Clarity urgently needed from Turnbull on redress for institutionalised child abuse

In a joint statement issued last week by the Federal Attorney General and Minister for Social Services, we saw a welcome commitment by both parties to ‘lead the development of a national approach to redress for victims of institutional child sexual abuse.’

The statement said the Australian government wants ‘redress to assist with the healing process,’ and outlined ‘the importance of developing a national approach to redress as quickly as possible.’

However, in the days following, the statement has only brought confusion and uncertainty amongst some media and state governments who are questioning the government’s commitment to implementing a national redress scheme for victims. Unsurprisingly, there is now a fear of inaction, not only from survivors of Institutional child sexual abuse, but also their families and the wider community.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse’s Redress and Civil Litigation report recommended that ‘the Australian Government should determine and announce by the end of 2015 that it is willing to establish a single national redress scheme.’

Five months later we are still waiting for the details. The Royal Commission believes ‘that this approach is necessary to deliver an effective redress scheme that provides justice for survivors.’ It’s time the government confirms that it is fully committed to help secure justice for the survivors of these heinous crimes. ASCA agrees that ‘a nationally consistent approach will ensure that survivors from offending institutions all receive proper redress, irrespective of the location of the institution at the time of the offending or the present status of the offending institution.’

This cannot be achieved without the Australian government’s genuine and comprehensive funded engagement. Accountability for these crimes is a shared one, between the perpetrators and the institutions within which they occurred, but so too involving the government of the country whose social fabric enabled tens of thousands of children to be brutally violated.

The time is now for governments to commit to core principles and processes for the assessment and payment of redress. The Turnbull government must not only commit but it must also act. In this election year we need strong and honest leadership that builds confidence and trust through clear and open communication.

Survivors need a redress scheme that is fair and equitable and affords equal access and equal treatment to all. This cannot be achieved through separate disparate schemes, in which some survivors would be entitled to redress from several institutions and jurisdictions, others from one, and still others from none due to their closure or lack of assets. Clearly inequitable, a single national redress scheme established and administered, by the Australian government, with collaboration with states, territories and institutions is the only way to avoid further transgressions and re-traumatisation.

I’ll say it again. We seek clarity that the ‘nationally consistent approach to redress through an agreed set of national principles’ means a single national scheme, which the Royal Commission has stated ‘would achieve better outcomes than those that could be achieved with separate state and territory schemes.’

We need commitment that the Australian government will not only financially support the scheme’s formation and administration but also, along with the States and Territories be ‘funder of last resort’ to meet any shortfall. While a significant investment, ASCA’s Economic Paper on The cost of unresolved childhood trauma and abuse in adults in Australia spells out the economic cost of not investing.

As we approach the election, all Australians want to see a government that is strong, moral and just. In setting the country’s moral compass we look to Prime Minister Turnbull and his Government to lead and to be accountable, and engage with State and Territory governments through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and the relevant institutions for urgent action. ASCA would like to offer its assistance to work with government to advise around survivors’ needs and how best to meet them…to ensure justice, the right support and the very best outcomes at long last. 

Dr Cathy Kezelman

Dr Cathy Kezelman is the President of Adults Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA). ASCA is the leading national organisation working to improve the lives of Australian adults who have experienced childhood trauma and abuse.

Help and support is available from the ASCA professional support line on 1300 657 380, 9am- 5pm Monday-Sunday.



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