Survivors of institutional child abuse in New South Wales will now be able to reverse unfair settlement payments after new “critical” laws are passed by state parliament.
The reforms empower courts to overturn historic unfair settlements for serious sexual and physical abuse.
“We are righting the wrongs of the past to ensure that survivors can access the civil justice they deserve and be properly compensated for the appalling abuse they suffered as children,” said Attorney General Mark Speakman.
“Many survivors, who often suffered trauma and had no legal advice, reported a significant power imbalance when negotiating claims.
“They felt compelled to accept inadequate regulations under time constraints due to legal intricacies preventing them from suing the responsible institutions.”
The bill also removes restrictions on claims for survivors of child abuse that have taken place in detention.
The Bravehearts Child Welfare Foundation and the Maurice Blackburn law firm were among those who hailed the new legislation as essential to providing survivors with access to justice.
“These survivors are traumatized for life, and many suffer from complex physical and mental health issues as a result of the abuse,” said Danielle De Paoli, the office’s abuse law officer in New South Wales.
“(But) some survivors took out payments as low as $ 5,000 for the abuse that took place, with actions that kept them from speaking out or going to court for a higher payment.”
The reform is the latest in a series of changes, which included the elimination of limitation periods for child abuse complaints and the abolition of legal niceties that protected some institutions from prosecution.