the parties and the conduct of the institution.
If you settled your child abuse case prior to 2018, you may be eligible for further compensation. Click here if you would like us to review your case.
Some of the main beneficiaries of this change may be survivors who went through compensation schemes such as the ‘Melbourne Response’, which made capped payments of $50,000 (and later $75,000) to survivors, who were required to sign a settlement agreement waiving their right to further legal action. However, survivors from a wide variety of other institutions may also be eligible.
Encouragingly, courts around the country have confirmed a willingness to use these new powers in favour of survivors; in 2020, the Supreme Court of Victoria set aside a $32,500 settlement for a former Catholic altar boy abused by Father Daniel Hourigan, while in Western Australia a victim of abuse in Bindoon Farm School succeeded in having the court set aside prior settlements of $400,000.
Survivors around the country need to be aware of these changes and the possibility that they may be entitled to further compensation. Though not everyone will be successful, we recommend that anyone who received a settlement prior to 2018 seeks legal advice to find out if they may be eligible.
Kelso Lawyers is passionate about helping abuse survivors seek justice. Peter Kelso handpicks our team to take up the fight against powerful institutions and extract meaningful compensation for victims.
If you would like us to review your case to see if you may be entitled to further compensation, click here to share your story or call us on (02) 4907 4200.
Feature Image: Pexels