On Wednesday, 8 July 2020, the Minister for Families and Social Services, Senator the Hon Anne Ruston, hosted the Ministers’ Redress Scheme Governance Board (Board) meeting of relevant Ministers with responsibility for the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse (the Scheme) in their state or territory.
Ministers welcomed the progress made in 2019-20 to finalise redress applications. As at 3 July 2020, 2,852 applications had been finalised, including 2,795 payments made, totalling around $229 million, with an average payment of around $82,000. Ministers acknowledged that survivors are still awaiting outcomes and agreed the Scheme must continue to improve and expedite the finalisation of applications.
Ministers reaffirmed their strong commitment to ensuring that survivors of institutional child sexual abuse have access to redress. Ministers noted the 1 July 2020 announcement by Minister Ruston publicly naming six institutions that failed to signify by the 30 June deadline their intent to join the Scheme and that this number has since reduced to four. Ministers also noted that the Commonwealth, all state and territory governments and 234 non-government institutions are participating, covering more than 51,000 sites. Furthermore, 158 institutions named in applications or in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse have committed to join the Scheme in the next 6 months, by 31 December 2020. Ministers commended institutions that have committed to join the Scheme despite not being named in applications or by the Royal Commission for their leadership. These institutions are listed on the Redress Scheme website: https://www.nationalredress.gov.au/.
Ministers agreed that institutions that failed to fulfil their moral obligation to join the Scheme would be vulnerable to immediate consequences. Ministers supported the Commonwealth’s decision to make those institutions ineligible for future Commonwealth funding and to immediately explore revoking favourable taxation treatment, including withdrawal of charitable status. States and territories also agreed that institutions which fail to join the Scheme will be vulnerable to sanctions, including being ineligible for government funding. Ministers further noted that institutions named in future applications will also be subject to public naming and possible sanctions if they fail or have assessed capacity to join.
Ministers welcomed the appointment of Ms Robyn Kruk AO as the Independent Reviewer to the second anniversary review of the Scheme, which will consider a broad range of aspects of the Scheme and how they may be improved to better support survivors. Ministers agreed to refer the recommendations of the Joint Select Committee into the Implementation of the National Redress Scheme to Ms Kruk for her consideration. Ministers encouraged survivors, support services, advocacy groups and institutions to engage in the review.
Ministers discussed public commentary around privacy of applications and noted that the protection of information under the Scheme is treated very seriously in line with laws concerning the disclosure of protected information. Ministers also noted reports of concerning behaviour of some private legal firms in their interactions with applicants to the Scheme and emphasised the independent service offered by knowmore which provides free legal advice to assist survivors of institutional child sexual abuse. In addition, support is available to survivors through a number of redress support services.