Tight Vote in Australian Senate to Raise Cap for Sexual Abuse Redress

February 16, 2021 Updated: February 16, 2021

A close vote in Australia’s Senate has shown there is interest to increase the cap on redress payments for survivors of child sexual abuse.

Existing payments are currently capped at $150,000, but Labor has been pushing for an increase in the limit to $200,000.

An amendment to the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Bill was approved on Monday, allowing more public access to information on institutions that have not joined the scheme.

The scheme provides access to counselling, a direct personal response from the institution, and redress payment to victims. However, redress cannot be given if the institution has not joined the scheme.

Labor failed to gain support for a number of other amendments to the bill. One of which was for Social Services Minister Anne Ruston to consider actions to increase the redress payment cap to $200,000 as originally recommended by the Royal Commission.

The amendment failed by two votes despite the additional support of the Greens, independent Rex Patrick, and Centre Alliance’s Stirling Griff.

The federal government will wait for an independent review of the bill to finish and review its recommendations for the scheme before making further changes.

The review, lead by Robyn Kruk, the chief executive officer of the Mental Health Commission, is due to finish by the end of February.

Senator Anne Ruston said the report focuses on the aspects raised by the opposition and incorporates extensive consultation with survivors.

Ruston previously expressed her disappointment at the Labor Party for what she called “playing political games” with the redress bill.

“Labor’s proposed amendments make no real changes to the Scheme and would simply require the Minister to “consider” issues and prepare a report,” Ruston said in a statement. “The very same issues Labor has raised are already being considered under the legislated second year review which is currently being undertaken by Ms Robyn Kruk AO.”

The program began in 2018 after it was recommended by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.