The Governor-General established the Royal Commission Sexual Abuse in 2013, and the National Redress Scheme came as a result. Since 2018, victims of institutional child sexual abuse have been able to apply for National Redress Scheme Payments. It does not erase the pain and trauma victims experienced, but it does aim to address it. The purpose of the scheme is to provide victims with counselling, to address childhood trauma in adults. Additionally, it ensures a response from the institution responsible, and a payment.

Can A Current Prisoner Apply To The National Redress Scheme? 

If you are currently serving a sentence in jail, you cannot apply to the NRS until you are released. The National Redress Scheme defines a jail sentence as a lawful detainment. Whether in a community correction centre, youth training centre, on remand or, in prison. 

However, there are extenuating circumstances, which may allow you to make an application. For example, if serving your sentence will prevent you from applying before the NRS stops accepting applications in June of 2027. Additionally, if you will be too ill to apply to the NRS following your release from jail. You should consult a lawyer to determine whether your circumstances are exceptional enough to allow you an early application to the NRS. 

If you are ready to begin the process it begins, with the Gaol Additional Information Form, which is sent to the NRS to begin your application. You should consult a lawyer before completing this form. It comes in two parts. The first is to confirm any information you have previously provided to the scheme. The second part requires you to detail the exceptional circumstances they should consider as part of your application process. This information will help determine whether they can process your application while you complete your sentence.

Are There Different Rules For Current Or Past Prisoners?

You are free to apply to the National Redress Scheme even if you have been imprisoned for a single term of five years or greater. However, a special assessment must take place before you may receive a National Redress Scheme payment. This special assessment requires additional information about your offence(s). Once you provide this information, the NRS will seek advice about your potential entitlement. The operator will seek advice from the Attorneys General in the state your offence and your abuse occurred. Or the Commonwealth Attorney-General if the offence occurred overseas or is a federal case. 

There are several factors the Scheme Operator will consider when determining whether to issue a national redress scheme payment. 

  • The length and nature of the offence.
  • How much time has elapsed since the offence.
  • The rehabilitation following the offence.
  • They will also consider any other relevant information. 

If your conviction was for a serious criminal offence, you will need to complete an additional form. You must submit this form within eight weeks of making your initial application. If you do not send it in time, your application will be put on hold until you contact the NRS. The initial application, and additional information form, can also be submitted together. If you have a lawyer, they will advise you on how to do this and guide you through the process. 

The Scheme Operator will assess the information you provide. And where necessary, the relevant Attorneys-General. Your offence, length of imprisonment, and rehabilitation will be taken into consideration. The Scheme Operator will determine whether issuing a National Redress Scheme payment falls in line with community expectations, based on the information you provide. If they decide it is, your application will continue for assessment as normal. If the Scheme Operator decides you are not eligible, you will receive confirmation in writing.

When To Seek Legal Help 

If you are a victim of institutional child sexual abuse, you should seek a lawyer for your child abuse case before you apply to the NRS. Sexual abuse claims can be complicated, and you only get one chance to get it right. Additionally, there are other routes available to find justice, and a lawyer can offer you advice on which path may be right for you. Often, the alternative route can bring larger payments than the NRS typically issues and maybe a better path.  You cannot receive a payment from the NRS and pursue other options, so you must seek advice before pursuing any specific route. You can, however, report the abuse to the police even after you apply to the NRS. 

If you have received a previous payment before the NRS was established, this payment will impact the value of the new payment. You can still apply to the scheme, even if you signed an agreement saying you would not speak further or ask for additional money. The NRS takes precedence over this, and no institution can legally prevent you from applying to the NRS. 

At AJB Stevens, we have a deep understanding of child abuse laws in Australia, and have experience handling NRS applications. We can help you receive the closure you need and deserve.