Making it easier for child abuse survivors to sue institutions

Published Tuesday, 22 October, 2019 at 10:10 AM

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice
The Honourable Yvette D'Ath

The Palaszczuk Government will introduce major reforms to make it easier for the survivors of all kinds of child abuse to sue the institutions where the offences occurred.

Speaking on the first anniversary of the National Apology to Victims and Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Yvette D’Ath said the proposed amendments to the Civil Liability and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2018would extend the definition of abuse to include serious physical and psychological abuse, as well as sexual abuse.

“Under these reforms it will be easier for child abuse survivors to claim for civil damages or personal injury, now and in the future,” Mrs D’Ath said.

“This will be achieved by removing some of the loopholes which institutions were using to avoid being sued.

“In particular, a defendant can now be appointed in claims against unincorporated institutions, and survivors can target the assets of associated trusts of the institution.

“We have also removed the limitation periods for survivors to commence a civil action against an institution.

“Survivors will also now be able to seek damages for serious physical abuse and psychological abuse as well as child sexual abuse.

“To try and prevent new abuses, there will now be a reverse onus duty on institutions.

“They will have to prove they took all reasonable steps to prevent the sexual abuse of children in their care to avoid legal liability.”

Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women Di Farmer welcomed the reforms, which she said would provide another avenue for people who had experienced institutional child abuse to seek justice.

“These reforms are especially important to people who experienced physical or psychological abuse while in institutions in Queensland, as it will give them a way to seek compensation for the suffering they have experienced,” she said.

“The Royal Commission’s historic inquiry revealed widespread, systemic failings of institutions to protect children and respond appropriately to child sexual abuse.

“Although the Royal Commission was specifically looking at institutional child sexual abuse, we also heard from many victims and survivors of physical and psychological abuse who had also experienced lifelong trauma from their treatment at the hands of adults who were supposed to protect and care for them.

“Unfortunately the National Redress Scheme does not offer compensation to victims and survivors of physical or psychological abuse, which has meant some people who have experienced physical or psychological abuse have felt overlooked.

“Our message to everyone who has experienced institutional child abuse is we see you, we believe you, and we support you.”