CTH Bill to Improve Access to National Redress Scheme Payments

Thursday 2 September 2021 @ 8.10 a.m. | Legal Research

On 26 August 2021, the Federal Minister for Education and Youth Alan Tudge (‘the Minister’) introduced the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Amendment Bill 2021 (Cth) (‘the Bill’) to the House of Representatives.

The Bill seeks to make amendments to the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Act 2018 (Cth) ('the Act'). The originating Bill for the Act was discussed in an earlier TimeBase article.

In his second reading speech of the Bill, the Minister commented that:

"The scheme is an important step towards healing and provides a monetary payment as a tangible means of recognising the wrong survivors have suffered; access to counselling or psychological services; and a direct personal response from the institutions responsible where a survivor wants that to occur."

The proposed amendments in this Bill follow recommendations made from a review of the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse ('the Scheme'). The Bill's proposed amendments focus on making access to redress payments easier and fairer for those eligible.

The Bill has passed both houses with no amendments, and is currently awaiting assent.

Proposed Amendments: Advance Payments 

The Minister acknowledged that by the time survivors come forward, they may be elderly or ill, and that the outcome of the application can take further time to be processed. The Bill proposes amendments that seek to allow for priority redress applicants to receive an advance payment of $10,000.

These priority applicants would, include applicants who are:

  • aged 70 years and over;
  • of Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander background and aged 55 years and over; or
  • terminally ill.

The Minister stated in his second reading speech:

“There is a risk that survivors may pass away before receiving their redress outcome and any acknowledgement of the abuse they experienced as children. The purpose of the advance payment is to provide these applicants with a form of recognition for their abuse early on in the redress application process”.

Further Amendments Regarding Payments 

Currently, when redress payments are being calculated, prior payments are indexed and taken into account. The date used to calculate this indexation is the date that the determination is made. However the Minister commented that this was to the disadvantage of an applicant, due to the time it can take for a determination to be made.

The Bill, therefore, proposes amendments to change this date used to the date that an application is submitted. The Minister commented in his second reading speech that this would:

“ensure that the time taken to process an application does not negatively affect the amount of their final redress payment”.

Furthermore, the Bill also seeks to give those who are offered a redress payment the option to their payment paid in installments. This aims to give applicants more financial control, and allows for flexibility for those preferring not to handle large sums of money.

Proposed Amendments: Accepting and Seeking Review of an Offer of Redress

The Bill also contains proposed amendments to extend the period in which an applicant may accept or seek a review of a redress offer. 

The Minister further explains in his second reading speech:

"Currently, if an applicant has not accepted an offer of redress or requested an extension within the six-month acceptance period, the offer is taken to be declined. This restriction results in survivors being unable to access redress, given that they can only apply once for redress. The bill introduces the ability for the scheme operator to extend the acceptance period after their six-month acceptance period has expired, where needed to ensure the scheme is survivor focused."

Proposed Amendment: No Need for a Statutory Declaration

The Bill also proposes the removal of a statutory declaration in a redress application. Whilst this statutory declaration requirement was temporarily removed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Minister noted in his second reading speech that there were additional issues with this requirement.

The Minister stated that:

“[t]his requirement has proven to be onerous for survivors, particularly vulnerable survivors. Many survivors consider the requirement questions the integrity of their application and they have concerns for their confidentiality. The requirement risks survivors not coming forward to access the redress they deserve”.

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National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Amendment Bill 2021 (Cth)and explanatory materials available from TimeBase's LawOne service

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