Little one intercourse abuse survivors given ‘unrealistic’ deadline for compensation | Australia information

Survivors of child abuse will face an “especially unrealistic” deadline to decide whether to accept offers of compensation under the government’s redress scheme, lawyers and child protection advocates have warned.

The redress scheme legislation before parliament gives survivors 90 days to decide on a compensation offer once it is made by a church or institution.

The deadline is far less than the 12 months recommended by the royal commission, which set the time limit to give survivors enough time to carefully consider their options. Taking an offer of redress “releases and forever discharges” the institution responsible for the abuse, meaning they cannot be sued.

Choosing between the two options requires expert legal advice on complex issues, such as the prospects of success in court, limitation periods, the survivor’s ability to afford a civil case, and an institution’s capacity to pay.

The Law Council of Australia said 90 days was “inadequate” and “especially unrealistic” for such advice to be obtained.

“Given the legal implications of accepting an offer, it is essential that survivors have the opportunity to seek and receive independent legal advice as to whether they should accept an offer or pursue a civil claim,” the council said.

The founder of the child protection group Bravehearts, Hetty Johnston, said the government should mirror the recommendations of the royal commission closely.

“If the royal commission recommended 12 months, then 12 months it needs to be,” she told Guardian Australia. “Why would you pay millions of dollars for a royal commission and then ignore it?

“The only time royal commissions are a waste of money is when the government ignores the findings.”

The council is warning that free legal service providers helping survivors will be swamped once the scheme is established.

The leading service, Knowmore, has helped about 8,000 survivors in four years. The federal government expects about 60,000 people to seek redress once its scheme is established and if all states, territories and major institutions and charities opt in.

Survivors can get more time to consider an offer, but only in exceptional circumstances. Otherwise, failing to respond within 90 days is taken to mean the survivor has declined the offer.

The royal commission said keeping offers open for 12 months struck a fair balance. It also said survivors should have three months to decide whether to ask for a review of their offer.

“These recommended time limits strike a balance between providing applicants with sufficient time to consider an offer and providing the redress scheme and institutions with certainty as to outcome of the application,” it said.

The government’s model for the national redress scheme differs from the royal commission’s recommendations in key respects. It has capped payments at $150,000, rather than the recommended $200,000.

A Senate inquiry has spent recent months scrutinising the bill, and is due to release its findings later this month.

Fairfax reported on Tuesday that the Coalition had restricted the power of the Senate to make changes to the scheme.


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