The National Redress Scheme, a government initiative established in 2018, aims to provide support and compensation to Australians who’ve experienced institutional child sexual abuse. People living with disability have been particularly vulnerable in these institutions. Our article explores the scheme in the hope that it raises awareness without our community and far beyond, and encourages others to come forward.
Trigger warning: This article may bring up difficult memories and/or retraumatise those who’ve been affected by abuse. You should always protect your mental well-being. You can do so by reaching out to someone you trust, or by calling the Australian Redress Scheme support line on 1800 737 377.
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Firstly, while obviously positive in its intention, the scheme has its limitations, as institutions must opt-in to take part. It’s also been criticised for having a complex application process and limits in the types of abuse covered.
Nevertheless, as of January 2023 it’s received 22,474 applications, reached 11,073 decisions and made 10,659 payments totalling over $939 million. If you’ve never heard of the scheme or want to know how to apply, please keep reading…
What is the National Redress Scheme?
The National Redress Scheme in Australia is a way for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse to have their story acknowledged by the establishment where it occurred. It was developed as a response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse inquiry, which found many survivors of abuse had not received proper support or compensation.
It aims to provide a more compassionate and restorative response to the harm that people have experienced, and to encourage institutions to take responsibility for what happened within their walls.
Applicants to the scheme can choose to get counselling and psychological support services. They may also choose to receive a direct personal response and/or apology from the institution involved. They may be eligible for monetary compensation up to a maximum of $150,000.
The National Redress Scheme isn’t intended to be a substitute for any civil claims, or any other remedies or forms of compensation that may be available to people under the law. It’s a separate mechanism from the legal process that survivors can pursue if they so choose.
Here are some of the criteria for approaching the scheme:
- You’re an Australian citizen born before 30 June 2010 who was a child (under 18 years of age) when the sexual abuse happened.
- The sexual abuse must have occurred before the date the National Redress Scheme began – July 1, 2018.
- The institution in question must have opted into the National Redress Scheme. The scheme works on an opt-in and opt-out basis. Here’s a list of all the organisations that have joined.
If you don’t meet the above criteria, your application may be processed differently. Be sure to go through the full list of criteria on the National Redress Scheme’s website.
How do I apply and what happens then?
Once you know you qualify, you move onto these steps:
- Apply for the National Redress Scheme by filling out an application form or posting them a paper copy.
- You must write about what happened to you and how it’s impacted your life. You don’t need reports, statements, photographs or other evidence, but you can attach copies if you wish.
- The scheme will send a notification to you or a nominee to confirm the receipt of your application.
- Some information will be provided to the institution to check things like whether you were in their care at the time of the abuse. The institution will not participate in making a decision on your application.
- The National Redress Scheme has an independent assessment team who determine the outcome of your application.
- If you receive an offer of compensation, you’ll receive a lump-sum payment intended to recognise the harm caused by the abuse.
- You may choose to receive a direct personal response from the institution and access counselling and psychological support services.
- If you’re not satisfied with the outcome of your application, you have the right to request a review. You may also appeal the decision to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
Who pays for the National Redress Scheme?
Institutions that opted into the scheme fund the National Redress Scheme in Australia. These include government, religious and non-governmental organisations, non-profit bodies that operated institutional child care, and other institutions in which abuse may have taken place.
The Australian Government contributes to the costs of administration and operation of the scheme, support services to survivors and operating the independent assessment process. In cases where the responsible institution no longer exists, it pays for the compensation and support.
Criticism of the National Redress Scheme
The National Redress Scheme, a hugely important initiative, has received criticism on several issues since it started. These include:
Limitations in the types of abuse covered
The scheme covers sexual abuse, but not physical abuse. It doesn’t cover abuse that happened in a family setting or abuse that happened outside Australia, leaving some survivors without the possibility of recourse.
The take-up rate has been lower than expected, especially among First Nations people and people with disability. Many survivors are either not aware of the scheme or unwilling to participate in it. Some survivors don’t understand the details of the scheme, which may discourage them from applying.
Its opt-in nature
Institutions have the choice to opt-in or opt-out of the scheme. This has led to concerns that some that were responsible for abuse may not be participating, and therefore not giving redress to survivors.
The process of applying for redress can be re-traumatising for some survivors and may cause a wide range of difficult thoughts and feelings, potentially exacerbating conditions such as PTSD, anxiety, etc.
Some survivors have found the application process for the scheme to be complex, and have required assistance in getting through the process. If you’d like assistance in applying to the scheme as a person living with disability, please see our section on The Redress Project by People with Disability Australia (PWDA) below.
Some survivors have reported that the support services provided through the scheme are limited, particularly in regional and remote areas.
The amount of compensation offered through the scheme has been called inadequate and not reflective of the harm caused by the abuse.
What is The Redress Project by People with Disability Australia?
The Redress Project by People with Disability Australia (PWDA) is a separate initiative from the National Redress Scheme. It’s an advocacy campaign and support service for people with disability who’ve experienced abuse and neglect in institutional and residential settings.
The project aims to inform people about the issues faced by people with disability who experience abuse, and to push for changes in laws and policies to better protect people from abuse and neglect.
The project provides advice on how to access the National Redress Scheme and other forms of compensation. It also provides guidance in navigating the legal system and connecting with other support services. It offers advocacy services and representation in making a complaint, or civil claim if you choose to do so.
You can contact PWDA here.
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