The federal government introduced legislation for a national redress scheme for survivors of child sexual abuse in institutions in Parliament late last month.
Minister for Social Services, Christian Porter, said the Commonwealth Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Bill 2017 aims to begin the task of alleviating the impact of past institutional child sexual abuse.
The key elements of the proposed scheme are a redress payment of up to $150,000; access to psychological counselling and a direct personal response from the responsible institution, if requested by the survivor.
The Commonwealth Redress Scheme is reliant on buy-in from all states and territories, churches and other non-government institutions. Most potential partners to the scheme are waiting to see how the legislation will unfold.
Concern has been expressed about people automatically excluded from accessing the scheme, including survivors jailed for a variety of offenses, as well as children who experience sexual abuse in detention centres.
Church groups have expressed reservations about the lack of any real pastoral care in what could be described as a purely administrative scheme.
The Catholic Church has stated it will not sign up to the Commonwealth scheme unless all the states and territories elect to be part of it.
The chief executive of the Catholic Church’s Truth and Justice Healing Council, Francis Sullivan, said he believed the Commonwealth had constitutional advice that unless the states opt in, then churches and institutions in those states can’t participate.
“In other words it’s over to the states,” Mr Sullivan said.
Mr Porter said that, assuming the legislation is passed, applications for redress to the Scheme can be made from 1 July 2018. The Commonwealth has promised a dedicated telephone helpline and website will be available from March next year to provide information to survivors and their families.