Royal Commission Into Institutional Abuse

Learn more about the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

What you need to know about the Royal Commission Into Institutional Abuse

Australia’s dark history of clerical and institutional abuse of children finally came to light after decades of denial and disbelief, the voices of child abuse survivors were heard.

In 2009, hundreds of survivors gathered in Canberra to hear the Prime Minister apologise to the 500,000 “Forgotten Australians” who experienced neglect and abuse in orphanages and institutions between 1930 and 1970.

“We support child sexual abuse victims in telling their stories to the Royal Commission, lifting the silence on these horrific crimes. Our team of specialist lawyers also work with clients to achieve the best possible compensation payments and meaningful apologies.”

In 2012, a Royal Commission Into Institutional Abuse was established to investigate how institutions like churches, schools and sporting groups have responded to allegations of child sexual abuse.

Survivors of child abuse who were once ashamed of their history and haunted by their abusers had the chance to tell their stories. They told of how their lives were devastated by what happened to them as children.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Royal Commission Into Institutional Abuse

Compensation is very important. It can help restore you to a position in life which you might have occupied if not for the abuse that you suffered as a child.

Compensation and an apology can help you get your breakthrough. The fair recognition of your pain can help you begin to feel free from the controlling thoughts that have plagued you since you first suffered abuse.

The Royal Commission does not award compensation to victims, however it recommended the establishment of a national redress scheme – the Redress Scheme was launched in July 2018.

Abuse compensation for survivors can also be awarded through a process called civil litigation. In light of the damning evidence presented at the Royal Commission, institutions are now more willing to negotiate just compensation payments. They are also more likely to apologise to survivors of abuse.

There has never been a better time to seek compensation for child sexual abuse.

“Thanks to the professionals at Kelso Lawyers my life has changed completely for the better. They fought for my right to be compensated for my terrible childhood abuse at the hands of the Catholic Church.” Margaret Heathwood

Peter Kelso takes a special interest in survivors of clerical and institutional abuse. Peter grew up in institutional care and has experienced abuse first hand. Read Peter’s story. Now a lawyer, Peter has represented survivors of abuse for 30 years and has recovered tens of millions of dollars in compensation for them.

Please complete our claimant information form urgently if you think you may be entitled to child abuse compensation.

Excessive legal costs and drawn-out legal processes can be a barrier to some abuse survivors seeking compensation. Clients with smaller or complex cases can also find it difficult to find a legal firm willing to take on their case.

We never want to see a matter where one of our clients receives less money than we do.

It is important to us that all clients – no matter how large or small their case – have equal access to our experience and expertise. For this reason, Kelso Lawyers have developed a costs agreement specifically for these clients. It is a no-win-no-fee style agreement that means that if we are unsuccessful, clients do not pay our costs.

Our sliding-scale approach to fees means that clients who receive large awards pay larger costs; while clients with small awards pay smaller costs. We never want to see a matter where one of our clients receives less money than we do.

How to get compensation

Fill in the Claimant Information Sheet
Our team will review your inquiry & the facts of the case
Peter Kelso, founder & director, will talk to you personally to hear your story
We will send you a letter with our no-win, no-fee costs agreement
When we receive the signed agreement, our solicitors will start work on the case
Our solicitors will deal directly with the government & institutions to achieve the best possible results
Our solicitors will negotiate a compensation payment & apology on your behalf with the relevant body
Medicare & Centrelink are notified of the incoming payment
Our solicitors will finalise the legal papers
We pay your compensation into your selected bank account

Royal Commission Into Institutional Abuse (Q&A)

State and Federal governments can instigate various types of inquiries. A Royal Commission has the most far reaching powers to investigate, gather evidence and question witnesses. It is commissioned in the name of the Queen by the Governor General of Australia.

A Royal Commission is bound to investigate issues set out in its “Terms of Reference”. These are the matters which the Crown wants investigated.

At times, you may find yourself wondering why the Royal Commission did not investigate a particular area of child abuse like family violence or physical abuse. This is because these issues were not included in this Commission’s Terms of Reference.

It is also important to understand that a Royal Commission is not a court. Although it looks a lot like a court and hearings are usually held in a courtroom with judges, lawyers and barristers, a Royal Commission’s sole function is to investigate, collect information and provide recommendations to governments and institutions.

Royal Commission hearings are much more flexible than courts. They are not bound by rules of evidence. Witnesses can be directly questioned by Commissioners and procedures can be relaxed to accommodate the needs of survivors.

However, it is also important to realise that the Royal Commission will not usually comment on whether an allegation is true or false, or if someone is guilty or innocent. That is a function for the courts.

In saying that, it is not uncommon for the Royal Commission to pass evidence on to police in order to assist a criminal investigation.

Former Prime Minister, the Honourable Julia Gillard, and former Attorney General, the Honourable Nicola Roxon MP announced the Royal Commission in November 2012.

The Terms of Reference were established and six Commissioners were appointed in January 2013. The first public hearing commenced in September 2013.

The Royal Commission was initially funded to run until the end of 2015, but requested a two-year extension, which was granted by the Federal Government. The Commission’s final report was handed down on 15 December 2017.

In 2015, the Royal Commission recommended that the Federal Government establish a National Redress Scheme to provide the survivors of institutional child sex abuse with equitable access to compensation.

The Scheme is funded by the offending institutions. 

However, since it’s establishment, the National Redress Scheme has been a national failure.

The maximum payment available is $150,000. However, so far, the average pay-out for survivors is $83,376.

Only 15% of the expected number of applications has been received.

As of January 2021, the Scheme:

  • had received 9,232 applications
  • had made 5,487 decisions
  • issued 4,971 outcomes
  • finalised 4,660 applications, including 4,620 payments totaling approximately $385.2 million
  • had made 589 offers of redress, which are currently with applicants to consider
  • was processing 3,460 applications.


The Matrix for calculating redress payments is harsh and unforgiving. Survivors of institutional abuse are more likely to achieve the maximum payment through a civil compensation claim.

There are ten steps to claiming compensation:

1. Complete a Claimant Information Form or phone Kelso Lawyers.

2. Claim assessed for eligibility for compensation.

3. Have a personal conversation with founder and principal, Peter Kelso.

4. Receive a letter of introduction and our Conditional Costs Agreement. These documents need to be signed and returned before we commence proceedings.

5. Ensure that you have a professional and personal support network in place.

6. Case assigned to one of Kelso Lawyers’ experienced solicitors to prepare the case.

7. Make a statement.

8. Attend mediation where compensation payment will be determined and a verbal and written apology made.

9. Notify relevant Government agencies of impending compensation payment.

10. Receive compensation and an apology.

Yes you can sue the individuals if they have abused you. However, we recommend attempting to achieve compensation through the relevant government bodies. Since the landmark Armes v Nottinghamshire County Council case ruling, the British legal system has opened a window of opportunity for victims of abuse to pursue the local government for compensation in abuse cases.

Every case is different depending on the claim – however most compensation claims are finalised in around 12 months.

No, you won’t have to face your perpetrator. You will meet with senior representatives of the church, institution, government department, but you will not have to face your abuser.

The team here at Kelso Lawyers aren’t certified medical professionals, however we have an extensive list of support services we recommend for victims of abuse. Please refer to the page for the specific support group you require.