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Redress scheme for abuse victims is a good start

  • 08 November 2016


The announcement late last week by the Turnbull government that it will establish and run a national redress scheme for the survivors of institutional child sexual abuse is a great decision that has the potential to be one of the most significant social policy reforms in recent history.

Friday's announcement has the potential to benefit tens of thousands of people now and into the future who have suffered the most damaging and tragic abuse — institutional child sexual abuse.

The estimates are jaw dropping, more than 60,000 children abused in hundreds of different institutions across Australia for many decades into the past.

But the new scheme will only be truly effective if all institutions and all governments accept their responsibilities and commit to participating.

The Catholic Church has a lot to answer for. For decades up to the 1990s and in some cases beyond, it systematically covered up child sex abuse by members of our clergy. It consistently put the interests of the church as an institution ahead of the welfare and safety of children. Their suffering has been compounded and for many, their lives shattered.

This did not just happen in the Catholic Church. We now know, thanks to the Royal Commission, that it was tragically commonplace across many other churches, schools, government institutions, sporting and cultural institutions.

Now the federal government will provide a redress platform that all organisations which were responsible for the appalling abuse can use and, in a way, acknowledge and make some amends for the past.

But this will require one last great push from the federal government and continuing pressure from the community to ensure, regardless of where or when someone was abused, they will be able to seek justice through the scheme.


"If there are hundreds of survivors of abuse in SA government-run institutions who have received inadequate or no compensation, then the Premier should be ashamed for so readily dismissing this proposal."


With all institutions taking part, this scheme will succeed and it will deliver fair, consistent and generous redress for survivors. If some institutions don't take part it will be yet another blow to abuse survivors, with some reaping the scheme's benefits while others are left to suffer further defeats and humiliations.

A case in point is the South Australian government. Before the ink was dry on the announcement, the South Australian government had already indicated it would not take part. This is appalling, whatever the justification.

If SA Premier, Jay Weatherill, is