Conclusions and recommendations
Concluding committee view
The committee agrees with the universal view put forward by witnesses
and submitters that a Redress Scheme for Survivors of Institutional Child
Sexual Abuse (Redress Scheme) is a vital step in addressing cases of historical
child sexual abuse. The committee also believes the Redress Scheme will help to
ensure institutions become 'child safe' for future generations.
The committee is strongly supportive of the 'Objects for the Act' of the
Commonwealth Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Bill 2017
(Redress Bill), which are to recognise and alleviate the impact of past
institutional child sexual abuse and to provide justice for the survivors of
that abuse. The committee further supports the inclusion of the guiding
principle that redress under the scheme should be survivor focussed. Enacting
these goals will assist Redress Scheme decision-makers, whenever necessary, to
return to the basic principle of justice for survivors.
The committee believes it is important for all parties to the Redress
Scheme to act in accordance with those principles. There is no higher duty for
the Australian Parliament than the protection of our nation's children. There
is no greater obligation on the Australian legal system than seeking justice
for our most vulnerable victims. There is no deeper responsibility for
institutions liable for child sexual abuse than to shoulder the burden of
making reparations to the children they so terribly failed.
The recommendations of this committee are made in accordance with the
principles enshrined in the Redress Bill.
Comments on provisions
The committee recognises the deep concerns of survivors that the
voluntary nature of the Redress Scheme, combined with a two year deadline for
non-government institutions (NGIs) to opt in, creates a traumatic waiting
period for survivors. Should an NGI decide not to participate, this could leave
survivors for whom civil litigation is not an option with no opportunity for
The committee recommends the Australian Government should consider
reducing the two year deadline for institutions to opt in to the Redress
Scheme, and should consider options to encourage greater participation in the
Redress Scheme, as outlined in chapter two.
The committee heard concerns from submitters and witnesses about the
range of matters to be contained in the rules of the Redress Scheme, which have
not yet been finalised. The committee acknowledges that the Australian
Government is in active negotiations with the states and territories and NGIs around
Australia about their participation in the Redress Scheme. As such, it is
difficult for the Department of Social Services (Department) to publish rules,
some of which are still very much in flux. Notwithstanding this, the Department
should take the earliest possible opportunity to provide greater clarity on
potential rules, such as those impacting non‑citizen survivors, and the
proposed exclusion of serious criminal offenders.
The committee recommends the Department should ensure that planned
consultations on the rules of the Redress Scheme include survivors'
representative groups, and ensure information on rules is communicated as it
The amount of the redress payment and the assessment matrix is also of
great concern to survivors. A great deal of focus in evidence to the inquiry was
on the perceived payment cap reduction to $150 000 from the $200 000 cap
proposed by the Royal Commission. The committee further notes evidence that many
potential applicants may believe they would receive a maximum payment, and that
discussion of the payment cap raises expectations in the community which may
lead to further trauma.
The committee notes the views of Professor Kathleen Daly, an expert on redress
schemes, that in designing a redress payment, the average payment is of greater
importance than a higher payment cap. Professor Daly also informed the
committee that an international review of similar scheme shows the proposed
Redress Scheme average payment is in the upper level of scheme payments worldwide.
The committee supports the proposal by the Department that in designing
a payment matrix, the focus should be on the average payments of the Redress
Scheme, not the maximum payment. This focus will ensure a higher payment to
more people overall. The committee supports the Department's planned average payment
which is calculated to be $11 000 higher than the average payments proposed by
the Royal Commission.
The committee recommends the Department should actively engage with
survivors' representative groups to provide clear communications for survivors,
the community and media on how decisions will be made and matters that will be
taken into account in making those decisions. Where necessary communication
should reference the average payment amount rather than focussing on the
maximum redress payment.
Concern was expressed throughout the inquiry on the range of related
non-sexual abuse that would be taken into account during the assessment
process. Survivors reported that, in many cases, this abuse had as deep an
impact as sexual abuse and should form a significant proportion of the final
Further concerns were raised by many submitters and witnesses that the
Redress Scheme excludes children who were subjected to non-sexual abuse only.
Abuse suffered by tens of thousands of children in care included heinous physical,
psychological, emotional and cultural abuse.
The committee is aware of the deep and abiding impacts that non-sexual
abuse has had on the lives of survivors, particularly care-leavers.
The committee is strongly supportive of the establishment of this
Redress Scheme to address historic cases of institutional child sexual abuse.
However, the committee is also of the view that the non-sexual abuse of
children in care requires greater thought and focus from all levels of
government and Australian society in general.
The committee recommends that, in further developing the operational assessment
elements of the Redress Scheme, the Department take into consideration the
long-term impact of non-sexual abuse on survivors, including the needs of
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander survivors.
The inclusion of counselling services as part of redress was universally
acknowledged by submitters and witnesses as being of vital importance to assist
survivors. There was confusion as to the amount of counselling that the Redress
Scheme would provide whether a financial cap would be placed on counselling,
whether it would be for the lifetime of the Redress Scheme or whether it would
be for the lifetime of the survivor.
The committee acknowledges the Minister has confirmed a final decision
on the amount of counselling to be provided under the Redress Scheme has not
yet been determined.
In forming a recommendation on this issue, the committee recognises that
counselling for the lifetime of the survivor cannot be delivered by the current
framework of the Redress Scheme, which is financed through a 10-year
The committee recommends the Government consider mechanisms to ensure ongoing
counselling is available to survivors, should they need it.
The wider impacts of child sexual abuse that can affect family members
of survivors were discussed by a number of witnesses and submitters. Concern
was expressed that the Redress Scheme did not include counselling for affected
family members. The committee recognises the intergenerational impacts that
child sexual abuse can have, and the positive effect that family counselling
can have. The committee is also cognisant of the Minister's comments that
expanding the scope of the Redress Scheme risks a lower opt in by NGIs.
The committee recommends the Redress Support Service incorporate
referral of affected family members, in cases where it is necessary to meet the
critical needs of the survivor, to existing counselling services.
The committee notes concerns raised by advocates and legal groups on
difficulties survivors may face with many aspects of the application process.
The committee is satisfied the Department remains highly conscious of the needs
of survivors. The three elements of support—general redress support, legal
advice and financial advice—will assist survivors through a difficult pathway.
The committee stresses the need for the Department to continue the range of
consultations already underway in designing the operational elements of the
Redress Scheme, and to ensure that wherever possible, user experience feeds
back into the design. The committee is highly supportive of the Australian
Government's early announcement of $130 million of funding for these Redress
However, even with these supports taken into account, concerns were
raised with specific elements, such as the proposed timeframes for applicants
to produce documents or respond to an offer of redress, and the limit of
application per person. The committee notes the Department has indicated these
issues are still under consideration, and may be modified.
The committee recommends that in developing the minimum timeframes in
the Redress Scheme, for the provision of documents or answers to an offer of
redress, the Department should consider the special circumstances of survivors
in remote communities, those with functional communication barriers and
survivors experiencing trauma or mental health episodes linked to their abuse.
The committee recommends that the government consider changing the
period of acceptance for redress from three months to six months, including
provision for survivors to request an extension to this acceptance period where
The proposed exclusion of criminal offenders was raised as a serious
concern, by survivor groups, legal organisations and by the NGIs. The committee
notes the Attorney-General has indicated that while this issue was originally
raised in negotiations with the states and territories, a final position has
not yet been determined. More recently, the Attorney-General has indicated that
a discretionary approach to exclusions could be considered.
The committee recommends that in finalising the position on the
exclusion of serious criminal offenders from the Redress Scheme, the Australian,
state and territory governments should consider the value of the Redress Scheme
as a tool for the rehabilitation of offenders, and that excluding criminal
offenders can have the unintended consequence of institutions responsible for
child sexual abuse not being held liable.
The committee is supportive of the reporting functions included in the Redress
Bill, as an appropriate way of ensuring oversight of an important program, and
way of holding non-participating responsible institutions to public account. The
committee believes an expansion of this reporting function could further
strengthen public trust in the operation of the scheme.
The committee recommends that the annual report to Parliament on the
operation of the Redress Scheme should include detailed data to understand the
experiences of people going through the Redress Scheme and to provide a basis
of any necessary refinements to the Scheme, including details of the number of
applications received, average processing times and average payments offered.
The committee believes that while there are still certain provisions
within this bill under consideration by the Australian Government, or under
negotiation with relevant participating entities, the Redress Scheme is an important
mechanism to provide redress and some closure to survivors of some of the worst
crimes that can possibly be inflicted. The Redress Bill provides an appropriate
framework under which those final negotiations can occur, particularly noting
the inclusion of survivor representative groups in the consultative group.
As stated by the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General, and affirmed
by the Leader of the Opposition, it is time to take action on behalf of the
victims of institutional child sexual abuse.
The committee recommends these bills be passed.
Senator Slade Brockman
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