Some eligibility requirements of the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse have been labelled as racist towards Indigenous Australians.
In the 2017-2018 budget the Australian Government committed $33.4 million towards the Commonwealth Redress Scheme.
However, those who have experienced sexual abuse and have later committed ‘serious crimes’ will not be entitled to their share of the money.
During a Senate inquiry in Melbourne on Tuesday, Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) Executive Manager, Megan Van Den Berg, told the inquiry that the scheme was racist.
"These exclusions will disproportionately exclude Aboriginal victims due to the over-representation of Aboriginal people in the justice and criminal systems, therefore amounting to systemic racism and a breach of Australia's human rights obligations," she said.
A media release sent by the Department of Social Services, and received by VACCA on December 8, outlines the definition of ‘serious crime’.
“The Minister has decided survivors convicted of any sexual offence or another serious crime such as serious drug, homicide or fraud offences for which they received a custodial sentence of five or more years will be ineligible to apply for the Scheme,” it read.
VACCA Manager Jeannie McIntyre told NITV News that although that definition of ‘serious crimes’ has been put in a media release, it has not been put into the bill.
“They were all equal as children, and they’re being punished by being incarcerated in first place. Why would you punish them further?” she asked.
During the consultation process for the bill, prisoners were interviewed, with 33 per cent Indigenous interviewees.
“That’s astounding when Indigenous people are only 3 per cent of the population of Australia,” Ms McIntyre said.
“It already shows that the proportion of Aboriginal people who will be excluded is systemically racist.
If anything, Ms McIntyre said those who have gone on to commit serious crimes could be the most damaged of all.
“You’ll never know – those who have been in prison for perpetrating, many of them would have not become perpetrators if they haven’t been abused as children,” Jeannie said.
“It’s still dividing people into deserving and undeserving. We would argue that there should be no exclusions.”