Legal Issues With The National Redress Scheme

The National Redress Scheme (NRS) was supposed to represent a positive step forward for victims of child sexual abuse.

Proposed by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the National Redress Scheme was meant to be a well-deserved and long-awaited chance to receive counselling, support, and redress for the trauma experienced in childhood, all at the hands of Australia’s biggest institutions. 

However, it has become increasingly obvious that there are cracks in the Scheme. There are legal issues and traps. It’s crucial to understand what you are doing before filling out a National Redress Scheme application form.

Here are just a few legal issues surrounding the National Redress Scheme:

  1. The concept of quick and easy access to compensation for child victims is a positive one and appropriate given the circumstances. Instead of the states running their own separate schemes, the Commonwealth should administer one Federal Scheme where all victims come under the same umbrella so all Australians will be treated the same. While this sounds promising in theory, the logistics of achieving harmonious action between all States and Territories would be quite challenging.


Redress is a word often used in legal circles – however, many people are not clear on what it means. Redress is more than lump sum cash compensation. It includes cash, counselling, non-cash items, and medical and dental care. Redress makes a genuine attempt to mend the damage done to victims and this can go a long way to restoring normality and comfort in the life of an abuse victim. The Royal Commission recommended that financial redress be capped at $200,000 with a minimum payment of $10,000.

The National Redress Scheme doesn’t like to advertise the average payout offered to survivors. The maximum allowed now is $150,000 but from the results listed above, the average payout is currently $84,227.

For a lifetime of trauma and distress, are these figures acceptable?

Who decided $10,000 would be enough for victims of abuse? Where did these numbers come from?

  1. The Royal Commission plucked these numbers out of the air. There is no scientific basis for them. It is likely that the Commissioners wanted to make the numbers palatable for the Churches and State Governments. The Commissioners didn’t want to ask for a number that might scare these institutions away. They didn’t want to send the Churches bankrupt, so they came up with figures they thought would not be too shocking.
  2. An average payment of $81,000 is low. Clients of Kelso Lawyers who were abused in State care are averaging more than $300,000 in compensation. This is a significant difference and should be reviewed. The Royal Commission’s recommendation is no better than the previous victims compensation scheme which operated in New South Wales until May 2013.

iii. The Royal Commission does not accept that payments should be assessed by the principles used by our courts, meaning victims will get much less and loss of income will not be taken into account.

  1. The Scheme is for sexual abuse victims only. This means victims of other forms of abuse are turned away, despite extensive suffering in care facilities. This limits the number of people eligible for redress from the Scheme.

The National Redress Scheme should have a cap of at least $500,000 and an average payout of between $150,000 and $300,000.

The Scheme should include victims of both sexual and physical abuse, and lawyers should be paid reasonable fees to act for victims.

Compensation should be assessed by ‘common law’ methods, as if it were going to court.

This is an expensive scheme for the Churches and States but they are the ones who created the needs of victims today. Many Churches will most likely have to sell off assets or appoint administrators, declaring bankruptcy like many Catholic Dioceses in the United States. The Churches and the States should pay the administrative costs of the Scheme.

In April 2020, the National Redress Scheme revealed 6,716 applications have been received. 

Just 1,751 victims have received compensation. 

The average payment received was $81,289.

Only 370 victims have been offered redress. The victims have six months to decide whether to accept the offer.

national redress scheme payments

In February 2020, 10% of applications (around 700) were put on hold because institutions like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Presbyterian Church, and the Disability Trust had not joined the Scheme

In July 2020, the Federal Opposition suggested it could take half a century for the estimated 60,000 survivors of institutional child abuse to receive redress.

Payments are also expected to decrease $610 million by mid-2021 due to a “slower than expected uptake by survivors’ for the write-down“. 

The States and Territories are not united. Australia’s worst offending institutions aren’t either.

There is no obligation for anyone to join the Scheme. 

The National Redress Scheme is broken. Before submitting an application, we strongly suggest you to get in touch with an experienced child abuse compensation lawyer. You could be owed more than you know. 

At Kelso Lawyers, we’ve worked with countless victims of institutional abuse and achieved better outcomes for our clients than the National Redress Scheme could ever offer. We have an intimate understanding of your suffering – let’s work together to achieve a result to ease the burden these institutions and predators have had on your life.

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The National Redress Scheme is only available for victims of sexual abuse