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The compensation scheme for victims of abuse in State care is expensive but just. It is designed to acknowledge officially that people were seriously wronged by the State and to give them recompense for the hurt.
The Barnett Government implicitly acknowledged the justice of the scheme by accepting the need to continue it, as it was morally bound to do after inheriting it from the previous government. However, it badly underestimated the offensiveness - even cruelty - of its decision to cut by almost half the maximum payment under the scheme.
By devaluing the amount of compensation to be paid, the Government inevitably devalued the hurt endured by many people when the State had responsibility for their welfare. The symbolism of the decision has been devastating for people who had been given reason to believe that at long last the extent of their pain was widely understood and that the level of compensation gave some measure of the seriousness of the offences against them, though it could never heal their injuries.
Certainly, the State is in relatively hard economic times as a result fo the global downturn and is looking for savings wherever it can find them. However, the Government seems not to have realised that it is, in effect, belittling and insulting vulnerable people. It seems not to have understood that it is dealing here with people who have had their lives damaged,
often irreparably and a long time ago. After a long struggle for acknowledgement, these peopole are entitled to feel that they have been betrayed again.
Many of them have lived quietly with their pain for many years. However, to claim compensation under the scheme, they have had to revisit the offences committed against them,to re-open old psychological wounds. They have had to show medical or psychological evidence of abuse in State care to get compensation of up to $80,000 under the scheme
announced by the previous government in 2007.
It is not surprising that the Government's decision last month to cap compensation at $45,000 has drawn an angry response. Premier Colin Barnett was confronted by victims of abuse nd their supporers in an emotion-charged protest at Parliament this week. Organisers said th protest was the first of many in a plannd long campaign to have the decision reversed.
They can expect much public sympathy and support. Peeople who have endured terrible abuse are now seen to have been wronged twice by the State as a result of lower compensation.
Mr Barnett should accept the need for the compensation promise of the former government to be honoured fully. Otherwise, justice will not be done and an emotionally overwhelming humanitarian need will not be met.