People with Disability Australia has been involved in the setting up of the National Redress Scheme, including representing survivors with disability on the Advisory Council. The Redress Scheme is a response to people who survived institutional child sexual abuse. We welcomed the setting up of the Redress Scheme as a more accessible way for survivors with disability to get justice for the abuse they experienced.
Our involvement acknowledges the higher prevalence of childhood sexual abuse impacting people with disability. For this reason the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse recommended that “the Australian Government and state and territory governments should fund support services for people with disability who have experienced sexual abuse in childhood as an ongoing, integral part of advocacy, support and therapeutic treatment service system responses for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse.”
However, since the setup of the Scheme, we have been increasingly concerned about its implementation and the impact that is having on survivors with disability. We have made a number of submissions.
There has also recently been a report from an Australian Parliamentary Committee that raised similar issues. Their key recommendations are:
- All Governments must maintain pressure on institutions to join the Scheme and must also penalise them if they do not by suspension of tax concessions and charitable status
- That the funder of last resort provision must apply more widely to those for whom the institution responsible is now defunct
- The scheme should be expanded to non-citizens and non-permanent residents, those in gaol and those who have been sentenced to prison for 5 years or longer
- The scheme should be more transparent, including:
- clear communications with public about the Scheme,
- clarifying key terms in assessment framework,
- improving the reporting obligations of institutions,
- informing people of the progress of their applications
- publishing the wait time for processing applications.
- Applicants assessed as eligible should receive minimum payments of $10 000 and maximum of $200 000
- The assessment framework should reflect that the type of abuse perpetrated does not determine the impact of that abuse, and more closely match that proposed by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
- Each survivor should receive an adequate amount of counselling over the course of their life
- Redress support services should be appropriately funded regardless of location or other barriers
The report made a number of other key points, including that the Redress Scheme has been in operation for 10 months. Only 3000 applications have been made, which represents only 5% of the 60,000 likely eligible people. At the time of the report, only 88 redress payments have been made plus 22 offers.
PWDA shares all of these concerns and also calls for survivors to be able to access free counselling while they are applying to access the Scheme, a process which can be re-traumatising and through which survivors may need therapeutic support. Equitable, accessible, ongoing counselling across all States and Territories should be available to all approved applicants beyond the minimum 20 hours of services currently available.