How the National Redress Scheme legislation was developed

The National Redress Scheme has been criticised by survivors, survivor advocate groups, lawyers, politicians, and representatives of the Anglican Church alike since its launch on the 1st of July 2018.

The Scheme works on a heartless mathematical matrix which compares experiences of sexual abuse, then doles out unfair or disappointing redress payments based on penetrative vs. non-penatrive abuse. It doesn’t matter if a survivor was abused on multiple occasions. 

It doesn’t matter how many institutions were at fault, or the impact of the abuse.

Its penetrative abuse or be damned.

So how did the flawed National Redress Scheme legislation come into play? Who decided how redress payments would be calculated? Who decided non-penetrative abuse was “lesser” than other forms of abuse? 

Read on – we explore the origin of the National Redress Scheme, the Royal Commission’s recommendations, and how the Australian Government has strayed from the path of righteousness in favour of offending institutions.

The Royal Commission was overseen by six individuals, each professionals and specialists in their own respective areas.

The Royal Commissioners

From left to right:

  • The Hon. Justice Peter McClellan (AM): Supreme Court of New South Wales judge, former chair of the Sydney Water Inquiry, and former assistant commissioner at the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
  • The Hon. Justice Jennifer Coate: Appointee to the Family Court of Australia, Judge of the County Court of Victoria, and a former President of Children’s Court of Victoria.
  • Commissioner Bob Atkinson (AO APM):  Former Police Commissioner of Queensland.
  • Commissioner Robert Fitzgerald (AM): Commissioner on the Productivity Commission, Convenor to the Indigenous Disadvantage Working Group, and former commissioner on the New South Wales Community and Disability Services.
  • Commissioner Helen Milroy: Consultant psychiatrist with the Western Australian Department of Health specialising in child and adolescent psychiatry, and director of the Western Australian Centre for Aboriginal Medical and Dental Health.
  • Commissioner Andrew Murray: Former Senator from Western Australia and advocate on issues surrounding institutionalised children. 


The commissioners were given the power to authorise public and private hearings, along with private sessions with survivors of abuse. 

Their mission: to focus on systemic issues, be informed by an understanding of individual cases, and make findings and recommendations to better protect children against sexual abuse and alleviate the impact of abuse on children when it occurs.

The commissioners invited members of the public to make submissions over the phone, in writing, or in face-to-face meetings with commission officers. From January 2013 to December 2017, the commissioners and their officers held more than 8,000 private sessions, examined 1.2 million documents, made 41,770 calls, and received 25,774 emails and letters.

The Royal Commission also made 2,562 referrals to the police.

Following their in-depth investigation, the final report was released on the 15th of December 2017. It includes a range of recommendations for the Australian Government to implement, including the National Redress Scheme. You can view the recommendations in full here.

According to the commissioner’s recommendations, the National Redress Scheme was supposed to:

  • Acknowledge that many children were sexually abused in Australian institutions;

  • Recognise the suffering they endured because of this abuse;

  • Holds institutions accountable for this abuse, and;

  • Help people who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse gain access to counselling, a direct personal response, and a redress payment.


In terms of calculating redress payments, the commissioner’s recommended a matrix based on a 100 point system – 40 points for the severity of the abuse, 40 for impact, and 20 for institutional factors. The recommended maximum payment was $200,000.


However, the Australian Government’s matrix is flawed – it compares sexual abuse and creates a hierarchy where only survivors who experienced penetrative abuse can be granted a maximum payment of $150,000. In most cases, the redress payment is reduced to $100,000 or less unless there were “extreme circumstances” like additional non-sexual abuse, or institutional vulnerability.

Dropping the maximum redress to $150,000 is a slap in the face for survivors – especially when so few survivors qualify for the maximum payment. In April 2020, the average redress payment was $81,289 although some received less because they weren’t penetrated at the time of the abuse.


The National Redress Scheme has received immense criticism. In response, the Catholic Weekly stated


“In truth, if the Commonwealth government had agreed to the $200,000 recommendation, the Church would have stood ready to meet this obligation too. But the government didn’t, because – however distasteful it sounds – the government needs to take into consideration the affordability of the scheme. To do otherwise could lead to unfairness for some survivors.”


It’s true – the Australian Government has adjusted the Royal Commission’s matrix and recommendations for their own benefit. Rather than supporting survivors of institutional sex abuse, the Australian Government is favouring the offending institutions and minimising/reducing the redress payments where possible. 


The process is slow and often disappointing for survivors.


Survivors should be the priority, not money-making institutions like the Catholic Church.

The National Redress Scheme is set to run for ten years – there’s plenty of time for you to weigh up your options and achieve the best possible result. 


Before applying for the National Redress Scheme, we strongly recommend speaking to an experienced lawyer with experience in redress payments and institutional child abuse. At Kelso Lawyers, we have a team of professional, caring lawyers who have represented several survivors to achieve a desirable result – including compensation and a direct apology from the offender or offending institution.

We know our way around the National Redress Scheme. Our compassionate team of lawyers will work with you and attend to your emotional needs throughout the process, providing education and guidance from start to finish.


We’re here for you.

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