Redress Scheme for people who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse

The Redress Scheme has been in the pipeline for some time, with an aim of providing support to people who were sexually abused as children while in the care of an institution.

Subject to the passage of legislation, the Scheme will start on 1 July 2018, and will run for 10 years.

So that redress can be provided to as many people as possible, governments and non-government organisations need to join the Scheme, which is called ‘opting in’. The Australian Government is pushing for all state governments, churches, charities and other non-government organisations to opt in. At this stage it remains to be seen which organisations will join the Scheme. So far the NSW, Victorian and ACT governments have opted in. The Catholic Church and other religious organisations have also expressed willingness to join the Scheme.

This means that at present, redress can be provided to survivors who were abused in places run by the Commonwealth such as the Australian Defence Forces, cadet schools and onshore detention. Redress can also be provided to survivors who were abused by State run institutions such as public schools, foster care and out of home care.

The Redress Scheme can provide three things:

  • access to psychological counselling
  • a direct personal response – such as an apology from the responsible institution for people who want it
  • a monetary payment.

Payments will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, reflecting the severity and impact of the abuse experienced with a maximum of $150,000.

The Redress Scheme is an alternative to pursuing compensation through the courts – you can do one or the other, but not both. Survivor’s rights to damages via litigation against the relevant institution will remain intact, and will provide larger amounts in damages than the Redress Scheme. However, litigation is not feasible in every situation. This should be approached on a case by case basis. The Scheme provides a fall back position for those who cannot, or choose not to litigate.

Who can apply?

The following is a guide as to who can apply to the Scheme.

The type of abuse  It must include sexual abuse.

An institution must be responsible for the abuse.  The Scheme doesn’t cover non-institutional abuse, such as by a family member.

Where and when it happened The abuse must have happened when the person was aged under 18.

It must have happened before 1 July 2018, when the Scheme starts.

The institution or organisation responsible for the abuse must have joined the Redress Scheme. So far, only the Commonwealth, New South Wales, Victorian and Australian Capital Territory governments have agreed to join the scheme.

A person’s life now The person applying must be an Australian citizen or permanent resident.


It is important to obtain legal advice as to what is appropriate on a case by case basis, that is, whether the Scheme is appropriate or whether litigation is a better option. There are many considerations in this regard.

Our lawyers at Sydney Compensation Specialists have particular expertise in claims arising from sexual and institutional abuse. We are also on the panel of lawyers used by Knowmore, who assist survivors in navigating the Royal Commission. Please direct any enquiries in this area to Kim Breda, Principal Lawyer, on 9801 7508 or