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Issue #1772      April 5, 2017

Justice for survivors

The Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) says that comprehensive law reform is urgently required to ensure that survivors of child abuse are not unfairly prevented from accessing compensation.

The ALA released a report during its New South Wales State Conference calling for coordinated comprehensive national reform. The report, Access to justice for survivors of child abuse: best practice law reform proposals, outlines the changes needed across the nation to give these survivors the ability to access justice and redress.

ALA spokesperson Dr Andrew Morrison SC said that while some jurisdictions were considering or implementing limited reforms, consistent law reform across all Australian jurisdictions was the best way to secure justice for everyone, wherever they might be in the country.

“Justice requires broader reforms to accommodate injuries arising from all child abuse, not simply child abuse of a sexual nature connected with an institution,” Dr Morrison said.

“The Australian Lawyers Alliance believes that survivors of child abuse of a sexual, physical or associated psychological nature should benefit from the law reform that the Royal Commission has already started to inspire.”

The ALA has proposed the following reforms to ensure that justice is fully accessible for survivors of child abuse:

  • Limitation periods should be removed for all actions for compensation for injuries arising from child abuse of a sexual, physical or associated psychological nature;
  • Institutional involvement in child abuse should not be required in order for other law reforms enhancing access to justice to apply;
  • All reforms should be retrospective, so that survivors of child abuse that has already occurred are not prevented from accessing justice;
  • Where an institution is involved in child abuse, liability should be attached to them through the employment relationship (including for volunteers and contractors);
  • Where an institution is involved in child abuse, a proper defendant should always be identifiable. Where the institution itself does not nominate a proper defendant, any trust or similar asset or insurance-holding entity connected with the institution should be liable to pay compensation;
  • Inadequate settlements received under old laws should not prevent access to fair compensation.

“Ensuring justice for survivors requires much more comprehensive legislative reform than removing isolated obstacles, such as limitation periods,” Dr Morrison said.

“The ALA looks forward to working with any jurisdiction or policy-maker to assist in realising these recommendations.”

Next article – Aged care campaign

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