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Victims of Child Abuse

A person who experienced abuse as a child may be eligible to participate in the National Redress Scheme, or may be able to pursue a civil claim for compensation, or both.

Child Sexual Abuse in Institutional Settings - The National Redress Scheme

In response to the recommendations contained in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the National Redress Scheme was created.

Since 1 July 2018, survivors of child sexual abuse which occurred in Australian institutional settings, such as schools, Children's Homes, churches, sports clubs, hospitals and others, can lodge applications to the Commonwealth National Redress Scheme for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse. For a survivor to be eligible to participate in the scheme, they must:

  • be an Australian citizen or permanent resident;
  • have been aged under 18 years at the time of the abuse and now be aged 18 years or over;
  • have experienced abuse where an institution was responsible;
  • have experienced abuse prior to 1 July 2018.

Other rules may apply to survivors who fall outside these categories, including survivors who are now incarcerated or where institutions have not agreed to join the scheme. Legal advice should be sought if there is any uncertainty as to eligibility.

This scheme provides eligible applicants with up to $150 000, the opportunity to access counselling and other services, and the opportunity for a direct response from the relevant institution on request. If a person has already received an amount of compensation in relation to the abuse, it may impact upon the amount they are entitled to receive under the Scheme.

Participating institutions have agreed to provide redress to eligible applicants. Institutions have until 2020 to join the Scheme, and institutions must agree to join the scheme in order for redress to be provided to those who experienced abuse in that particular institution. The National Redress Scheme Website provides a search function allowing for participating institutions to be searched.

Specific provisions may apply where an institution no longer exists, or in cases where both a state government and non-government institution were responsible for the abuse. Further information on how the scheme applies in these circumstances can be located on the South Australian Attorney General's Department Website.

For an application to be processed, the relevant state and institution must have both joined the scheme. South Australia joined the scheme on 1 February 2019.

The scheme has been set up to run for 10 years and applications for redress can be made until 2027. An applicant can only make one application (although that one application may relate to multiple institutions). If an offer for redress is made, the applicant has a strict six month time frame to accept or reject the offer. Legal advice should be sought if there is uncertainty about a person's ability to participate in the scheme, for example, if they are incarcerated, or where the matter is complex.

A specialist community legal service has been established to provide survivors with free legal advice and information on redress options. Knowmore (Legal Service) has offices in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland and provides an outreach service to other States. Knowmore can be contacted on 1800 605 762, or more information on the service can be located on the Knowmore (Legal Service) website.

For information on the National Redress Scheme, contact 1800 737 377. Further information about the scheme, including who can apply, how to apply, and information on support services available, can be found on the National Redress Scheme Website.

Additional information about the scheme can also be viewed on the Department of Social Services Website.

Support in relation to the scheme and making an application can be obtained from:

Nunkuwarrin Yunti - dedicated Aboriginal caseworkers can provide support and assistance to men and women who experienced institutional sexual abuse as a child. Contact Nunkuwarrin Yunti on 8406 1600 or visit the Nunkuwarrin Yunti website for more information.

Relationships Australia - through their service Elm Place, Relationships Australia (SA) provides information, advocacy, case management and counselling services to those affected by childhood sexual abuse in institutional care. Contact Relationships Australia (SA) on 1800 998 187 or visit the Elm Place website for more information.

Victim Support Service - can provide counselling, information, advocacy and assistance for those affected by childhood sexual abuse in institutional care. Contact Victim Support Service on 1800 842 846 or visit the Victim Support Service website for more information.

Child Abuse - Civil Actions

A person who has suffered a personal injury relating to abuse experienced when they were a child, or those not eligible to receive support from the National Redress Scheme, may considering pursuing a civil action instead. Depending on the circumstances, such an action could be founded in tort, in contract, under statute or otherwise, and compensation could be sought. Legal advice should be sought before commencing any civil action.

There is no time limitation for a person to commence a civil child abuse action in South Australia [see Limitation of Actions Act 1936 (SA) s 3A(1)]. This extends to a claim for damages arising pursuant to section 23 of the Civil Liability Act 1936 (SA) relating to wrongful death, or a claim that has survived the death of the person for the benefit of their estate [see Limitation of Actions Act 1936 (SA) s 3A(3)].

A child abuse action can relate to any of the following:

  • serious physical abuse; or
  • sexual abuse; or
  • psychological abuse related to sexual abuse of serious physical abuse

See Limitations of Actions Act 1936 (SA) s 3A(5).

Victims of Child Abuse  :  Last Revised: Tue Feb 5th 2019
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.