For victim-survivors of childhood sexual abuse, there has been a long road to speaking out. On average, victims of child sex abuse take 24 years to speak up, with 70% of adult victim-survivors saying they kept the abuse hidden throughout their childhood. From guilt and shame to fear, there are many reasons why it’s impossible for people to speak out. Now there is a route open to victims who want to speak and be heard. 

The National Redress Sexual Abuse Compensation Scheme 

    After a Royal Commission into historical childhood sexual abuse, the National Redress Scheme was put into place to provide victim-survivors with an avenue to receive some form of justice. With named institutions being held to account, victim-survivors can seek monetary compensation, receive an acknowledgement of the abuse they suffered, and an apology from the institution responsible. 

    A Pileup of Applications

      So far, the government has paid out over $1 billion in redress to victim-survivors who have filed sexual abuse claims. However, advocates have fired a warning shot, unless there’s an urgent intervention, the scheme may run out of funds. 

      The Department of Social Services recently answered to MPs and Senators about the number of applications they have received since the scheme opened the application process. The weekly average of new applications is almost 300 and applications can be submitted through to June of 2027. 

      However, the independent legal service Knowmore has expressed concerns about the number of victim-survivors that may slip through the cracks unless the government intervenes to provide the NRS with additional funding. 

      As of now, the scheme has finalised 15,700 sexual abuse claims applications and made 14,716 payments. March 2024 set a record high, with the highest number of applications since the scheme began in 2018. Unfortunately, that leaves tens of thousands of claims still waiting. 

      Knowmore’s CEO Jackie Mead warned the committee that they were stretched beyond breaking after a funding reduction in 2023 that forced them to make difficult decisions. They are working with an outdated funding model because the initial belief was that the application would decrease rather than increase. However, between the 21/22 financial year and the current year, there has been a 40% increase. 

      Mead stated that they have repeatedly requested an adjustment in funding so they can meet the demand of an increasing number of victim-survivor applicants. They can only do so much with the funding they have, which explains the backlog of applications. As a result of these funding cuts, the team had to reduce the scope of support to service fewer people. 

      Alternatives Routes 

        With increasing wait times, many victim-survivors are looking at other routes to receive justice and an experienced lawyer can help you make that decision.

        The National Redress Scheme claims are capped at $150,000, with an average payment of just over $85,000. Your lawyer may be able to take you through a civil process to receive a larger payout, but there are varying factors in determining whether you will be successful in taking this route. 

        If your adult and working life has been severely impacted by the institutional abuse you suffered as a child, you may want to take the civil claims route rather than filing a claim with the NRS

        Firstly, the courts allow for larger compensation payments in civil claims cases. Secondly, legislation changes across Australia have removed the time limits for civil claims, which allows victim-survivors to lodge claims against living perpetrators. It may sound stressful, but most civil claims are settled out of court during mediation making the process a little less stressful. 

        A civil claim can take between one and two years to settle, which in many cases is quicker than the current NRS claims processing time. 

        Sexual Abuse Lawyers Sydney 

          While you can lodge your child sexual abuse claim with the Royal Commission sexual abuse on your own, doing so with a lawyer will help you navigate the queue. Your AJB Stevens lawyer will help you collect all the necessary information to ensure your application is completed correctly the first time to avoid any delays when it is processed. 

          With AJB Stevens, you get one-on-one treatment with the right institutional sexual abuse lawyers who will assess your case, advise you which route is right for you, and help you lodge your NRS application if that’s the right choice for you. If not, we can help you navigate the legal process to file a civil claim. 

          Whatever path you think you might take, get in touch with the AJB Stevens team for legal advice before you make your first move.