Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders People have been impacted by institutional sex abuse, and the National Redress Scheme (the Scheme) is one of the ways the government is supporting those who have been victimised. This article provides details on the scheme and who is eligible.

What Is Institutional Sexual Abuse? 

Institutional Sexual Abuse is a term used to distinguish between child sexual abuse at the hands of an institution versus CSA that occurred in a family setting. There are a wide variety of settings where child sexual abuse would be classed as institutional sexual abuse. Generally, these are settings where there is a position of trust and power over children. It can be perpetrated on a single victim by a single individual, but it is still classed as institutional as the institution facilitated the contact. It can also include abuse from peers in an institutional setting. 

People perpetrating child sexual abuse in an institutional setting may have used force or threats to ensure silence. However, they would often groom victims to ensure compliance and silence. Grooming typically uses normalising abusive behaviour and alienation from friends and family, but it also uses favouritism and rewards. These same tactics can be used on colleagues and families to ensure continued access to victims, and avoid detection. 

Institutions often compounded abuse by establishing a culture of secrecy and denial that revolved around protecting the perpetrators and silencing the victims. Victims often experience childhood trauma in adults as they come to terms with the abuse. 

What Is the National Redress Scheme? 

As a result of decades of institutional child sexual abuse claims, The Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse enacted the National Redress Scheme. The Royal Commission Sexual Abuse established the scheme for victims of child sexual abuse to acknowledge the abuse that took place in many institutions, recognise the harm caused, and hold institutions accountable for it. National Redress Scheme payments are available to all eligible victims, and people can also pursue counselling and psychological services. Additionally, if you file a claim, you can force the institution responsible for your abuse to provide an apology. 

What Institutions Have Signed Up? 

While many institutions voluntarily signed up, many others have refused. However, if the institution responsible for your abuse did not sign up or no longer exists, you can still file a claim. 

All state and territory governments have joined the National Redress Scheme. Additionally, many major churches and charities also voluntarily joined. This includes the Catholic Church, Anglican and Uniting Churches, as well as the Salvation Army, Scouts, and the YMCA. Many institutions that refused to join the scheme were informed that they would no longer be eligible to receive Commonwealth funding. Additionally, they could have their charitable status and tax concessions revoked. This caused most of the holdouts to join, except Kenja Communications

Are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders People Eligible? 

Yes. The journey to claim your National Redress Scheme payment can be a difficult one. You can assign a nominee to speak and act on your behalf. It might be a friend or family member you trust or your support worker. If you want to assign a nominee, you can complete a Nominee Form. 

You will find Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander specific support services across all states and territories, the ACT being the only exception. You have three avenues open to you. The first is the Redress Support Services. Here, you will find specific help for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. The second avenue is knowmore. They can provide you with legal support and they have a team of Aboriginal Engagement Advisors. 

This group is separate from the government and can provide you with advice, support, and assistance with the NRS claim. The final avenue is financial support through Commonwealth Financial Counselling. These are free and confidential services that can help you deal with financial problems. 

How AJB Stevens Can Help 

You can submit your application by paper or online. If you would like to apply for a National Redress Scheme payment, you can do so without a lawyer. However, legal professionals understand the complex child abuse laws in Australia. So, having a lawyer for child abuse case claims and NRS payment applications ensures you provide all of the relevant information. When you accept a redress payment, you lose the right to make a claim in court against the individual(s) or institution responsible for your abuse. So, your claim must be strong. 

Likewise, a lawyer can advise you on how strong your case is and whether a claim or a court case is more beneficial for your individual circumstances. If you take your case to court, there is no cap on damages claims. A judge will generally look at similar cases and use that to inform their decision. However, National Redress Scheme payments are capped at $150,000, with payments as low as $10,000. If you have previously negotiated a settlement with the same institution, you can still file a claim with the NRS. However, the independent decision-makers will deduct that settlement from your redress payment. 

The legal system can be intimidating, and even though you may be entitled to more, you may miss out if your application has errors. Allowing a specialist firm like AJB Stevens to handle your case will ensure you receive the justice you deserve.