Home - Claire Moore - Labor Senator for Queensland

ADJOURNMENT Child Sexual Abuse

Senator MOORE (Queensland) (20:33): In this place in August 2004, our Senate said to people who had been in institutions that they would no longer be forgotten, that the term 'forgotten Australians' would move into history and that we would move forward to give some hope and future. Of the 39 recommendations that came from that inquiry, I want to talk particularly about two tonight. One was a recommendation that said that if there had not been within six months of the tabling of the report movement towards establishing a process to respond to people who had been in institutions, consideration should be given to establishing a royal commission to look at these issues. That was recommendation No. 11. That was August 2004. Recommendation No. 6 of that report said:

That the Commonwealth Government establish and manage a national reparations fund for victims of institutional abuse in institutions and out-of-home care

In fact, that report recommended a national redress system. From August 2004, we move to 2013 when it was declared there would be a royal commission that would look at issues of sexual abuse and related matters. In fact, the letters patent provided to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse required that it 'inquire into institutional responses to allegations and incidents of child sexual abuse and related matters.'

Under paragraph (d) of the terms of reference in the letters patent, the commission was required to inquire into:

what institutions and governments should do to address, or alleviate the impact of, past and future child sexual abuse and related matters in institutional contexts, including, in particular, in ensuring justice for victims through the provision of redress by institutions, processes for referral for investigation and prosecution and support services.

In September 2015, the royal commission brought down its formal response to issues around redress. It did not rush into the discussion of redress. In fact, it established that the issue around reparation and redress was one of the core issues that needed to be considered. In 2013 the first paper, Towards healing, was introduced from the royal commission. There were a number of research papers; one in particular in June 2014 was about redress schemes. There was consultation, there were roundtables and there was engagement with people who thought and cared and believed that this was an essential part of our society coming to grips with what happened to those people that used to be known as the forgotten Australians.

Some extremely valuable research papers were created by the royal commission through this process, and there was ongoing interpersonal reaction. People's own stories and accounts of what happened to them were listened to. As well as specialised hearings, there continue to be research papers looking at key issues. With the issue paper on redress, part of that was getting information on exactly what redress schemes had already happened in our nation. There had been a number. Even in August 2004, when the Senate Community Affairs References Committee was taking evidence, we heard of a number of state based schemes and institutional based schemes that were in place, but until the royal commission was able to pull together a complete list of what was happening and what had been paid out and why, we did not have that information. So I do want to commend the fact that we now have an effective picture of what reparation and redress has occurred over the last 10 years.

Taking that forward, I was fortunate enough to attend one of the consultation processes in Queensland, where people with whom I had worked closely over many years, who had been victims of sexual abuse in institutions, were able to look at the research papers that had been completed by the commission, study them and then give feedback as to what was most important to them. People were clear that a range of issues were important to them: services around psychological support and counselling, access to a range of housing options and acknowledgement that their condition had been recognised by the community and also by the perpetrators of the abuse. These things have all been identified in the papers that we have.

But most importantly in the contribution tonight is the clear acknowledgement that there needs to be a national redress scheme. This has been studied carefully in terms of looking at what financial responsibilities would be in place. When you read the papers of the royal commission, you see that they set out in detail the kinds of payments that could be in place, ranging between $10,000 and $200,000, and there is a clear indication of what attributes would have to be proven by people claiming redress. It is there in the papers; it can be clearly understood and known. Also, there are actuary reports of how many claimants would be expected to come forward with claims that would meet the requirements of the redress scheme. The current indications seem to be that around 60,000 people could be impacted by the ability to make a claim for redress under a national scheme.

The commission put very clearly that it was important to provide redress under the most effective structure for ensuring justice for survivors and that the best possible arrangement would be a single national redress scheme, which would include some monetary payments. The purpose of the monetary payment under redress should be to provide a tangible recognition of the seriousness of the hurt and injury suffered by the survivor. So we have an extensive, well-researched, focused paper that indicates the need for a national redress scheme. More so than that, the commission, in putting forward its paper in September 2015, 12 months ago, said that there was a degree of urgency about this process. From the stories that had been given to the commissioners, from the heart-rending indications of people's pain and loss, it was acknowledged by the commission that there was an urgency in having this response in place. Its recommendation in September 2015 was that this scheme should be considered and put into place by the end of 2015, which by my calculation would have been 31 December last year.

There has not been a commitment by the government to respond to this claim for a national redress scheme. In this week, when we had the anniversary of the royal commission's paper on redress, there are people from the Care Leavers Australasia Network, CLAN, and other survivors of sexual assault in institutions, in our parliament visiting politicians, visiting their representatives, and reminding all of us about their claims-their claims that have been in place since this Senate acknowledged the need in August 2004. Care Leavers Australasia Network, in supporting a national redress scheme, through the royal commission, stated:

It is and always has been CLAN's position that the only way to ensure justice and equity for all Australian Care Leavers is to provide a National Independent Redress Scheme (NIRS) for ALL Australian Care Leavers.

if a National Redress Scheme was introduced it would mean uniformity across the country eliminating the inequality between states and past providers. The redress schemes that have operated in the past all had their flaws and allowed for inequality between Care Leavers If a National Redress Scheme was introduced it would eliminate the injustice that occurred and allow for all Care Leavers to be treated equally.

It cannot be much clearer than that.

In terms of the need, in terms of the veracity of the claims, in terms of the pain of the claimants, we have already acknowledged that-in August 2004. The royal commission has exposed and identified the need. It has quantified how a system would operate. It has worked together with providers. That has always been one of the core elements of the need-that providers who ran institutions where abuse had occurred needed to be accountable for that. Immensely valuable work has been done with the providers to bring them to a place where they are ready to work with governments to ensure that we can have a national independent redress scheme. The only thing that seems to be missing in this place is a commitment from government to ensure it happens.