Compensation win for child sex abuse victims

Child sexual abuse survivors ripped off by appalling compensation payouts have praised landmark legal changes that will impact thousands of victims.

Following six months of consultation, NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman this week provided stakeholders with confidential draft bill designed to torpedo unfair child abuse settlements.

The Catholic and Anglican Churches, as well as groups like the Salvation Army and Jehovah's Witnesses, have previously offered survivors as little as $20,000 for what is a life of pain - with victims often spiralling into substance abuse and psychological trauma.

NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman.
NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman.

The changes are due to be passed early next year and will allow survivors to have unjust

agreements set aside by the courts and instead seek fairer compensation to hold those

responsible to account for their abuse.

Prior to these reforms many survivors felt they had no choice but to accept unfair financial settlements under time pressures, without legal advice and without an opportunity for their claims to be assessed on their merits.

Beyond Abuse CEO and child sexual abuse survivor Steve Fisher said the NSW laws "are amazing" and will bring the state into line with Victoria, Tasmania and WA.

"In the past abuse survivors were basically forced to accept what the institutions believed the abuse was worth - which in some cases were a pitiful amount as low as $20,000," Mr Fisher said.

"People who do not understand think getting compensation is like winning the lottery.

"But because of the enormous psychological damage, survivors never had the opportunity to reach their full potential."

 

Steve Fisher CEO of Beyond Abuse.
Steve Fisher CEO of Beyond Abuse.

The changes would allow survivors who entered into settlements before the 2016 and

2018 reforms to have the same access to justice as those who brought a claim afterwards.

Apart from private institutions, the NSW Government will now be on the hook for millions in increased compensation.

Government departments involved in administering juvenile justice centres, old boys' homes and health facilities will be the most liable.

"We've listened to calls from survivors and their advocates, and we've heard loud and clear the need for reform," Mr Speakman said.

"We are delighted to be taking this step to support survivors to access the justice they deserve."

Mr Speakman said the new draft bill compliments previous reforms removing limitation periods for child abuse claims, joining the National Redress Scheme and abolishing the technical legal barriers that allowed some institutions to avoid civil liability.

St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney.
St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney.

Between 1980 and 2015, the Child Abuse Royal Commission found there were 5529 child sexual abuse complainants in Australian Catholic and Anglican churches alone.

Three quarters of victims known to the Royal Commission suffered abuse in non-government schools.

Originally published as Compensation win for child sex abuse victims



‘Affordable housing’ DA released for public comment

Premium Content ‘Affordable housing’ DA released for public comment

The proposed development would involve nine buildings and could house 132...

Proposal for new camping sites on the Northern Rivers

Premium Content Proposal for new camping sites on the Northern Rivers

There are homes and a studio are already on the property

$400,000 meditation hall planned for rural property

Premium Content $400,000 meditation hall planned for rural property

The aim is to deliver a "retreat style experience" and continue the property's...