In order to address or alleviate the impact of institutional child sexual abuse, and to ensure justice for victim survivors, the Royal Commission identified the need to provide avenues for victim survivors to obtain effective redress by institutions. In this Report, the Royal Commission found that civil litigation systems and redress processes were insufficient. The Royal Commission made recommendations to improve redress, including establishing a National Redress Scheme, and reforms to civil litigation processes.
In recognition of the findings of the Royal Commission and other inquiries like the Betrayal of Trust, the Victorian Government acknowledges the life-long impact and harm caused, and has been working to ensure effective redress for victims and survivors who experienced institutional child abuse (see Figure 6 for further detail).
Figure 6. Timeline of key reforms and activities relevant to the Redress and Civil Litigation Report (2015)
The Victorian Parliament passed the Limitation of Actions Amendment (Child Abuse) Act 2015 which abolished the limitation period for damages in relation to child abuse claims, allowing victim survivors to sue organisations responsible for their child sexual abuse regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred.
Victoria opted into the National Redress Scheme, one of the first jurisdictions to do so.
The Victorian Parliament passed the Legal Identity of Defendants (Organisational Child Abuse) Act 2018, closing an unfair legal loophole which prevented child abuse victim survivors from suing some organisations due to the organisations’ legal status.
The Victorian Funding Guideline for Services to Children commenced. The Guideline requires non-government organisations that receive government funding to provide services to children to be incorporated and insured against child abuse.
The Victorian Parliament passed the Children Legislation Amendment Act 2019, which allows for judicial officers to set aside past judgements, concluded after a limitation period had expired, and settlements reached while a limitation period applied, where just and reasonable to do so.
The Victorian Parliament passed the Justice Legislation (Drug Court and Other Matters) Act 2020 which expanded the eligibility for victims of institutional child sexual abuse to have access to the compensation they deserve.
The Stolen Generations Reparations Package commenced accepting applications from 31 March 2022.
The Victorian Government committed to provide redress to victims and survivors of physical, psychological and emotional abuse and neglect in institutional care prior to 1990 and issue an apology on behalf of government.
National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse
The Victorian Government was one of the first states to opt in to the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse (Scheme) and has been a participant since its commencement on 1 July 2018.
The Scheme is operated by the Australian Government and is governed by a framework for determining applicants’ eligibility for redress, and identifying which institution (or institutions) is responsible for making a payment. Applicants may receive access to counselling and psychological care services, a redress payment (up to $150,000), and a direct person/al response from the institution responsible for the abuse (for example, an apology).
All applications for redress are determined by independent decision makers. The Victorian Government is responsible for providing redress to a person if a Victorian Government institution is found reasonably likely to be responsible for a person’s abuse. Governments may also act as the funder of last resort for institutions that are defunct or do not have the financial capacity to fully participate in the Scheme.
Counselling and psychological care services are provided to all applicants residing in Victoria who accept an offer of redress under the Scheme. An eligible person is offered a choice of service provider, preferred location, and a range of delivery options. Specific services accommodate culturally appropriate counselling for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and consider the needs of applicants related to disability, gender, sexuality and language.
Victoria’s participation in the National Redress Scheme
The Victorian Government continues to actively work with the Australian Government and other jurisdictions to improve the Scheme’s operation to ensure a trauma-informed redress experience for survivors.
On 23 June 2021, the Australian Government released the final report of the second year review of the National Redress Scheme (Review). The Review made 38 recommendations aimed at improving the operation of the Scheme.
Several recommendations have been implemented, including introducing advance payments for applicants who are older or terminally ill, removing the need for a statutory declaration in the application form streamlining the process for victim survivors, and expanding the funder of last resort provisions to provide more victim survivors with access to redress.
Victoria continues to work with the Australian Government and other jurisdictions to implement agreed recommendations from the Review.
In the meantime, the Victorian Government continues to process and respond to applications for redress and associated Requests for Information. As at 31 December 2022, approximately 1,227 offers of redress have been made and 1,104 offers have been accepted.
Between 1 December 2021 and 31 December 2022, the Victorian Government provided 651 responses to Requests for Information and delivered 15 direct personal responses.
As of 31 December 2022, 149 people were actively accessing counselling and psychological care services.
Stolen Generations Reparations Package
Applications for the landmark $155 million Stolen Generations Reparations Package (Package) opened on 31 March 2022 and will remain open for applications until 31 March 2027. The establishment of the Package is testament to the strength and resilience of Stolen Generations and their families, who have long fought for justice.
Stolen Generations can apply for the following financial and restorative reparations:
- a lump sum payment of $100,000
- a personal apology from the Victorian Government
- supported access to healing programs such as re-connection to Country and language programs
- an opportunity to record and share their story and experience
- access to trauma-informed counselling, and
- access to records held by the Victorian Government about their removal.
Applicants who are terminally or critically-ill are prioritised and may qualify for an advance payment of $20,000. Support services are available to assist applicants throughout the reparations process.
A Funeral Fund, administered by Connecting Home Limited, was established to provide support to the families of Stolen Generations who have passed away since 1 January 2021, with up to $10,000 to cover the costs of a funeral, headstone or plaque and/or repatriation. The processing of applications commenced in June 2022.
The Stolen Generations Advisory Committee was established to ensure government delivers a culturally strong package. Members have deep ties into communities across Victoria. Their advice to the Victorian Government calls on both their lived experience of Stolen Generation policies and their professional backgrounds. Their leadership will help make sure the process continues to be community-led.
The Stolen Generations Reparations Steering Committee provided their Final Report to government in July 2021 with a total of 56 recommendations. All recommendations made to government relating to Package design in part one of the Final Report were accepted. The Victorian Government is currently considering its response to Part Two of the Final Report, relating to enhanced service provision and outcomes for members of the Stolen Generations and their descendants.
Victorian Care Leavers redress scheme co-design
The Victorian Government will establish a redress scheme, provide support, and deliver a formal apology to Victorians who experienced child abuse and neglect while in institutional care before 1990. The impacts of the neglect and abuse experienced by these children – also known as Forgotten Australians – continues to this day with many experiencing poverty, homelessness and mental illness as a result of trauma.
The Victorian Government committed $2.9 million in the 2022–23 financial year to co-design the scheme, which is intended to include urgent hardship payments of up to $10,000 for care leavers in exceptional circumstances. The scheme is currently envisioned to cover the period prior to 1990, when an estimated 90,000 children were placed in institutional care in Victoria. The new scheme is intended to build on supports available through the National Redress Scheme.
The Victorian Government has introduced a suite of reforms to remove barriers faced by child abuse victim survivors seeking compensation from organisations associated with their abuse. All recommendations relating to civil litigation contained in this report have been implemented. These ground-breaking reforms work to make civil litigation a more effective means of providing justice for victims and survivors.