The National Redress Scheme for victims of historic child sex abuse has been attracting a lot of media attention since its launch in 2018. As per the Royal Commission’s recommendation, many churches and institutions responsible for the abuse of children have signed up to the Scheme. It has been praised for taking on the Commission’s recommendations – to an extent.
However, the National Redress Scheme falls far short of what is required to help survivors. There have been a myriad of problems and shortcomings with the Scheme, including but not limited to:
One of the major controversies surrounding the National Redress Scheme has been the use of a mathematical “matrix” which determines what level of compensation a victim will be offered. The matrix looks simple but in practice, it is complex and completely divorced from reality.
The matrix is a mathematical formula. It assesses how much ‘redress’ (money) a survivor is entitled to by using a simple checklist. It awards redress based on what happened to the survivor – not how they have been affected.
In other words, the Scheme focuses on sexual acts rather than the negative impact on someone’s life.
This primitive, barbaric table is what’s used to determine the redress a survivor deserves.
It degrades survivors – as if they haven’t suffered enough.
A victim can only receive the full $150,000 if they were sexually penetrated and meet four more criteria in the matrix.
If a person suffered non-penetrative abuse (e.g. repeated fondling, touching, grooming, or being forced to engage in depraved acts over a period of years), they cannot be awarded any more than $50,000.
The matrix doesn’t even bother addressing people who were physically abused – no matter how horrifically. The Scheme is only there for people who suffered sexual abuse.
Think about the children who were beaten every single day until they were black and blue by a foster parent or a supervisor in a children’s home, because the National Redress Scheme sure doesn’t. The Scheme doesn’t care if you were tortured, beaten, or even hospitalised – if there was no sexual abuse, you will not receive redress.
Think about the child who was fondled and humiliated by a priest every week for years. The most they can get is $50,000 and they’ll have to release the church from all legal liability to get that money!
This framework is completely removed from reality.
The whole framework is designed to minimise the responsibility of the institution. An individual can only claim penetrative abuse, contact abuse, or exposure abuse to receive payment. It doesn’t matter if they were a victim of repeated sexual violence and forced to witness regular indecent exposure.
It doesn’t matter if an individual ticks every single box in the matrix. The maximum redress they will receive is $150,000.
The matrix’s attempt at mathematically assessing survivors is a work of fiction. It’s insulting and it does not provide room for common sense or the myriad of ways child abuse affects people.
If the redress payments weren’t humiliating enough, the payments offered for counselling and ongoing psychological support is laughable.
An abuse survivor can benefit from ongoing counselling and psychological support, there’s no denying it – but the costs of ongoing mental health support stack up and trauma doesn’t discriminate. An individual who has witnessed or experienced psychologically traumatising events can suffer significantly regardless of whether penetration was involved.
However, the Government doesn’t share this view.
If you witnessed indecent exposure and experienced terror and fear every night you were living in an institution, you will only receive $1,250 for counselling. This amount ignores the trauma associated with the abuse. It only takes into consideration the type of abuse you suffered from.
With a Joint Select Committee accepting submissions on the National Redress Scheme, in order to refine and improve it, we hope that the government will do the right thing and fix the matrix.
Child abuse survivors deserve better.
If you haven’t yet filed a civil claim against the institution responsible for your abuse, do so before you apply for the redress scheme. You can’t do this once you have accepted a payment from the National Redress Scheme.
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The National Redress Scheme is only available for victims of sexual abuse