Maurice Blackburn Lawyers
Lawyers have welcomed new laws that improve access to justice for abuse survivors which come into effect in Queensland today including the ability to pursue civil claims for physical and psychological abuse and the setting aside of the statute of limitations for survivors to bring civil claims.
Maurice Blackburn Queensland Head of Abuse Law Jed McNamara said that with the extension of the definition of child abuse to include serious physical abuse, abuse of a psychological nature and neglect perpetrated in connection with child abuse he now expects to see many more claims brought against Queensland institutions.
“We estimate that there are currently around 60 thousand Australians who were subjected to serious physical and psychological abuse during their time in notorious institutions such as Westbrook Boys Home and Neerkol Orphanage in Rockhampton.
“But until now children who were physically abused in Queensland institutions have had very limited scope to receive compensation.
“This change is particularly important as compensation under the National Redress Scheme is only available to a person who was sexually abused, or sexually and physically abused. If there is no history of sexual abuse, then no matter how terrible any physical abuse or related psychological abuse, there is no entitlement to National Redress.
Mr McNamara said the Limitation of Actions Act has also been amended, abolishing limitation periods relating to civil claims for serious physical and any ‘connected’ abuse, with retrospective effect.
“This removes the three year limitation period ordinarily applying to civil compensation claims for (the now wider meaning of) child abuse.
“It recognises that a survivor of child abuse will take on average longer than 20 years to disclose what happened; and much longer again before they find the courage to seek justice,” he said
Mr McNamara said other important changes include the ability to claim against a ‘related entity’ if the original institution no longer exists, and the reverse onus of proof, meaning the institution must prove they took all reasonable steps to prevent the abuse from occurring.
“The Queensland Government are to be commended for these reforms, which will enable many more survivors to access their full legal rights to compensation in the civil courts,” he said
Jacob O’Shaughnessy at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers on 0428 814 037 or jo’shaughnessy