Vic Govt applauded: historic day for institutional child abuse victims

1st Jul 2015

The Victorian Parliament is to be congratulated for leading the nation in its response to institutional child abuse by introducing legislation removing limitation periods for victims to seek justice, the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) said today.

The Limitation of Actions Amendment (Child Abuse) Act 2015 (VIC), which comes into effect from today, amends the Limitation of Actions Act 1958 to remove limitation periods that apply to actions relating to death or personal injury resulting from institutional child abuse.

ALA spokesperson Dr Andrew Morrison SC welcomed the new legislation and the efforts of the Victorian Parliament, and called on other governments to introduce similar amendments and complete a framework to better support survivors of abuse.

“This is a historic day and we congratulate and applaud the Victorian Parliament for their leadership in removing limitations so that survivors of abuse may have greater access to justice,” Dr Morrison said.

“Such a move is in keeping with findings that survivors can take more than 20 years to disclose abuse. The Victorian parliament is to be applauded for leading the nation in its response to institutional child abuse.”

“The ALA urges the NSW government to take similar steps to remove limitations periods for individuals taking legal action for child sexual abuse,” Dr Morrison said. “This would incorporate adopting Option A in the ‘Limitation Periods in Civil Claims for Child Sexual Abuse’ discussion paper issued by the NSW government earlier this year.

“If the all-party decision in the Victorian Parliament is followed by a similar approach in NSW, this will offer leadership to the nation which could see other states and territories fall into line,” Dr Morrison said.

“It is time for other states to introduce similar legislation to ensure that there is a consistent approach nationwide for survivors of abuse to be able to access justice. This is important so that survivors, no matter what state is applicable to their legal claim, would not face this significant barrier,” Dr Morrison said.

Dr Morrison said that the $24 million settlement in the recent Fairbridge Farm child abuse compensation claim was a timely reminder that there are many victims of historical child abuse who still seek justice for treatment they suffered decades ago, and that justice is still available at common law.

“This week the largest compensation settlement for institutional abuse in Australia’s history was settled for $24 million. While the Fairbridge Farm settlement is an outstanding result, it is clear that this situation is not an isolated example,” Dr Morrison said.

“There are many examples of similar historical institutional abuse which need to be settled. The Fairbridge Farm settlement shows the amount of damages that are at stake for victims in their pursuit of justice.”

“The types of redress that would be available under a national redress scheme would be far lower than those available under common law,” Dr Morrison said.

“Governments have the opportunity to make redress at common law more accessible to survivors through removing limitation periods.” 

“It is clear that institutional responses to child sexual abuse to date have been grossly inadequate,” Dr Morrison said.

“Governments must ensure that their responses will provide justice to survivors and open the way forward for fair compensation.”

Tags: Compensation Victoria Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse