Victoria has introduced legislation to opt in to National Redress

The Victorian Government has introduced legislation which means that Victorians are a step closer to being able to participate in the proposed National Redress Scheme (NRS). (http://www.legislation.vic.gov.au/domino/Web_Notes/LDMS/PubPDocs.nsf/ee665e366dcb6cb0ca256da400837f6b/96937d40d7578c00ca258287007bf1fd!OpenDocument)

Under the Victorian National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse (Commonwealth Powers) Bill 2018, the Government will refer powers to the Commonwealth to ensure that Victorian state institutions participate in the scheme.  As part of the scheme, eligible survivors of institutional child sexual abuse will be able to seek a range of redress options including monetary payments of up to $150,000, access to counselling services, and direct personal responses including an apology from the institutions or organisations responsible for their abuse.

The Victorian Government has also abolished civil claim time limits to allow lawsuits to be lodged regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred and introduced an Australian-first ‘duty of care’ for organisations exercising care, supervision or authority over children. A bill has also been introduced by the Government which if passed will force religious and other institutions to nominate a legal entity that can be sued and that has assets to satisfy any judgement.

Whilst all of these changes are very positive, there are concerns that many survivors of institutional abuse who have had prior settlements, whilst eligible to claim a top up, will be told that they will not receive a further payment or any further payment will be modest. This is because amounts received in the past will be indexed for inflation and with the maximum payment of $150,000 only likely to be paid to a very few and average payments expected to be around $75,000 many claimants with prior settlements will be left in the cold with no option to take their matters to court because of prior deeds of settlement which remain binding.

We call upon the Victorian Government to continue with its very positive reforms in this area by passing legislation which allows judges to set deeds aside “where it is just and reasonable to do so.” The Queensland Government has passed such legislation as has the Western Australian Parliament (yet to be proclaimed). This would be the final change which would go a long way to delivering real justice to historical institutional abuse victims.

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