Lots of victims affected by institutional child sexual abuse are worried about the costs of giving evidence.
The good news – there’s no need to worry. Giving evidence should have no financial burden. The cost – it is not a reason to stop you from standing up for justice.
In fact, by sharing your story with the Royal Commission, you open up the best possible chance to achieve fair compensation for the trauma you have suffered.
It’s probable that the Commission’s recommendations will include specific provisions regarding compensation to victims of institutional child sexual abuse. Peter and the Kelso’s team are working tirelessly to prepare victims for the potential of class action lawsuits to come after the Commission’s findings are handed down.
To ease your concerns around the financial aspects of sharing your story at the Royal Commission, we’ve got the answers to 3 of the most common questions we hear about the costs and benefits of giving evidence.
#1. I don’t have a lot of money. What will it cost if the Royal Commission wants me to attend?
The Royal Commission does a good job of looking after witnesses who are required to attend its public hearings. It understands that people can’t necessarily afford to pay for accommodation or fly to capital cities to give evidence, so it will cover these expenses for you.
You will also receive taxi vouchers and a generous meal allowance, so attending the Royal Commission shouldn’t leave you out of pocket.
You will be allocated a witness support officer, who will look after all of your travel arrangements. They will be in touch to book your flights and organise somewhere for you to stay. If you have any problems, they are on hand to help you.
The Royal Commission doesn’t offer financial assistance to people giving evidence at private sessions.
#2. How much of an award of compensation will I get to keep?
Some clients have already received a taxpayer-funded payment from a government department to acknowledge the trauma they have suffered.
If they later achieve compensation from an institution that is held liable for their abuse, they then have to pay the government money back.
For example, one of our clients who was awarded $500,000 had to repay the $60,000 recognition payment she had previously received from Victims Services. She paid us $30,000 (plus GST) and another $2000 to a barrister. She kept the rest and she was very happy with the result.
#3. What if I have received a payout from an institution before?
Payments that are taxpayer funded will need to be repaid, but these payments are generally far less than what victims are now being awarded. These payments have typically been made by State Governments as an acknowledgement of what you experienced, rather than as compensation.
If you’ve received a payment from the institution where the abuse occurred, you will be able to keep that money, regardless of what new compensation is awarded.
It also doesn’t matter how long ago the abuse occurred. Laws that limit the period after an event when legal action can occur do not apply to cases being heard by the Royal Commission.
The time to act is now
We hope these answers allayed your financial fears. You should be more confident about giving evidence.
If you’re ready to share your story, make sure you get in touch with Peter and our team. We can help you win the fight for justice.