Media Release regarding the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse (Commonwealth Powers) Bill 2018

Redress Scheme must be inclusive to realise human rights commitments

Queensland Advocacy Incorporated (QAI) commends the Queensland Government for moving to provide compensation for survivors of child sex abuse, yet warns that the scheme must be inclusive and non-discriminatory if it is to deliver on its human rights commitments and provide a just response to the harm experienced by all survivors.

On 12 June 2018, the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse (Commonwealth Powers) Bill 2018 was introduced into Queensland Parliament. The reforms proposed by the Bill, which align with key recommendations from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, represent an important step towards addressing the grave abuse experienced by vulnerable Queenslanders while in institutional care. Survivors of abuse will be able to access payments of financial compensation, in addition to a personal response from the responsible institution and counselling.

QAI adds support to the growing collection of voices, including the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), Australian Lawyers Alliance, Human Rights Law Centre and Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, calling for the proposed parameters of the scheme to be widened to include people sentenced to a term of imprisonment of five years or more, who are presently proposed to be excluded from the scheme unless otherwise deemed eligible.

“To exclude people with a custodial sentence of five years or more is not consistent with the findings of the Royal Commission, the findings of the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee, the weight of public views on this issue or basic human rights principles,” QAI Director Michelle O’Flynn said today. “This exclusion would significantly devalue the scheme’s efficacy as a tool for the rehabilitation of offenders.”

“Many perpetrators of crime are victims themselves. In QAI’s recent report: dis-Abled Justice: Reforms to Justice for Persons with Disability in Queensland, we documented how the experience of violence, abuse, trauma and neglect, particularly when inflicted on a very vulnerable person, such as a person with disability or mental illness, can increase the likelihood of that person coming into contact with the criminal justice system later in their life,” Dr Nick Collyer, QAI Systems Advocate and author of the report explained. “There is a wealth of evidence of the systemic nature of the problems at the intersection of criminal culpability and disability, which are exacerbated by the experience of violence and abuse.”

As the Hon. Michael Kirby AC CMG, past Justice of the High Court of Australia, noted in the forward to dis-Abled Justice: “In my role as patron of the Community Restorative Centre in New South Wales, I have come to understand the particular impact of intellectual disability on many people who end up with custodial sentences.”Historically, people with disability and mental illness have comprised a large portion of those living in institutional settings. “If the Bill is passed with the current exclusion, it will mean that a disproportionately high rate of those who are excluded from accessing the Scheme in this way are people with disability or mental illness,” Ms O’Flynn explained. “This would be a very unjust outcome.”

The Bill has been referred to the Health, Communities, Disability Services and Domestic and Family Violence Committee for consideration, with the Committee to report to Parliament by 9 August 2018. Interested persons and organisations can make a submission or comment on the Bill by 9 July 2018 (further information is available from http://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/work-of-committees/committees/HCDSDFVPC/inquiries/current-inquiries/NationalRedressSICSACSB2018.

QAI urges those with interest in this issue to write to the Committee.

Media contact – Michelle O’Flynn, 0481 381 528