For victims seeking compensation it is important to register your interests now.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse started up on 11 January 2013. There are six commissioners. The Chair is Justice Peter McClellan. The other commissioners are Bob Atkinson, Justice Jennifer Coat, Robert Fitzgerald, Professor Helen Milroy and Andrew Murray. The commission is set to continue for a long time. At the very earliest, hearings will continue until December 2017. It will be the best funded Royal Commission in Australia’s history. So it should be. The commission has a huge task.
The whole world is watching. It is likely that other countries will start their own enquiries as a direct consequence of the successes of the Australian Royal Commission in bringing these institutions to justice.
It’s your chance to help. Now is the time to tell your story.
There is no Royal Commission without witnesses. The commission needs you to come forward and tell them what happened.
Your evidence can play a part in making sure this widespread institutional abuse never happens again.
Your evidence can help force these abusers to apologise to the thousands of victims across Australia.
Your evidence can help the Royal Commission show Australia the true extent of the atrocious crimes committed and bring offenders to justice.
The spotlight the Royal Commission is shining on institutional child sexual abuse is strengthening public pressure to ensure that victims (even those who have previously settled their cases) are entitled to an apology and fresh, fair compensation.
Giving evidence is not be as intimidating as you expect.
The first thing you need to do is call the Royal Commission’s free call number on 1800 099 340.
Tell them that you want to book in a private session. A member from the commission’s staff will get back to you later with the details. A private session is like a fireside chat. One of the six commissioners will sit down and talk quietly with you about your experiences. It is the best way to get started. You get the chance to tell your story to a commissioner one-on-one in a controlled environment, without having to face anybody from your past. There will not be anyone there from the Church or the institution responsible for your abuse. There is no cross examination, no lawyers and the whole experience is safe and low-key.
There is a specialist counsellor there to support you if you start to get upset. You can even bring a friend with you if you’d like. The commission will pay your travel and accommodation expenses.
What happens after you give evidence?
Once you have had a private session your details will go on to a database at the Royal Commission. When the time comes for there to be a public hearing into the institution responsible, the Royal Commission may contact you to see if you can be a witness. If you receive this call, you will be entitled to give evidence at a public hearing.
Becoming a witness at a public hearing.
Public hearings are serious occasions. They are the most important part of the Royal Commission. The Churches and institutions are present, represented by their lawyers. All parties take an oath to answer all questions truthfully. Both victims and institutional representatives can be cross examined.
The media are also present, with journalists looking for stories to publish. A victim’s name can be suppressed from the media if you decide that you don’t want your name broadcast to the public. This suits victims who have not told their story in its entirety to your family members or those who have another reason to request privacy.
We urge people to carefully consider their decision as the media are a big part of bringing the abusers to justice. A fundamental part of the Royal Commission is the intense media spotlight cast upon the institutions involved. Sharing your story with the media can intensify public demands for an apology, compensation and justice.
The Commonwealth will pay for you to have a solicitor and barrister there to represent your interests. Legal representation is highly recommended so your evidence can have maximum impact. Victims who decide to be public witnesses usually have a strong sense of pride in stepping up for their country.
The fear of giving evidence is often outweighed by the chance to help make sure that no Australian child will ever have to suffer institutional abuse again.
Where does compensation fit in?
The Royal Commission does not award compensation to victims. However, the Royal Commission will be making recommendations for compensation and changes to the laws of Australian States. This is usually talked about and referred to as “redress”.
Redress includes lump sum compensation and other forms of assistance. Apart from financial compensation, counselling, medical expenses, dental expenses, funeral plans and other support may be available.
Compensation for victims is very important. It can help restore you to a position in life which you might have occupied if not for the abuse that you suffered as a child.
Compensation and an apology can help you get your breakthrough. The fair recognition of your pain can help you begin to feel free from the controlling thoughts that have plagued you since you first suffered abuse.
Until the states change their laws you can apply to churches and institutions for compensation and an apology. You can also go on a waiting register until a national redress scheme is set up. Once the laws are changed you may be able to sue in the courts without being stopped by the limitation period or vicarious liability problems.
Now is the time. Stand up for justice and share your story.
Peter Kelso has been helping victims for a long time. He understands the journey you have travelled. Read Peter’s own personal story to understand why he is so passionate about the fight for justice against child sexual abuse.
Peter will take a special interest in your case. He will negotiate a settlement for you with the church, charity or State government. He has decades of experience acting for victims. He knows what to do.
You can speak to Peter personally and start your fight for justice. Click here to register your interests.