Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (10:49:32) — I am very pleased to rise to speak briefly to the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse (Commonwealth Powers) Bill 2018. As the title quite clearly states, it refers state powers to the commonwealth in order to facilitate a national redress scheme; a scheme that will run for 10 years and provide eligible survivors with payments of up to $150 000, counselling, psychosocial services and a direct personal apology from the responsible institution. It also offers an alternate path to litigation.
This bill gives effect to the recommendations of the royal commission and the Betrayal of Trust inquiry before it. As with the Legal Identity of Defendants (Organisational Child Abuse) Bill 2018 — and I think we were all proud that that legislation passed this house last week — it finally completes the path to redress for the 19 000 or so Victorians that were victims of institutional child abuse, almost 62 per cent of which occurred in Catholic Church institutions, an institution that has been brought kicking and screaming to the table of redress. I was pleased to see that they committed to sign up to the scheme last week.
As I mentioned last week, this is an issue that has been close to my heart and on which I have spent significant time — long before I was elected into this house — working on the proper redress for the victims of child sexual abuse in religious institutions. What I have seen is that there is a terrible consistency in the effects of child abuse on the survivors. I think Ms Springle touched on this. There is depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental problems, suicide and suicide attempts. It is abuse that has destroyed people’s ability to have close relationships, it has destroyed families and in far too many cases it has destroyed lives. Shamefully, it was just so horrifyingly widespread: 65 000 child abuse redress claims are anticipated nationally and, as I said, 19 000 in Victoria.
We know from the royal commission that the average age of female victims was only 10 and the average age of male victims was just 11 at the time that their abuse occurred. Abuse experienced so young, trauma experienced so young, entrenches issues so deeply and in such a formative way that they can never be repaired. This scheme will go some way to addressing those issues for many, but it will always remain unforgettable and we will always remember the vile stain on our society of this abuse and this abuse of power.
While supporting the bill I was somewhat disappointed about the exclusion of people who have been found guilty of certain offences, because we know generally that trauma like child sexual abuse so often underpins criminality. It seems somewhat unfair that we would then be excluding some of those victims from this redress scheme, particularly given that this redress scheme could offer a fresh start in getting abused victims in the criminal justice system back on their feet as functional members of society. I hear the concerns of some victims about being ripped off and signing their voice away with confidentiality agreements, but litigation is still open to people of that mind. Others will benefit from this simpler, more forgiving process that also brings that much-needed apology.
The passage of this bill today is the culmination of the effort of thousands of Victorians, and it is a proud moment. The last bastion here relates to transparency. It has been my longstanding view that the secretive nature of many of our religious institutions is at the core of the issue. They were able to hide this horrible and horrific abuse of children behind that structure.
As I highlighted last month when debating my Charities Amendment (Charitable Purpose) Bill 2018, many of these religious organisations are anything but transparent and in the 21st century should have the same disclosure obligations as all of our corporations.
We cannot undo the significant suffering that has occurred and the lives that have been lost as a result, but now victims can receive some compensation and what small relief or closure that might bring. Institutions can no longer hide from their obligations to victims of child abuse, so it is with some emotion that I commend this bill to the house.