A Joint Select Committee has heard the national redress scheme for survivors of institutional child abuse is not meeting the needs of members of the Stolen Generations.
The national redress scheme was set up in response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse to help people access counselling and a redress payment.
Wuthathi woman and CEO of the Healing Foundation Fiona Petersen told the committee that members of the Stolen Generations and their families are finding it difficult to access the scheme.
“The National Redress Scheme is a fundamental part of the healing journey for survivors. However, unless trauma is actively addressed at every point of contact in the redress response, there is a significant risk that survivors of institutional abuse will not be given the opportunity to heal,” said Ms Petersen.
"Unfortunately our experience, is that not all aspects of the redress process are survivor focussed, accessible, culturally safe and meet the needs of particularly vulnerable survivors.
Ms Petersen said the Healing Foundation’s submission to the Joint Select Committee aims to ensure the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander survivors are considered as part of the review.
“The voices and experience of Stolen Generations survivors need to be the touchstone we keep returning to when reviewing implementation of the National Redress Scheme.”
The Healing Foundation wants to see an expansion of culturally appropriate services to help people navigate their way through the complex system and support their participation in the redress scheme.
“A key weakness in the Scheme’s administration is the response that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander survivors receive when engaging with formal agencies such as Centrelink – survivors report discrimination and alienation in their contact with both staff and application processes, which can contribute to trauma and create a barrier to accessing redress.
“Survivors feel that for redress to contribute to healing, it must give them the opportunity to take control and make their own choices. Particular attention must be given to ensuring support is available for applicants who have been rejected, and making review processes accessible. Unfortunately the current processes do not meet this expectation."
Ms Petersen detailed research commissioned by the Healing Foundation that shows the trauma and disadvantage experienced by Stolen Generations survivors, their families and communities.
“The Healing Foundation commissioned a series of reports from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), which form Australia’s first demographic study of the Stolen Generations and their descendants,” she said.
“The reports have uncovered an alarming and disproportionate level of disadvantage and prove that the negative impact of past atrocities is having a flow-on effect to later generations, therefore creating an escalating cycle of disadvantage.
“The AIHW data estimates that 17,150 members of the Stolen Generations are still alive today and that they experience higher levels of adversity in relation to almost all of 38 key health and welfare outcomes.
"Even compared to their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders contemporaries, who are already at a disadvantage in Australia, Stolen Generations members are suffering more – financially, socially and in areas of health and wellbeing.”