The Turnbull Government has been accused of abandoning child sexual abuse survivors who went on to become criminals as the focus from yesterday’s royal commission findings turns to compensation.
In what would be a shake-up of centuries of tradition, the recommendations called for an overhaul of confessional, with religious ministers forced to report any child sexual abuse revealed to them.
Under the proposed national redress scheme, child sexual abuse victims who have themselves been convicted of sex offences would not be eligible for payouts.
In addition, people who had spent five years or more in prison for crimes such as serious drug, homicide or fraud offences would also be barred from applying.
Yesterday’s final report delivered by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse revealed more than 10 per cent of survivors interviewed in private sessions were in prison.
That statistic, and the fact victims of child sexual abuse are themselves more likely to abuse, has sparked criticisms that the Government was “watering down” its scheme by excluding people with serious criminal records.
Peter Kelso, a leading lawyer for survivors of child sexual abuse, said the Federal Government had got it wrong.
“This is just another attempt to make the scheme more palatable to get states and charities and churches to sign up,” he said.
“It’s a political thing. That’s all it is.
“People think it’s wrong to exclude people sentenced to more than five years in prison. Who’s to say what’s right and wrong?”
Royal commission data yesterday revealed 713 of survivors interviewed in private sessions were in jail.
An ‘agonising decision’
Looming large over the debate about whether to include people with serious criminal histories in the national redress scheme is the fact no stakeholders have signed up to the Federal Government’s compensation blueprint.
About 60,000 people are expected to be eligible to apply for compensation under the Turnbull Government’s national redress scheme, which, after delays, could be debated by Federal Parliament as early as February.
Social Services Minister Christian Porter yesterday described leaving those people out as an “agonising decision”.
He said the Government had discussed the decision at “great length” with stakeholders but that “a line” had to be drawn somewhere.
“That was a very difficult and agonising decision,” he said.
“We understand that it is often the case that someone who has been offended against lives in terrible circumstances and themselves may go on to offend.”
That point was not lost on survivor Paul Gray, who said people who had been sexually abused could easily “become a rebel”.
“They’re so hurt, they hit out at society, they’re scared of authority so they lash out and they’ve done jail time,” he said.
He called for survivors in prison to be included.
“Don’t abuse them again, don’t say you’re a bad boy again, you’re a naughty child again, they’re acting out because of the way they were treated,” he said.
Released yesterday, the royal commission’s report is told over 17 volumes — its length reflecting the exhaustive process which included 57 public hearings and 8,000 private sessions. A total of 409 recommendations have been made.
About 4,000 institutions were reported to the royal commission, which heard from 1,200 witnesses over 400 days of testimony.