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Over the years, there have been a myriad of inquiries into the abuses of children within institutional settings, implementation of various compensation schemes, internal compliant pathways, and ex-gratia payments and ‘top-up’ payments made to survivors of historical abuse.
In 1999, the report of the Commission of Inquiry into Abuse of Children in Queensland Institutions was tabled in the Queensland Parliament (The Forde Inquiry) which found significant evidence of abuse and neglect of children in Queensland institutions in the past and identified ongoing concerns about current practices in relation to child protection and youth detention. A Redress Scheme was established in 2007 to make payments of between $7,000.00 and $40,000.00 to people who had experienced abuse and negligent as children in Queensland institutions (covered by the Forde Inquiry) to acknowledge the impact of past abuse and neglect.
In 2012, The Family and Community Development Committee was requested to inquire into, consider and report to the Parliament of Victoria on the processes by which religious and other non-government organisations respond to the criminal abuse of children by personnel within their organisations. The Committee released its report, “Betrayal of Trust.”
With each inquiry, we have seen recommendations either fully or partially implemented.
The Catholic Church introduced its internal Towards Healing scheme in Australia in 1996 which was designed to receive and respond to complaints from survivors. This process was investigated by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse which found many survivors had an unsatisfactory experience, finding the process defensive, evasive, and far from an ‘independent’ process.
Survivors have directly approached institutions and participated in restorative justice sessions, internal complaint pathways, and have received prior payments for pain and suffering, and funding for counselling.
The legislative changes we have seen in each state and territory following the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has removed time limitation laws for injuries arising from sexual, physical and emotional abuse of children.
Reform has also taken place in certain States, which allow for previous settlement agreements to be set aside in certain circumstances.
Many do not know whether they still have a common law right available to them due to having previously received redress across different schemes, and previous payments directly from the institution. For example, in Queensland, some incorrectly assume they do not have a common law right of action because they have already received a Forde Redress payment.
Some survivors have been abused at different times, in different institutional settings, which increases the complexities surrounding what they now may be entitled to pursue at common law.
“You are right, this is an incredibly complex area of law.”
Survivors should seek legal advice from a specialist about their options. We conduct detailed reviews of all prior agreements, and redress payments received, and are able to provide advice with respect to whether a common law avenue is available.
Don’t stay in the dark, come into the light, and allow us to help you understand your legal options.