South Australia delaying laws allowing child abuse survivors to sue institutions such as churches for compensation | #childabuse | #children | #kids | #sextrafficing | #childsaftey


Survivors of institutional child abuse say the South Australian government is inexplicably delaying a law that will allow them to claim proper compensation.

Parliament passed the Civil Liability (Institutional Child Abuse Liability) Amendment Act last year, but the state government has not commenced the legislation yet, meaning it cannot be used.

The law would allow abuse survivors to sue institutions that put their assets in trusts, or are unincorporated organisations, such as some churches.

It would also allow courts to set aside previous compensation settlements made with survivors, allowing them to access potentially larger payments when the institution is able to be sued for the abuse.

Steve Fisher from the advocacy group Beyond Abuse said survivors need the government to commence the laws immediately.

“They are saying ‘We’ve had enough, we want to know why’,” he said.

“We are the only state where we cannot go and get a proper settlement for the psychological trauma that we have suffered.

The amendments were recommended in 2015 by the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Abuse, which examined whether survivors could properly seek compensation or redress from institutions such as churches which kept their assets in trusts or were not legal entities that could be sued.

Other states have enacted changes in various forms, with South Australia the last to pass legislation.

Steve Fisher, Tasmanian sexual abuse survivor, photographed in March 2022.(ABC News: Monte Bovill)

Attorney-General Kyam Maher said the commencement delay was because of the complex nature of the changes.

“It is a very technical change and we want to make sure we get this right so that those people who have been victims as children have the best possible chance of getting redress and taking action against those institutions and that they can’t hide,” he said.

But he declined to set a commencement date.

“We are looking to implement that as soon as we can,” he said.

Advocates told the ABC they had little confidence in the new government’s assurances, because it was initially not even aware of which minister was responsible for the amendments.

Correspondence about the issue was first referred to Child Protection Minister Katrine Hildyard before the government realised the law fell under the Attorney-General’s portfolio.

One survivor, who asked not to be named, told the ABC the government was letting survivors down by not implementing the law immediately.

“There’s a lot of victims out there that need this law to be passed so they can go back and look at fixing up what their lives have been through and taking advantage of those (compensation) funds.”

The survivor said it was strange that South Australia lagged behind other states.

“(Adelaide) is the city of churches and it feels like the churches have got more influence than the government themselves,” he said.

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