September 2019 - Tasmania and Victoria move to allow prior deeds to be set aside.

Victoria has joined Western Australia and Queensland in passing legislation which allows judges to set aside prior deeds of settlement in historical child abuse claims where it is “just and reasonable” to do so. (see our submission to the Victorian Government here).

The Victorian legislation only applies to matters which were settled prior to 1 July 2015, when limitation periods were abolished in child abuse cases. Unfortunately, this leaves something of a black hole for survivors who settled their cases between 1 July 2015 and 1 July 2018 when the Legal Identity of Defendants (Organisational Child Abuse) Act 2018 was passed. Prior to 1 July 2018, many victims of clerical abuse (and in some claims involving other non-Government organisations) had no entity that they could sue because of the way that churches organised their affairs (referred to as the Ellis Defence). So survivors of clerical abuse who settled their claims between 1 July 2015 and 1 July 2018 are locked out of this legislation even if they settled their claims for little money because of a technical legal barrier.

The Tasmanian legislation also extends vicarious liability to volunteers and close associates and not just employees. We call on the Victorian Government to introduce similar laws extending vicarious liability to volunteers which will effectively be the last tranche of legislation required by the Victorian Government in addressing some of the many legal barriers that survivors of historical child abuse faced at one time. (See our submission to the Tasmanian Government here).

Both the Victorian and Tasmanian Governments are to be commended for their efforts in this regard.”

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