As the start date for the National Redress Scheme approaches, Malcolm Turnbull is urging other states to follow.
Fifteen thousand child sexual abuse survivors will be able to receive payouts and support as NSW and Victoria officially join the national redress scheme.
The government also lifted some exclusions so churches, charities and non-government institutions in New South Wales and Victoria will also be able to join the scheme.
The government intends to begin the $4 billion scheme in July, pending the passage of legislation in federal parliament.
It will offer a payout of up to $150,000, a direct personal response from the institution where the abuse occurred, as well as access to counselling for survivors.
“We owe it to the survivors for their courage in telling stories they have been too afraid to speak of, often for decades,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said.
“Now that those stories have been told, now that they are on the record, we must do everything within our power to honour those stories and to act and to make sure that this national tragedy is never repeated.”
The federal government will need to convince other states to cede some powers to the Commonwealth so they can join the scheme.
South Australia had initially opposed the scheme but Premier Jay Weatherill has expressed his in-principle support for it during the state’s election campaign.
Tasmania, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia already have state redress schemes which have varying eligibility requirements and compensation. They have each promised to consider the scheme but none have committed to joining it.
The Royal Commission estimated 60,000 Australians were abused in churches, schools, sporting clubs and health services - and could access the scheme.
“Today’s announcement will be so important to the survivors of abuse who have been fighting so long for recognition,” Independent Advisory Council on Redress Chair Cheryl Edwardes said.
“While nothing will ever fully compensate them for the hurt and pain they suffered as children, and have continued to suffer, for many this is a significant step towards healing.”
The government said 15,000 survivors will be covered under Commonwealth responsibility by the two states opting in.
“It’s unacceptable so many children were sexually abused in an environment where they were entitled to feel safe,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said in a statement.
“Redress is an important part of recognising the lifelong impact of child abuse on survivors, many of whom carry the scars decades after the abuse occurred.”
Survivors needed to be respected and supported, the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said.
“We acknowledge that the scheme does not contain every element that every survivor of abuse may wish to see in it, however this is a ground-breaking agreement which will benefit thousands of people.”
The Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse found most of the reported abuse happened in the Catholic Church, the Anglican Church and Salvation Army institutions.
The Catholic Church and Salvation Army are supportive of the scheme. The Anglican Church intends to create a company through which it can make payouts and handle complaints.
The Royal Commission ran for five years and made 409 recommendations.
If you require assistance after reading this story, please contact:
- Lifeline on 13 11 14
- 1800Respect on 1800 737 732
- Blue Knot Foundation on 1300 657 380
- MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978