29th June 2018 | ABC News | Philippa McDonald
Up to 60,000 survivors of child sexual abuse in the nation's institutions will potentially be able to make their claim when the national redress scheme gets underway on Sunday.
"This is momentous for those who suffered child sex abuse," Social Services Minister Dan Tehan told the ABC.
"For years and years they have sought redress, they have sought an apology, they have sought compensation.
"To all those who have fought so hard for this, I commend them for their persistence and for the dedicated way they have sought to make sure that this redress will happen."
The almost $4 billion scheme was a key recommendation of the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse in the nation's institutions.
The legal and counselling firm Know More has received $38 million in funding over the next three years to assist survivors across the country.
"We're expecting about 16,000 people are ready to come and seek Redress, they're people who have been through the Royal Commission and are used to talking about what happened to them. There are 44,000 out there who are not ready yet," Know More principal solicitor Prue Gregory said.
Time is running out for some applicants
For some there is an added urgency.
Ms Gregory said in the past week she has taken two calls from "people who are not likely to live beyond August this year".
"So we need to get their applications in very, very quickly because once the application is in, should the person die, it will still be assessed and then money will be paid into their estate," she said.
The federal minister responsible says he will look to fast track those claims as quickly as possible.
In most cases, Dan Tehan says Redress claims will be processed within "months and hopefully once we get the scheme completely up and running we will be able to turn it around in weeks rather than months".
Is it really a National Scheme?
But just how National the Scheme is being questioned by some.
"The only ones that can realistically lodge their applications are people who have been abused in New South Wales, Victoria, or a Commonwealth Institution because they have all given their power to the Commonwealth Government, so they are in the scheme," Ms Gregory said.
"Queensland doesn't refer powers until August at the earliest this year, South Australia and Tasmania we don't know when they're going to refer their power, so until they refer their powers those states can't join the scheme."
Mr Tehan said all states have now opted in.
"There are still some more non-government institutions to join but we have coverage for over 90 per cent of survivors," he said.
"The Commonwealth's in, the major churches and other organisations are in — so survivors now have a realistic opportunity to be able to get Redress."
Estimated average payout nowhere near $150k cap
While the Royal Commission recommended a cap of $200,000 payout, the Federal Government has committed to $150,000.
Most survivors are likely to receive much less; the Federal Government estimates the average payout will be $76,000 and ultimately the bill will be hundreds of million of dollars.
Ms Gregory said it is going to be a particularly challenging time for survivors who will have to relive their trauma.
"They've been resilient to date, but this is going to be a real test," she said.
"There will be an assessment framework applied with the average payment of about $76,000.
"That means somebody is going to get $10,000 and somebody is going to get $150,000 and it's going to be hard to explain to a client why some independent person thought was happened to them was worth $30,000 not $150,000."
No taxes for payments, no retrospective claims
The Federal Government has given an undertaking that Redress payments will not be taxed, nor will it affect any Government payments a survivor currently receives.
Survivors who have already been awarded compensation from a judge will not be eligible to seek redress, but those who have received settlements may be able to make a claim.
"The amount you'll receive will be indexed at 1.9 per cent for several years up until the determination is made and that amount will have to be deducted from the accessors amount," Ms Gregory said.
"You would still get access to counselling and the direct personal response if you want that."
The Redress application form will go on the Federal Government's website on Sunday morning.
Mr Tehan has told the ABC it is about 30 pages.
"The form was designed with survivors and all that's required is stat dec proof that the abuse took place," he said.
Redress harder for the incarcerated
While hundreds of prison inmates gave evidence of their abuse as children in the nation's institutions, those still in jail will not be able to seek Redress under the scheme until they are out of jail.
More than 1 in 10 of the survivors — about 800 people — who gave evidence were in prison at the time of their private session. Just over 8,000 private sessions were held.
"Their access to the Scheme will occur once they are out of jail but they will be able to apply from within jail and so that is what State and Territory Attorneys and the Commonwealth decided was the best process, because otherwise it was very difficult to be able to provide counselling in jail and also enable the privacy of that person to be protected while they are in jail." Mr Tehan said.
Survivors who have served sentences of more than five years will be subject to a special assessment which will be ultimately determined by the Attorney-General in their home state.
Prue Gregory said a quarter of nearly 9,000 clients they saw during the Royal Commission were Indigenous and many of those survivors would have to "show cause" for why they are eligible for Redress because of their history of incarceration.
Melbourne lawyer and advocate Dr Judy Courtin has told the ABC it is "vital that anyone who is going to apply or thinking of applying to the National Redress Scheme that they first of all get some independent advice".
"The institutions now have less legal defences and there is now much more potential for victims of institutional abuse to have a much better claim far better than what they may receive with the National Redress Scheme."
Dr Courtin said "some people may have a claim that's worth far, far more than the cap of the $150,000 of the Redress Scheme, we have many claims at the moment of up to a million to beyond a million dollars."
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