Update to the National Redress Scheme – Possible changes to eligibility criteria

On 4 May 2023, the Australian Government released the Final Government Response to the Second Year Review of the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse (the Scheme).

According to the Minster for Social Services, Amanda Rishworth, the Response is aimed at creating a trauma-informed approach with a focus on the wellbeing of survivors[1]. The proposed improvements include broadening the eligibility criteria, amending the application process, and removing restrictions. 
Key Points 
  1. The Government supports 32 of 38 recommendations made within the Second-Year review of the National Redress Scheme.
  2. ​Changes to eligibility criteria to include applications by prisoners and non-citizens.
  3. Previous Redress applications to be reassessed.

The Scheme began on 1 July 2018 in response to recommendations from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. As at 2 June 2023, there had been 26,802 application to the Scheme with participation of all Commonwealth and State and Territory government institutions and 629 non-government institutions. At present, there have been a total of 11,795 payments totalling to approximately $1.044 billion dollars, with a further 13,521 current, active applications[2].

It is evident that the Scheme has been successful in providing support to many survivors of child sexual abuse, however a report conducted by Ms Robby Kruk identified 38 administrative, policy and procedural issues. In March 2021, Ms Kruk delivered a final report with recommendations aimed at making sure that the Scheme meets its goals, provides better accessibility and support to survivors, and to deliver a more tailored trauma informed experience.

The Government has now provided a response to Ms Kruk’s recommendations, supporting 32 out of the 38 recommendations. Of note, the Government has supported the recommendations to broaden the eligibility criteria, including: 
  • To allow previous finalised applications to be re-assessed in situations where the institutions responsible was not a previous participating member of the Scheme; and
  • To allow non-citizens and non-permanent residents to apply, as well as prisoners and those with serious criminal backgrounds[3].
These eligibility amendments could see an increase in the number of Redress applications noting that studies have indicated that 65% of prisoners in New South Wales alone were victims of child sexual and physical assault. 

However, the Government opposed Ms Kruk’s recommendation that a ‘reasonable likelihood’ standard of proof be used in assessing applications, further changes to assessment guidelines and the establishment of a minimum payment of $10,000.

The Government also strongly rejected the recommendation to remove the use of the term ‘penetrative’ as an indicator to the severity of the abuse. It was argued that this would constitute a fundamental change to the Scheme and cause equity issues in respect to over 12,000 settled claims.  
Though supported, the recommendations are subject to legislative change and agreeance with state and territory governments. However, if implemented, it will be interesting to see whether these changes will alleviate the over congestion within the Courts and decrease civil claims.
If you have any queries regarding the potential changes, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Hicksons’ Health Team.
Blog post written by Partner, Freida Stylianou, and Solicitor, Nikolina Javor.
  [2] National Redress Scheme – Update | National Redress Scheme

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