Federal Government to Lead National Approach to Survivor Redress

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
29 Jan 2016

Attorney-General George Brandis

The Federal Government today announced it would "lead the development of a national approach to redress" for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse.

In a joint media release from Attorney-General Senator George Brandis and the Minister for Social Services Christian Porter, it was confirmed that the government would commence discussions with states and territories to develop a national approach as quickly as possible.

The announcement said that Commonwealth's starting point would be that governments and non-government institutions should take responsibility for the wrongs committed under their care, and that cooperation between states and territories would be sought to develop a nationally consistent approach to redress through an agreed set of national principles.

It is not clear whether the "national approach" foreshadowed in the announcement would be a singular, national scheme as recommended by the Royal Commission and sought by survivor advocacy groups.

The response from the Federal Government comes in response to the Royal Commission's report on redress and civil litigation which was released in September. 

In that report, the Royal Commission had recommended that the Government should determine and announce by the end of 2015 that it is willing to establish a single national redress scheme, and that it should commence national negotiations with state and territory governments and all parties to the negotiations should seek to ensure that the negotiations proceed as quickly as possible to agree the necessary arrangements for a single national redress scheme.

Attorneys-General from state and territory governments had also written to the Federal Government to request it announce its intentions about the establishment and funding of a national scheme.

The Royal Commission wanted a single national redress scheme

The announcement from the Federal Government is significant because in its submission on redress to the Royal Commission, the Federal Government did not indicate support for a national approach, but rather listed the complexities and complications involved.

In November, NSW and Victoria state governments became the first state governments to express support for a national redress scheme.  This will assist negotiations, because NSW and Victoria are the two largest states, both by population and in the number of estimated claims which will arise out of government-run institutions in those states. 

The Catholic Church, through the Truth, Justice and Healing Council, has long advocated for a national redress scheme applicable to all institutions, both government and non-government.  The proposal was included in the Truth, Justice and Healing Council's submission to the Royal Commission's consultation process on redress in August 2014.

In a statement today, the Truth, Justice and Healing Council welcomed the announcement, but also expressed disappointment at the delay.

Francis Sullivan, CEO of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council, said: "What is disappointing, however, is that the Commonwealth isn't further down the track.  This is, at best, a tentative start to what has been a very long wait for child sexual abuse survivors."

He went on to say that there was an expectation that there would be more contained in today's announcement, but that it was good news that a process driven by the Commonwealth was now in place.