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In most states in Australia, a personal injury claim generally must be commenced within three years from the date the injury was sustained.
It was only until a few years ago that these general statutory time limits also applied to victims of childhood abuse wanting to make a personal injury claim. In other words, it meant that survivors had to bring an action within the 3 year timeframe or be deemed ‘out of time’, forcing survivors to abandon any civil action or apply to the court for an extension of the allowable period of time.
In light of the recommendations made by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse to abolish time limitations in Australia, changes have since been made. While all states and territories have removed time limits for child sex abuse claims, some states have also extended this to other forms of abuse, such as physical abuse and/or emotional/psychological abuse.
Victoria was the first state to make changes to their time limitation laws relating to survivors of child abuse. In late February 2015, the Limitation of Actions Amendment (Child Abuse) Act 2015 was introduced which states that the time limitation laws do not apply to injuries from sexual abuse, physical abuse or psychological abuse that has arisen from sexual or physical abuse of a minor.
On 14 June 2019, the Victorian government announced that they will allow survivors of abuse who have previously signed deeds of release to take legal action if the settlement was unjust and unreasonable.
In March 2016, New South Wales enacted legislation that removed the time limitations on civil claims for child sexual abuse, serious physical abuse and any other abuse perpetrated in connection with sexual or serious physical abuse.
In June 2017, the Northern Territory government enacted legislation removing the limitation period for victims of child sexual abuse, serious physical abuse and psychological abuse arising from sexual abuse or serious physical abuse.
In 2017, the Tasmania government removed the time limitations for child sexual abuse, serious physical abuse, and psychological abuse that has arisen from the sexual abuse or physical abuse.
In 2017, the Australia Capital Territory government removed their time limitations for child sexual abuse.
It was in 2018 that the Queensland government removed the Statute of limitations for victims of child sexual abuse only.
It was not until 2020 that the Queensland Government extended the definition of abuse to include serious physical abuse and connecting psychological abuse.
In 2018, the Queensland government also make amendments to allow survivors to make an application to set aside previous deeds of release.
Also in 2018, the Western Australian government lifted their time limitation laws that applied to victims of child sexual abuse only. Of note, the relevant piece legislation that supports victims who were sexually abused as children is not confined to abuse in an institutional setting and opens up the possibility of overturning past judgments and settlements. The legislation also allows survivors to make an application to set aside previous deeds of release.
Unfortunately, the Western Australian laws are more restrictive than the laws enacted in other states as it excludes physical, psychological and/or emotional abuse.
In 2018, South Australia was one of the last states to enact legislation to remove time limits. In South Australia, time limitations were removed on all forms of child sexual, physical and psychological/emotional abuse.
We are specialist abuse lawyers and can help you receive acknowledgement, meaningful apology and financial resolution from those institutions and systems of power that failed to protect you from harm. If you would like advice in relation to a childhood or adult sexual, physical and/or psychological/emotional abuse claim, please reach out to the author, Emily Wright, and Littles Lawyers today.