The National Redress Scheme was a primary outcome of the comprehensive, five-year-long Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The establishment of the scheme tells survivors of institutional child sexual abuse that, as a nation, we believe their stories of abuse, that we failed to protect them, and that we will now do everything in our power to try to provide some degree of justice to survivors. The Prime Minister, the Hon Scott Morrison MP, has delivered a National Apology to survivors, but the redress scheme is our opportunity for our words to be translated into measurable outcomes. The National Redress Scheme is too important to not get right. The report has found that, as it currently operates, the redress scheme is at serious risk of not delivering on its objective of providing justice to survivors.
The National Redress Scheme commenced on 1 July 2018 and therefore has been operating for nine months. During this period it has received more than 3000 applications, a mere five per cent of the estimated 60 000 likely eligible participants. As at 28 February 2019, 88 redress payments had been made with a further 22 offers made that were being considered by the applicant.
There is still much about the practical application of certain provisions of the redress scheme that is unclear. This is due, at least in part, to the short period in which the scheme has been operating, combined with the small number of redress payments made. As the scheme matures, and as more survivors seek to access the three redress components, it is likely that some issues only briefly flagged in this report will emerge into sharp focus, while other issues not even considered here will come to light. As these new problems emerge, it is critical that there is ongoing oversight of the redress scheme to allow problems to be properly considered and appropriately addressed. The committee has found that the statutory reviews will not provide adequate oversight and that a committee, similar to this committee, should be established throughout the life of the redress scheme.
However, the committee's oversight of the scheme during its early stages of operation provides an opportunity to make changes to key legislative and policy concerns. The committee is conscious of the significant barriers to implementing any substantive legislative and policy amendments. In addition, the committee is mindful of the need for the scheme to provide certainty for survivors. These barriers and concerns have been balanced with the need to get the scheme right. Significant changes to the scheme cannot wait—they must be made now.
The report makes 29 wide-ranging recommendations. In implementing these recommendations it is essential that the following core principles are adhered to:
- The redress scheme and any amendments to the scheme must continue to be survivor-focused and trauma-informed.
- Amendments to the scheme must proceed on the principle of 'do no further harm' to the survivor.
- Amendments must be subject to proper consultation with key survivor groups and feedback from consultations should be appropriately incorporated.
Fundamental to the success of the redress scheme and the assessment as to whether the objects of the scheme are being achieved is whether the key components of redress align with the recommendations of the Royal Commission. The report has found that the redress scheme falls short of many of the key recommendations of the Royal Commission.