The truth about the National Redress Scheme

What the politicians haven’t told you

resized-australia-image July 12, 2018 by Peter Kelso

The National Redress Scheme (the NRS) has passed through federal parliament and will start taking applications on 1 July 2018.

This has been a hot topic since the Royal Commission ended in December 2017; all the States and Territories of Australia have agreed to take part. All the biggest churches and charities have signed up too. The politicians have rushed through the new laws to make sure the Scheme starts as promised on 1 July.

But is the Redress Scheme right for all survivors of institutional child sex abuse?

Peter Kelso is an expert in abuse compensation and knows all the pitfalls to watch out for.

Here is some sound advice for all survivors of sexual abuse perpetrated by those in an institution or church:

1. Talk to a lawyer before you contact the NRS.

The NRS isn’t for everyone. In fact, most survivors will be better off claiming directly against the church, government or charity BEFORE they apply to the NRS. You should talk to a specialist solicitor BEFORE you contact the Scheme. The solicitor will assess your case and will make sure you have the best chance to receive the maximum redress. Don’t make the mistake of going in unrepresented. You literally get one chance to get it right. If you don’t accept what you are offered your application lapses and you get nothing. Don’t let that happen.

2. Do not apply to the NRS if you have NEVER received any compensation from the church, government or charity.

Once you accept money from the NRS the door will shut and you will be locked out of receiving any more payments. Do not make this mistake.

3. There is no need to rush.

The Scheme will be open for ten years. There is time to explore all the options. Don’t be rushed into redress by advocacy groups who mean well but aren’t qualified to give legal advice. Even submitting an application can have unintended consequences; once the NRS makes an offer there is no turning back. If you don’t accept what you are offered you will get nothing and you can’t re-apply again.

4. Do not apply to the NRS without getting expert legal advice

The NRS will want you to speak to their free lawyers. Their lawyers are NOT independent and they will not be experts. ONLY speak to lawyers who have a wealth of experience with abuse compensation and know all the pitfalls. It’s a complicated area of the law. Don’t find out when it’s too late that you have been sold short. There is too much at stake.

5. The NRS will not help you unless you were SEXUALLY abused

You have to apply directly to the institutions for compensation for claims of serious physical abuse. Only a solicitor can help you with this.

6. The NRS will not help you if you were abused by a foster parent while you were a ward of the State.

You will need a solicitor to make a claim against the State government directly. This is a complex area of the law.

7. All decisions of the NRS are final;

You cannot appeal a decision from the National Redress Scheme. If the Scheme makes you an offer you don’t agree with you can only ask for the decision to be reviewed by another Decision Maker at the NRS. Then you have six months to take the last offer. If you miss the deadline it’s all over. The offer is withdrawn and the door shuts. You cannot apply again. Your only hope is to find a lawyer to take your case to the High Court. And that will cost you thousands of dollars. The politicians removed the right to appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to keep the cost of the Scheme as cheap as possible and to force victims to take what they are offered.

Remember… You won’t find anyone who has been happy with what they got from a government-operated redress scheme.

Queensland had the Forde Scheme, Western Australia had a scheme and so did Tasmania. None of these so-called ‘statutory schemes’ have benefited survivors. The schemes offered peanuts and treated survivors like homeless people begging for bread.

Governments have an appalling record in this area.

The way this bill has been written is of a particular concern. The very fact there is no right of appeal for these payments will have a negative impact on individuals who sign up for the NRS only to find their payment is much lower than what they deserve. Once they’ve found out, it’s too late. The NRS will NOT be paying you for lost income or loss of earning capacity. These things are a huge red flag for victims and families of victims.

The area of historical sexual abuse law is complex.

The National Redress Scheme will be Malcolm Turnbull’s shining legacy – but in fact it has been thrown together in a big rush and passed without listening to all the warnings. It will be divisive. It won’t offer the money or the justice you deserve. It’s not what the Royal Commission recommended.

There will be some survivors who are excluded.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses are the only church of any size which has refused to sign up to the NRS. It has not issued a blanket apology to its victims. You will have to see a solicitor if you want justice from the JW’s. This secretive organisation will not admit any wrongdoing. It has to be sued in the civil courts which can be risky and expensive.

If you would like to learn more about how Kelso Lawyers can help you with a claim through the National Redress Scheme, contact our team today.

If you would like more information on claiming compensation for the abuse you suffered, download our guide to compensation today.