This article is designed to provide an overview of the National Redress scheme in Australia for victims of past sexual abuse in institutions such as schools, churches, government care and how this differs to using a lawyer to make a civil litigation claim.
A large and formal investigation took place over a five (5) year period from 2013 to look into what happened to children who were abused.
That investigation was called the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Part of the Royal Commission’s job was to make recommendations on how to stop child abuse from happening again and to consider how to help people who had been victims of it.
The Royal Commission thought a National Redress Scheme should be created to provide support to people who experienced institutional child sexual abuse.
Redress is a way of trying to correct things and make them right.
It could include:
Under the scheme, survivors of child sexual abuse can make an application to gain access to:
The Scheme can only help if the institution responsible for the abuse has joined the Scheme.
For child sexual abuse claims under the National Redress Scheme, an institution is a group or organisation that is set up:
No. Your application is processed through the scheme.
If the application is accepted, you could ask for a direct personal response from the institution if you would like that. It is optional. You do not have to speak with them.
A responsible person from the institution will say sorry for the child sexual abuse you suffered.
They will also tell you what they have done to stop abuse from happening to anyone else.
You have a choice of having a senior person from that institution:
You can choose how that will happen, when it will happen, and who will be there.
You can ask for that response any time before 30 June 2028.
For the defination of the scheme, child sexual abuse can include:
People who have experienced child sex abuse can apply to the scheme if:
You won’t be able to apply to access payments under the National Redress Scheme if:
If you have suffered institutionalised sexual abuse but do not strictly meet all of the criteria as mentioned above, you might still be able to apply to the scheme.
There are some circumstances in which an application might still be considered.
If so, the National Redress Scheme will then conduct a preliminary assessment to determine whether you can access redress, whether you will have to wait for redress or if there are other legal options that you can pursue.
If you do not meet the criteria of the National Redress Scheme you can still pursue a compensation claim against the institution through a court claim (for common law damages).
It is important to seek legal advice to understand what might be involved with that process.
It is not compulsory for institutions to join the National Redress Scheme. They need to volunteer to become a part of it.
There are many institutions that have registered with the scheme though.
You can check the government’s official National Redress Scheme website to find out if the institution involved is registered with the scheme .
A full list of the institutions which have joined the Scheme can be found here.
Some of the institutions who have joined the scheme include agencies and organisations affiliated with:
Below is a summary of the process involved in a National Redress scheme claim for historical sexual abuse.
You need to:
The Scheme will then call you to confirm they have received the application.
An Independent Decision Maker is then appointed.
The operators of the Scheme then make their own inquiries about the background.
They will contact the institution for information and details. This can take some time.
A decision is made, and you are notified of the outcome.
You then have six (6) months to make a decision. You can then choose to:
There are important consequences to the decision you choose to make.
It is important to get legal advice from experienced abuse compensation lawyers about which option is best for you.
The scheme suggests that the process should take somewhere between 3-12 months.
A parliamentary report notes that:
The more complex the background to your circumstances the longer the claim usually takes.
You have the option to make your claim for childhood institutional abuse via a civil compensation claim with a lawyer such as ourselves or via the National Redress Scheme.
There are some significant differences between a civil claim and the National Redress Scheme.
You will need to make a choice. We can provide advice on your rights on options before you make a decision.
Some people will bring a civil claim because of the possibility they might get a bigger payment.
These are sometimes known as court claims but it’s very rare they actually involve going to court.
Some benefits of commencing a civil claim with a lawyer over the scheme are as follows:
But the civil claim can have its own challenges, including:
The disadvantages of the National Redress Scheme are:
The benefits of making an application to the National redress scheme include:
While both avenues are aimed at providing the survivor with abuse compensation there are advantages and disadvantages of both.
It is important that you seek legal advice before pursuing either form of redress or compensation.
We strongly recommend you speak with experienced and compassionate injury lawyers who can offer you the advice and support you need.
All applications for Redress must be made before 30 June 2027 which is the final time limit at this point.
You can make an application before then. It doesn’t matter how long ago the sexual abuse took place.
The Scheme will close after 1 July 2028.
The National Redress Scheme is designed to simplify claims so that institutions take responsibility for child sexual abuse which they should have prevented.
That child sexual abuse could have happened:
Only one application for Redress can be made.
The application can include multiple events which have occurred at multiple institutions.
It is important to identify all of the relevant events and all of the institutions involved when you make the application.
Victims of child sexual abuse who have received compensation through other schemes or from past claims can still apply to the National Redress Scheme.
Prior payments will be taken into account (and usually deducted from any new entitlements).
The Commonwealth government is the one responsible for payment of the redress payments to victims.
The responsible institution will then be required to pay funding contributions to the scheme.
The Department of Social Services operates the National Redress Scheme. They exercise discretion about the person’s eligibility to the scheme.
The applications for redress are considered by Independent Decision-Makers.
The Decision-Makers go through a selection process after being nominated by various government bodies. They come from a variety of backgrounds.
The Decision-Makers do not assess any applications from the State or Territory where they live. They do not deal with any matter relating to any institution where they have a professional or personal connection.
The maximum amount payable under the scheme is $150,000.
Note: Civil institutional abuse claims made via a lawyer have no upper limit.
No. Legal costs are not covered through the National Redress Scheme.
There is, however, a free legal support service (Knowmore) that is available to provide assistance.
Once your application has been decided you will:
You can accept the offer, or you can reject it.
You have six (6) months to make a decision (you can ask for an extension if you need one).
If you decline the offer or you do not accept it within six (6) months (or the extended period) you will not be able to apply to the National Redress Scheme again.
Yes. If you disagree with the outcome, you can ask for a review.
You need to request that review within six (6) months of the date of the letter you receive explaining the outcome.
No new information can be submitted with the review. A new Independent Decision Maker will review the decision.
The review might confirm the original decision, or a new decision may be made.
Yes. You will need to sign a formal deed (an agreement) accepting the payment and confirming you have no rights to make any further compensation claim against the relevant institution involved.
If you accept a payment through the National Redress Scheme:
If the institution which was responsible for the child sex abuse has not joined the National Redress Scheme, then, unfortunately, it means you are unable to make use of the scheme.
You still have other legal options. You can pursue civil abuse compensation against the institution and the abuser which is something our team may be able to assist you with.
The process differs for every person involved.
Some people have a relatively good experience in having their claims processed through the scheme.
Others can have a very poor experience, with lengthy delays and poor outcomes, leaving them left feeling worse off for having gone through the process (as has been reported by the ABC).
Getting the right legal advice from experienced compensation lawyers at an early stage is important in making the process as simple and successful as it can be.