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Thursday, 24 May 2018
Page: 4567

Mr FALINSKI (Mackellar) (12:35): Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker Irons. I had no idea that you would be in the chair when I came to rise.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Irons ): Neither did I!

Mr FALINSKI: But I want to say that, in my short time in this place, I've got to know you as the chair of the corporations committee and have discovered that you are a person of great talent, energy and capacity. Indeed, as the chair of a committee that includes the member for Burt and myself, you are a person with more patience than any human being should have to have! When people from time to time reflect on this place and say that we are somehow too narrow and that we have too many staffers, too many people who were union officials and, of course the worst sin of all, too many people who were lawyers, they should look at your speech on the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Bill 2018, Mr Deputy Speaker Irons, to see that this parliament does have a long and broad list of people with large experiences who bring many of those experiences to the business of this House.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse heard from thousands of survivors across Australia. Their stories opened our eyes to the prevalence of institutional child sexual abuse, the failures of institutions to respond and the lifelong impact it brings to bear. The findings and recommendations of the royal commission are powerful and far-reaching. I'd like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the survivors of institutional child sexual abuse, their families and the organisations that represent them. Whether as children or adults, the reality is that for many years survivors were not listened to, were not believed or were not acknowledged. I thank them for their resilience and their determination to ensure that we all learn from the mistakes of the past and acknowledge the harm and suffering experienced by the many thousands of children who had been sexually abused in institutions where they should have been safe. No child should ever experience what some of these children endured. They were abused by the very people charged with their care and protection, and let us be clear: that is a disgrace. The establishment of the national redress scheme is an acknowledgement by the Australian government and participating governments that sexual abuse suffered by children in institutional settings was and is wrong.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the New South Wales government and its most excellent Attorney-General, Mark Speakman, for being the first state to opt in and already legislate for the scheme, along with a raft of new offences. The national redress scheme recognises the suffering survivors have experienced, accepts that these events occurred and states that institutions must take responsibility for this abuse. The government acknowledged the need to provide public recognition of the suffering experienced by survivors and investigate the inadequate responses provided by institutions through the establishment of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The royal commission estimated that almost 20,000 survivors were sexually abused in state and territory government institutions. The royal commission identified more than 4,000 institutions where sexual abuse took place. The psychological, physical and emotional injuries affect a survivor for the rest of their life. In spite of the severity of these injuries, many survivors have not sought or obtained any kind of acknowledgement or redress for this harm.

The establishment of the national redress scheme is the most significant step in addressing the wrongs of the past and providing an overdue response to survivors. It is also an important step towards healing. It ensures that governments and institutions take steps to safeguard against these crimes being repeated in the future. This bill package will establish the national redress scheme for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse. From 1 July 2018 the scheme will provide redress where a Commonwealth institution or a New South Wales, Victorian or Australian Capital Territory government institution is responsible for the child sexual abuse and related non-sexual abuse which occurred before the date of the scheme's commencement. This bill will also allow other state and territory governments and non-government institutions, such as churches or sporting clubs, to voluntarily participate in the scheme on a responsible-entity-pays basis. The remaining state governments will need to adopt the Commonwealth law for the scheme to apply in those jurisdictions and for non-government institutions to provide redress where abuse has occurred in a state.

Passage of these bills will enable the Commonwealth government to respond to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse redress recommendations by developing a best-practice redress scheme for survivors. The scheme will start on 1 July 2018 and run for 10 years. The scheme will recognise and alleviate the impact of past child sexual abuse that has occurred in an institutional context, by providing three components of redress: a monetary payment of up to $150,000, with an expected average payment of around $76,000, as a tangible means of recognising the wrong that survivors have suffered; access to counselling and psychological services through either a lump sum payment or state or territory based services, depending on where the survivor lives at the time of their application; and a direct personal response to survivors from the responsible participating institutions, should the survivor request one. A person will be eligible for redress under the scheme if the person was sexual abused as a child before the scheme start date; the abuse occurred inside a participating state, inside a territory or outside Australia; one or more participating institutions are responsible for the abuse; and the person is an Australian citizen or a permanent resident.

As I mentioned earlier, the New South Wales government along with the Victorian and Australian Capital Territory governments have announced their participation in the scheme. New South Wales and Victoria will refer their powers so that they can participate and the abuse occurring in their jurisdiction—that is, by non-government institutions—can be covered by the scheme. The Australian Capital Territory is not required to refer powers in order to participate or to allow abuse in its jurisdiction to be covered by the scheme.

The scheme will provide redress for a significant number of survivors of institutional child sexual abuse. There are an estimated 1,000 survivors of abuse in Commonwealth government institutions, 9,000 survivors of abuse in New South Wales government institutions, 5,000 survivors of abuse in Victorian government institutions and 200 survivors of abuse in Australian Capital Territory institutions. Further survivors will be able to seek redress under the scheme as additional states and territories and non-government institutions opt in. The government is continuing negotiations with the remaining jurisdictions and non-government institutions to encourage their participation in the scheme. Redress payments will be exempt from Commonwealth debt recovery and income tests related to government payments and will be non-taxable and reflective of the severity and impact of the abuse experienced. Redress support services will be available with the scheme to provide timely access to trauma informed and culturally appropriate support for people during the application process. The scheme will also provide access to free specialist legal support services and financial counselling.

The royal commission released its Redress and civil litigation report in November 2015. In that report it recommended a single national redress scheme. The government is demonstrating leadership by responding to the royal commission's redress recommendations and establishing a best-practice redress scheme. A national redress scheme with an option for states and territories to participate on the responsible-entity-pays basis recommended by the royal commission is the best way of seeking to ensure that survivors across Australia will be able to gain redress on an equal basis. While New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT have committed to the scheme from commencement, the government is continuing to negotiate with the remaining states and institutions to ensure maximum coverage.

In line with the royal commission's recommendations, an independent advisory council was formed in December 2016 to provide significant input on the design and operation of the scheme. The council brought together people with expertise from a range of backgrounds, including survivors and their supporters, as well as experts on legal, psychological and redress issues. The council provided advice to ensure the scheme meets the needs of survivors. A single national redress scheme can only be established with full cooperative legislative action of the Commonwealth and states. The surest way is by referral of powers under the Constitution. States must refer powers to allow non-government institutions within their jurisdictions to opt in to a national scheme. On 10 May 2018, the Australian government introduced legislation to create the national redress scheme for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse. The scheme will begin this year, on 1 July, subject to passage of legislation and will provide access to the psychological counselling so needed, a direct personal response from the responsible institution for people who want it and a monetary payment. If all institutions and state governments across Australia opt in, the scheme could provide redress to around 60,000 people estimated by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse to have been abused in institutions. The Commonwealth continues to consult with states and non-government institutions on the development of a national bill in anticipation of a state referring powers as allowed under the Constitution. All survivors and state government institutions will be covered by the scheme from its commencement in July 2018. The governments of Western Australia and South Australia are the only two states yet to formally announce that they will join the redress scheme. If a state or territory does not opt in to the scheme, the Australian government will seek sufficient referral of powers to enable non-government institutions to opt in to the scheme.

To receive redress, the person must accept the offer and, in doing so, release all responsible participating institutions from any liability for sexual abuse and related non-sexual abuse covered by the scheme. The redress scheme was designed in close consultation with state and territory governments, an independent advisory council and non-government institutions. Abuse that occurred outside Australia is within the scope of the scheme, so long as the participating institution is responsible for the abuse and the person meets other citizenship requirements at the time of application. The decision to exclude those found guilty of serious crimes was reached in consultation with state and territory governments.

Mr Deputy Speaker Irons, I think it only right to recognise your role in bringing this legislation to the House and to congratulate you for it. I commend this bill to the House.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I thank the member. The question is that this bill be now read a second time. If the member for Isaacs will just indulge me, as I'm just about the leave the chair, I'd like to take the opportunity to acknowledge the current Attorney-General in his time as the Minister for Social Services and the enormous amount of work he did in consultation with me during this process—also to the current member for finalising the work that the previous social services minister did. Thank you, Member for Isaacs.