Lawyer slams Mr Turnbull’s National Redress Scheme

Malcolm Turnbull

This time last year the Prime Minister announced the Commonwealth Government was committed to a $4.3 billion National Redress Scheme (NRS) to compensate victims of child abuse.

The Scheme was applauded by advocacy groups and the Catholic Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council. Fifteen people were appointed to a salaried advisory committee with a 10-year tenure. The Turnbull government had bought their support.

We were told the NRS will start accepting applications for redress in mid-2018. Right now the committee and many public servants are simply trying to agree on what the NRS will do and what it won’t do. This seems to be a lot harder than you think. The ongoing impasse explains why nobody can tell us what’s happening.

That’s because when the State governments and the churches get behind closed doors, they all say what they really think. And it’s not good for victims.

Let me summarise what many victims are expecting from a scheme which was recommended by the Royal Commission.

Firstly, you have to appreciate that many victims assume the Royal Commission represents all child abuse victims; advocacy groups welcomed the Royal Commission and made friends with the Chair, Justice Peter McClellan. They invited him to speak at their events and issued him with achievement awards. The Chair appointed their leaders to attend round table discussion groups and gave them direct access to the Commission’s top people. There was a lot of goodwill. So when Peter McClellan issued his recommendation for the NRS the victims’ groups were publicly thankful. They had to be.

But behind the scenes, there is murmuring going on.

And so there should be. The NRS which Turnbull announced isn’t what the victims want.

The National Redress Scheme is NOT going to pay victims $150,000 each.

The cap on cash payouts is $150,000. Most victims think they will be paid $150,000 in addition to the money they have received from the churches or the State governments. This is not true. A lot of people are going to be disappointed. This has not been adequately explained to them.

The NRS is for institutional child sexual abuse victims only

You will miss out if you weren’t abused sexually. You will also miss out if you were abused at home or by family, as opposed to within an institution. This hasn’t been fully explained. Many people hoping to benefit from the NRS will be shut out.

State wards in foster homes will not be provided for under the NRS

This is hard to believe.

But those who were sexually abused in government-run children’s homes (you know, the big ones like Parramatta and Winlaton) will be compensated but not the children who spent years and years being raped and abused by their government-appointed foster parents.

They won’t be eligible for an apology, compensation, or even recognition of the abuse they suffered at the hands of their government-selected foster parents.

The Catholic Church will save millions of dollars under the National Redress Scheme

Most of you will feel utterly betrayed when you realise that payouts under the Scheme for Catholic victims will be much less than what the Church is already paying privately.

This is because the average payout by the NRS will be around $50,000. At the moment, payouts negotiated by private lawyers are a lot higher.

Mr Turnbull has even appointed a Catholic Church spokesman to the NRS advisory committee. This is shocking, considering the Catholic Church has the highest rate of child sexual abuse victims out of any institution. So why are they sitting on a panel with victims’ representatives?

It’s because the Church will be making most of the payments so they would like to have a say and the Commonwealth needs the Church to cooperate. Make sense?

There are no private lawyers on the advisory panel

Read this list of appointees on the advisory panel. There are politicians, public servants, church leaders, advocacy group leaders and intellectuals.

There’s no one with any current practical experience of actually conducting a compensation claim for a victim.

Private lawyers are the experts in this field. Yet none have been appointed. This might be because the Commonwealth Government doesn’t want anyone involved who might be critical of the Scheme.

Some of the appointments are surprising; why on earth is one spot taken up by the Uniting Church?

Why has Knowmore got a seat when this organisation will be defunct by the end of 2017?

Why is there a seat taken up by a disability service? And, as already mentioned, what is the Catholic Church doing at the table?

What needs to be done?

There is a place for the NRS. But let’s get the Scheme right. Here are some recommendations for improving the National Redress Scheme:

  • Increase the cap to $500,000 as recommended by the Australian Lawyers Alliance. A cap of $150,000 is useless to victims who have been impacted severely by their childhood trauma. (Justice McClellan actually recommended $200,000.)
  • Include ALL victims of institutional child abuse; include everyone abused sexually, physically, emotionally.
  • Include those abused in foster home placements. They were under the ‘care’ of the State Governments too.
  • Appoint an advisory panel of people who understand how to draw up and administer a statutory compensation scheme. Get rid of the politicians, career public servants, intellectuals and church representatives.

Our Governments and related institutions need to take real responsibility for the damage they’ve done. Simply handing out measly amounts of compensation is an insult to the trauma victims have suffered.

We can help you achieve the compensation you deserve. Complete our Institutional Child Abuse information form and we will be in touch.



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