The National Redress Scheme was created in response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and provides support to people who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse. The scheme offers victims and survivors a redress offer that includes payment, support and a direct personal response from the institution responsible.

However, if you plan on participating in the scheme, it is ideal to seek legal advice on your case and ensure you fully understand your rights, obligations and what you may be entitled to before taking action. In this article, we’ll explore what potential participants in the scheme need to know and what their legal rights are in this circumstance.

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What is the National Redress Scheme?

The National Redress Scheme began on July 1, 2018, and will run for ten years until June 30, 2027. It is a program set up by the Australian Government to provide support to people who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse. 

The National Redress Scheme acknowledges the harm done to victims and survivors who have been sexually abused and provides redress in the form of counselling, a redress payment, and a direct personal response. However, participation in the scheme by Australian institutions is voluntary.

What is the Aim of the National Redress Scheme?

The scheme was initiated in response to The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse to support individuals who have experienced child sexual abuse. The scheme also aims to hold institutions accountable and provides a non-adversarial process for victims and survivors. The Royal Commission estimated that around 60,000 people experienced institutional child sexual abuse in Australia. 

The scheme is available to anyone who has experienced abuse, regardless of their current location or citizenship status. It is also available to people who have previously received compensation for their abuse, as long as they did not sign a deed of release that prevents them from accessing the scheme.

This scheme is an important step forward in acknowledging and addressing the harm done to victims and survivors, providing a way for people to access redress and support in a safe, confidential, and non-adversarial way. While the scheme cannot undo the harm that has been done, it can help to provide some measure of justice and healing for those who have suffered.

Scheme Outcomes and Statistics

As of 17 May 2024, the National Redress Scheme has received 41,665 applications to the Scheme, and 17,900 applicants have had their outcomes advised. Of these:

  • 15,504 payments have been made, totalling approximately $1.38 billion dollars
  • Out of the other 22,110 applications that are yet to receive an outcome:
  • 13,423 applications are actionable by the Scheme.
  • 2,511 applications are being validated, with the initial contact being made
  • 8,282 applications are in the information-gathering stage
  • 2,290 applications are with an IDM for a determination
  • 340 applications are being prepared for delivery of the outcome

The Scheme has also established several support services to assist survivors in accessing the help they need, including counselling, legal support, and financial advice. The Australian Government is also investing $33.3 million in new and expanded services for National Redress Scheme applicants as part of the 2024-25 Budget.

It is important to note that while the National Redress Scheme is an important step in acknowledging and addressing the harm caused by institutional child sexual abuse, it is not a replacement for legal action. Survivors are still able to pursue legal action against institutions responsible for their abuse, provided they have not signed a Deed of Release. Before participating in the scheme, take the time to seek independent legal advice.

Eligibility Criteria for Applicants

To be eligible for redress, applicants must meet certain criteria, which include:

  • Applicants must have experienced institutional child sexual abuse before 1 July 2018 (institutions refers to places such as schools, churches, and government organisations).
  • The abuse must have occurred within Australia or in an Australian territory.
  • Applicants must be over 18 or will turn 18 before 30 June 2028. This is to ensure that applicants have the capacity to make an informed decision about whether to apply for redress.
  • Applicants must apply between 1 July 2018 and 30 June 2027 (the application period for the National Redress Scheme).
  • Applicants must be Australian citizens or permanent residents unless an exception applies (people who have experienced abuse in an Australian territory or have a connection to Australia).
  • Applicants must provide evidence of the abuse they experienced and the institution where it occurred, such as police reports, medical records, or other relevant documents.

It is important to note that meeting these eligibility criteria does not guarantee that an applicant will receive redress and that the decision will be made on a case-by-case basis, considering all the relevant circumstances.

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Application Process

The application process for the scheme is designed to be straightforward and sensitive to the needs of victims and survivors.

What is the standard of proof for the National Redress Scheme?

The National Redress Scheme uses a lower standard of proof than a court of law. The Scheme requires a ‘reasonable likelihood’ that the abuse occurred. This means that the evidence provided must establish that it is more likely than not that the abuse occurred. The National Redress Scheme Operator will consider all available evidence when deciding on an application.

How long does the National Redress Scheme take to process?

The National Redress Scheme aims to process applications as quickly as possible. However, the time it takes to process an application can vary depending on a range of factors, including the complexity of the application and the number of applications being processed at any given time. Applicants will be kept informed of the progress of their application throughout the process.

Review and Appeals Process

If an applicant is not satisfied with the outcome of their application, they can request a review of the decision. The review will be conducted by a decision-maker who is different from the one who made the original decision. 

If the applicant is still not satisfied with the outcome of the review, they can appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The National Redress Scheme provides free legal advice and support to applicants requesting a review or appeal of a decision.

Payments and Support

What is the average payout for the redress scheme?

The amount of compensation varies depending on the severity of the abuse and the impact it has had on the survivor’s life, but the estimated average payout for the redress scheme is $88,000.

What is the cap on the redress scheme?

The maximum amount of compensation a survivor can receive under the National Redress Scheme is $150,000. This cap applies to the total redress payments a survivor can receive from all institutions in which they were abused.

How is redress payment calculated?

The amount of redress payment a survivor receives is calculated based on several factors, including the severity and duration of the abuse, the impact it has had on the survivor’s life, and any other factors that may be relevant. The redress payment is intended to compensate survivors for the harm they have suffered as a result of institutional child sexual abuse.

Redress Support Services

The National Redress Scheme also provides survivors free counselling and psychological care, available throughout the application process and beyond. This support aims to help survivors cope with the trauma of their experiences and to provide them with the tools they need to move forward with their lives.

Direct Personal Response

In addition to monetary compensation and counselling, survivors can also request a Direct Personal Response (DPR) from the institution that abused them. A DPR is a written or verbal acknowledgement of the harm that has been caused to the survivor and an apology for the abuse. The DPR is provided by the institution responsible for the abuse and is intended to help survivors achieve a sense of closure and healing.

Deadlines for the National Redress Scheme

One of the program’s most important aspects is the deadlines established for applying for redress.

When will the National Redress Scheme End?

The National Redress Scheme is scheduled to end on June 30, 2027. This means that people who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse have until that date to apply for redress through the program.

There are currently no plans to extend the application deadline beyond this date, which means anyone who wishes to apply for redress through the National Redress Scheme should do so as soon as possible to ensure they can take advantage of the program before it ends.

How long does the National Redress Scheme take to process?

The length of time it takes to process an application for redress can vary depending on several factors. According to the National Redress Scheme website, the process can sometimes take up to 12 months or longer.

Factors that can impact the time it takes to process an application include the complexity of the case, the availability of information, and the number of applications being processed at any given time. It is important for applicants to be patient and to understand that the process can take time.

Institutions Participating in the Scheme

As of 12 April 2024, over 500 non-government institutions have joined the Scheme since July 2018. These institutions cover approximately 71,000 sites across Australia, including churches, schools, homes, charities, and community groups. It is important to note that the National Redress Scheme is voluntary for non-government institutions.

In addition to non-government institutions, all state and territory governments and the Commonwealth have joined the Scheme. This means that any individual who has experienced institutional child sexual abuse can apply for redress regardless of the location of the institution where the abuse occurred.

Participating institutions in the Scheme must meet a range of obligations, including providing information to applicants, cooperating with the Department of Social Services (DSS), and ensuring that their staff are trained in relation to the Scheme. The DSS works closely with institutions to ensure they meet these obligations and provide guidance and support where necessary. They agree to provide redress to individuals who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse, which may include monetary payment, access to counselling and psychological support, and a direct personal response from the institution.

However, if an institution does not join the Scheme, an individual may still be able to pursue legal action against the institution. While the Scheme encourages all institutions to join, it cannot force them to do so. An institution may face negative publicity and reputational damage if it chooses not to join.

Scheme Governance and Administration

The National Redress Scheme is a cooperative scheme between Commonwealth, State, and Territory governments, which operates under referral legislation in each state and territory. The Scheme is governed by the Ministers’ Redress Scheme Governance Board (the Board), which comprises relevant Ministers from each jurisdiction and has decision-making powers concerning the Scheme.

The Scheme is administered by the Department of Social Services (DSS) on behalf of the Australian Government. It is responsible for the day-to-day management of the Scheme, including assessing applications and paying redress. The DSS also works closely with institutions to ensure they meet their obligations under the Scheme.

To ensure that the Scheme is transparent and accountable, the DSS publishes quarterly reports, which provide information on the number of applications received, the number of redress payments made, and the progress of the Scheme. The DSS also publishes an annual report, which provides a comprehensive overview of the Scheme’s operations.

Survivors who participate in the Scheme must sign a Deed of Release, which waives their right to pursue further legal action against the institution or individuals responsible for the abuse. However, survivors can still pursue legal action against the institution or individuals if they opt out of the Scheme or if their application for redress is unsuccessful.

As a result, survivors need to seek legal advice before signing the Deed of Release to ensure they fully understand their legal rights and the implications of signing it. The Scheme provides free legal support through the Knowmore legal service, which can assist survivors in understanding their legal rights and options.

The National Redress Scheme also provides a direct personal response to survivors, which can include an apology from the institution or individual responsible for the abuse. This response is separate from the redress payment and does not require survivors to sign a Deed of Release. Survivors can receive a direct personal response without participating in the redress scheme or pursuing legal action.

In short, the National Redress Scheme provides survivors with free legal support; however, it is recommended that you seek independent legal advice before signing a Deed of Release and fully understand their rights and legal options.

Key Takeaways

Have You Experienced Institutional or Historical Abuse?

If you believe you are eligible to make a compensation claim for institutional or historical abuse, you should seek the advice of an experienced personal injury lawyer – contact Burke Mead Lawyers to discuss your unique circumstances and potential compensation outcomes.

About the Author
Emma Mead

Emma Mead is an Accredited Specialist in Personal Injury Law, accredited by the Law Society of NSW. She is also a National Accreditor Mediator and has a Graduate Diploma in Family Dispute Resolution. She specialises in all personal injury and family law disputes, locally and across New South Wales.