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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.

What is the child sexual abuse National Redress Scheme?

Icon of Australian Parliament Building

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.

The Scheme:

  • started on 1 July 2018;
  • will run for 10 years
  • will end in 2028.

What is Redress?

Redress is a way of trying to correct things and make them right.

It could include:

  • the payment of compensation;
  • giving you money to be able to pay for treatment and help; and/or
  • an apology or acceptance that events took place.

What does the National Redress Scheme do?

National Redress Compensation Money

Under the scheme, survivors of child sexual abuse can make an application to gain access to:

  • a payment up to $150,000;
  • counselling and or psychological support (up to $5,000); and
  • the ability to seek a direct personal response/apology from the responsible institution.

The Scheme can only help if the institution responsible for the abuse has joined the Scheme.

What is an institution?

School icon to show institutions for abuse

For child sexual abuse claims under the National Redress Scheme, an institution is a group or organisation that is set up:

  • by the government;
  • for a religion;
  • to run a business;
  • for teaching and learning;
  • for a social activity; and/or
  • for sporting activities.

Do I have to speak directly with the institution?

Unhappy face icon for unwanted conversation

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:

  • talk to you over the phone;
  • meet with you in person;
  • send you a letter; or
  • make a more public statement.

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.

What is child sexual abuse?

For the defination of the scheme, child sexual abuse can include:

  • sex of any kind at all with a child;
  • sexual touching of any body part (whether with or without clothes);
  • showing a child sexual acts; or
  • making a child act out sexual acts.

Who is eligible for the National Redress Scheme?

Eligable icon to claim National Redress

People who have experienced child sex abuse can apply to the scheme if:

  • the abuse was sexual abuse or involved physical abuse connected to sexual abuse;
  • an institution was responsible for bringing you in to contact with the person who abused you;
  • you were born before 30 June 2010;
  • you are an Australian citizen or permanent resident at the time of applying;
  • you were under 18 years of age at the time of the abuse; and
  • the abuse happened before 1 July 2018.

Who can’t apply to the National Redress Scheme?

Unable to claim National Redress

You won’t be able to apply to access payments under the National Redress Scheme if:

  • the child abuse did not involve sexual abuse;
  • you are in jail;
  • you have had a jail sentence of more than 5 years (note:  an application might still be considered in some circumstances);
  • there was no institution involved in you having contact with the person who abused you;
  • the institution which was involved has not joined the scheme;
  • you were born after 1 July 2010;
  • you are not an Australian citizen; or
  • the abuse happened after 1 July 2018.

What happens if I don’t fit into the National Redress Scheme criteria?

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.

Who has signed up to the National Redress Scheme?

Child abuse icon

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:

  • the Commonwealth government
  • State and Territory governments
  • the Catholic Church
  • the Anglican Church
  • the Uniting Church
  • the Salvation Army
  • the YMCA
  • Scouts Australia
  • Anglican Church Grammar School (Churchie)
  • Australian Olympic Committee
  • Boys Brigade Australia
  • Brisbane Grammar School
  • Brisbane Youth service
  • Emmanuel College
  • Good Shepherd Christian school
  • Independent Baptist churches
  • the Ipswich Grammar School
  • John Paul College
  • John Flynn College
  • Mission Australia
  • Nudgee College (St Joseph’s College);
  • Paralympics Australia
  • Presbyterians and Methodist Schools Association
  • Queensland Country Women’s Association
  • Queensland Police Citizens Youth Welfare Association
  • Redlands Combined Independent College
  • Rockhampton Grammar School
  • the Salvation Army
  • Save the Children Australia
  • Seventh Day Adventists s
  • Scripture Union Queensland
  • Silky Oaks Children’s Haven
  • the Smith Family
  • St Vincent De Paul Society
  • Swimming Australia
  • Terrace (St Joseph’s College, Gregory Terrace)
  • Toowoomba Grammar School
  • Townsville Christian Broadcasters Association

What is involved in a National Redress Scheme Claim?

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Below is a summary of the process involved in a National Redress scheme claim for historical sexual abuse.

Step 1:

You need to:

  • complete an application form (online or a paper copy);
  • provide supporting documents;
  • complete an identification check;
  • sign a statutory declaration; and
  • submit your application.

Step 2:

The Scheme will then call you to confirm they have received the application.

Step 3:

An Independent Decision Maker is then appointed.

Step 4: 

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.

Step 5: 

A decision is made, and you are notified of the outcome.

  • If the application is accepted an offer of payment will be made.
  • If the application is rejected, you will be told the reasons for that.

Step 6: 

You then have six (6) months to make a decision. You can then choose to:

  • accept the offer of payment;
  • ask to have the decision reviewed (re-decided) by another Decision Maker; or
  • reject the offer of payment.

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. 

How long does a National Redress Scheme claim take?

How long does claim take icon

The scheme suggests that the process should take somewhere between 3-12 months.

A parliamentary report notes that:

  • the operator of the Scheme says the average timeframe for the process is 8 months; and
  • people using the scheme say it takes closer to 12-18 months;
  • lawyers report a Civil Compensation claim (a court claim) is usually faster.

The more complex the background to your circumstances the longer the claim usually takes.

How is a civil compensation claim different to the National Redress Scheme?

Which claim type icon

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.

Which option icon

Discuss your options with a free and confidential chat with our caring experts

Free & no obligation claims check

Civil Compensation Claims

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:

  • they are generally quicker than the Redress Scheme applications.
  • no limits on compensation.
  • there is no limitation period for actions for child abuse in Queensland (a claim can be made at any time).
  • most firms offer a no win no fee policy enabling clients to only pay legal costs after a successful outcome.
  • usually, part of your legal costs will be recoverable.
  • there are caps on the amount of legal costs you can be charged.

But the civil claim can have its own challenges, including:

  • having to have more compelling evidence about the abuse.
  • having to deal directly with the institution.
  • having to prove that the institution was legally responsible for what occurred.
  • having to incur legal costs in pursuing the claim (our claims are run on a no win, no fee basis with no upfront costs)

National Redress Scheme:

The disadvantages of the National Redress Scheme are:

  • you can only make a claim if it involved an institution.
  • you are only able to seek compensation if the institution is part of the scheme.
  • the process is usually slower than a civil compensation claim.
  • physical abuse is not part of the scheme (it is directed towards sexual abuse).
  • the maximum compensation amount is capped at $150,000 (in 2019, the average payment was just over $80,000).
  • you can only access the scheme if you meet the other relevant criteria.
  • you must apply for Redress before 30 June 2027.
  • civil law compensation is not available if a Redress payment is accepted.

The benefits of making an application to the National redress scheme include:

  • not having to meet the same legal standard of proof of the abuse or legal liability of the institution;
  • you can get free help through a legal support service (Knowmore);
  • you do not have to deal with the institution directly;
  • the institution does not assess your eligibility for the application.

What is the best option for you?:

Which option icon

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.

Is there a time limit for the National Redress Scheme?

Sand time green icon to represent time limits for PTSD compensation claims

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.

When is an institution responsible?

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:

  • anywhere where activities of an institution take place (e.g. at a camp, sports grounds etc);
  • at the premises (e.g. at a church, at a school, at a club, at an orphanage etc); and/or
  • by any official, employee or representative such as a coach, camp leader, teacher, religious leader or volunteer.

What if there was more than one institution involved?

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.

What if I have already accepted a payment of civil compensation?

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).

Who pays for the National Redress Scheme?

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.

Who administers the National Redress 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.

What is the average redress payment?

How much payout icon

The average payment being made under the National Redress Scheme, according to government officials and other relevant agencies is reported to be about $80,000.

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.

What should I do if I’ve been made an offer of payment under the National Redress Scheme?

Once your application has been decided you will:

  • receive a telephone call; and
  • a letter confirming the outcome of your application.

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.

Can I ask for a review of the outcome?

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.

Do I have to sign anything if I accept payment in the National Redress Scheme?

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.

What happens if I accept a National Redress Scheme payment?

If you accept a payment through the National Redress Scheme:

  • you won’t be able to bring a separate compensation claim (a common law claim for damages) against the institution
  • you will need to sign an agreement confirming your acceptance of the payment
  • you do not need to pay tax on the payment
  • the payment won’t count as income
  • it might count as part of an asset test in any eligibility for other government payments eg Centrelink benefits etc
  • there are very limited options to review any decision that is made about the redress payment

What can I do if the institution did not join 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.

Is the National Redress Scheme process simple?

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.

Posted by Chris McManus Principal

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Disclaimer: Please note, this content is designed as general information only and does not constitute legal advice. While we make every effort to fact check and keep items up to date, legislation may change from time to time. For advice on your specific situation then please contact us.
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