Sexual abuse survivors call for action over compensation scheme

Social Services minister Christian Porter has announced a announced a $4.3 billion national redress scheme for victims of abuse. Photo: Andrew Meares Leonie Sheedy, Care Leavers Australia Network executive officer, has called on states to sign up to the scheme. Photo: Justin McManus
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Labor spokeswoman for families and social services Jenny Macklin. Photo: Jesse Marlow

Social Services Minister Christian Porter announced a announced a $4.3 billion national redress scheme for victims of abuse. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Survivors of child sexual abuse and their advocates have called on the federal government to speed up consultation and development of a compensation scheme, as states and territories warn they may not sign up.

Social Services Minister Christian Porter announced a $4.3 billion opt-in national redress scheme for victims of abuse in institutions run by government, charities and religious organisations, following a recommendation of the royal commission.

On Wednesday, West Australian Premier Colin Barnett said he’d had no consultation from the federal government about the plan, despite Mr Porter saying it would seek national co-operation from governments, the Catholic Church and other organisations.

No further details have been provided to the states and territories. South Australia and Tasmania are unlikely to join the scheme, while an ACT government spokesman said its participation was being considered.

Care Leavers Australia Network executive officer Leonie Sheedy called on hold-out states to sign up, and said it was appropriate Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull led discussions about the plan at next month’s Council of Australian Governments meeting in Canberra.

“We would have liked more detail, but I know the redress taskforce are working on more information and I would like care leavers to be given that as soon as possible, because it is causing a great lot of anxiety among elderly people,” Ms Sheedy said.

“I commend the Prime Minister for making a national redress scheme because it is so vital we care leavers who were state wards, that we don’t return to the abusive corporate parent for our redress.”

She said survivors of abuse in government and non-government institutions should receive equal compensation, and religious organisations should lose tax-deductibility status if they don’t join the scheme.

“Every premier and every chief minister signed the royal commission patent in 2013,” she said. “Every one of them knew that in the terms there was a redress component that was going to be made a reality.”

Victims will receive compensation of up to $150,000 and mental health support as part of the 10-year scheme, due to begin in 2018.

The Catholic Church welcomed the plan and offered co-operation.

The federal government will act as a funder of last resort for institutions and organisations that no longer exist or can’t pay.

Labor’s families spokeswoman, Jenny Macklin, and shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus called on the government to immediately secure the agreement of state and territory governments and institutions for a truly national redress scheme.

“The Turnbull government must get this right. Survivors of child sexual abuse have been waiting so long for redress,” they said in a statement. “They deserve a fair and nationally consistent redress scheme.

“Until these negotiations are finalised, and survivors have certainty that they will get what they deserve, Labor will continue to pressure the Turnbull government to get this right.”

The opposition took a national redress scheme to the July federal election.

In September, the Senate supported a Greens motion calling on the government to provide funding of last resort as part of a national redress scheme for sex abuse survivors.

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