Queensland class-action Bill improves access to justice

9th Nov 2016

The introduction of a class-action regime and removal of limitations periods for child sexual abuse in Queensland is a welcome development, which fixes a gap in state law and provides a greater path to justice for Queenslanders, the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) said today.

ALA Queensland President Michelle James said that the new law, the Limitation of Actions (Institutional Child Sexual Abuse) And Other Legislation Amendment Act 2016, will bring Queensland into line with similar legislation already on the books in Victoria and New South Wales. Changes that will allow class actions and remove limitations periods for survivors of both child sexual abuse will enhance justice for all Queenslanders.

Class actions allow groups of people who have suffered similar breaches of their rights to come together to sue. Often it would not be financially viable to pursue their claims individually, so class actions allow more people to enforce their rights.

“Class actions can be the only way for people to assert their rights against big corporations or other entities, so this law will mean that justice will be much easier to access for Queenslanders,” Ms James said.

“Queensland’s adoption of the class action regime is a significant measure that will mean plaintiffs will no longer have to cross state borders to be able to file class actions. This can only make justice more accessible,” Ms James said.

The law also removes limitations periods for personal injury claims relating to child sexual abuse in both institutional and non-institutional contexts.

“In terms of limitations periods, the Act recognises that for many survivors of child sexual abuse it can take years or even decades to be ready to come forward to explore their legal rights,” Ms James said.

“This Act remedies a great injustice by providing survivors with the means to explore avenues for compensation in their own time. They will no longer be restricted by time limits that deny them their rights,” Ms James said.

Ms James said that removal of limitations periods for child abuse claims was a key recommendation of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and that the ALA welcomed the bi-partisan approach of the Parliament to delivering this outcome for abuse survivors in Queensland.

Ms James also noted that the ALA made a submission in response to an Issues Paper inquiring into other aspects of the Royal Commission’s recommendations

“We look forward to the outcome of the Issues Paper process and to continuing to work with the government to enhance the rights of survivors of childhood abuse,” Ms James said. “In particular we call on the government to work to expand the removal of limitation periods for physical harm, as well as sexual”.