Redress Schemes in Western Australia

The State Government has acknowledged the harm done to victims of child abuse while in government-regulated institutional care through two separate redress schemes: Redress WA and the Country High Schools Hostels Ex-Gratia Scheme. These schemes were the broadest of all similar schemes at the time of implementation and involved research and access of care records for applicants dating back more than 70 years.

Redress WA

Redress WA was a $144 million finite duration scheme established to acknowledge and apologise to adults who, as children, were abused and/or neglected while they were in the care of the State. Applications were open from 1 May 2008 to 30 June 2009. The scheme received 5,917 applications for assessment, of which about 50 per cent were from Aboriginal people. Of those applications, 5,325 offers were made of payments up to $45,000 depending on the severity of the abuse. Successful applicants also had access to ongoing counselling services. The scheme closed in December 2011.

Redress WA was intended to be a compassionate scheme to acknowledge abuse. The broad objectives of the scheme were to make ex-gratia payments to applicants, to acknowledge their experiences through an apology and the erection of a memorial, to provide support and counselling services and to report alleged perpetrators to the Western Australia Police. Its unique administration differed significantly from other redress schemes, in that it coupled ex-gratia payments with an array of accompanying support services. The scheme, however, was not intended to provide financial compensation for that abuse in the same way as a court would assess damages in a civil claim for damages.

Country High Schools Hostels Ex-Gratia Scheme (the ex-gratia scheme)

The Country High Schools Hostels Ex-Gratia Scheme, established in November 2012, was a government response to the report of a special inquiry undertaken by the Hon. Peter Blaxell, ‘St Andrew’s Hostel Katanning: How the System and Society Failed our Children’.

The State established a finite redress scheme for people who were abused while boarding at country hostels operated under the Country High Schools Hostels Authority Act 1960 between 1960 and 2006. Applications were open from 30 November 2012 to 31 May 2013.

This ex-gratia scheme received 105 applications, of which 90 were assessed as eligible for payments of up to $45,000, totalling more than $3.2million. Successful applicants were also offered access to crisis care counselling. The scheme closed in December 2013.

Support of Applicants

Both schemes attempted to support applicants in four ways:

  • Giving the opportunity for applicants to have their story told.
  • Referring reports of assault (where requested) to relevant agencies, including the Western Australia Police, the Department for Child Protection and Family Support and the Corruption and Crime Commission.
  • The provision of ex-gratia payments.
  • Providing applicants with counselling and support to deal with the long-term effects of abuse, without re-traumatising applicants.

The schemes aimed to minimise distress to applicants and their families. Those administering the schemes were made mindful of the possibility that applicants may be re-traumatised by the application process. Employed personnel, many of whom were trained social workers and psychologists, were provided with additional training and guidance to ensure the sensitive treatment of applicants throughout the process.

Applicants for both schemes had their claims assessed against a lower level of corroboration of information than would exist under a judicial based system of assessment and investigation. Assessments did not subject applicants to the burden of proof, nor were applicants expected to provide criminal or medical evidence of abuse. Assessors were instructed, within reason, to accept claims of abuse disclosed by applicants if:

  • they were within a known time frame
  • other applicants made similar claims at the same institution and within the stated time frame
  • they could be supported by other means such as government reports and media articles, and
  • the applicant was of an age where they should reasonably remember the circumstances of their boarding/State care years.

Scheme administrators bore responsibility for checking various record sources in an attempt to substantiate claims rather than pass that responsibility to applicants. For some applicants, this involved researching and accessing care records that date back more than 70 years.

Support Services

The provision of support services to assist victims in addressing past trauma was a paramount objective within the redress schemes. In the case of redress, the State recognised that financial payment was a symbolic gesture rather than compensation, and sought to accompany ex-gratia payments with wider support services.

Under Redress WA about $3.7 million was allocated to service providers to assist applicants to complete applications, and to provide continued support while they waited for their claims to be assessed. Applicants were also provided with counselling sessions. About 75 per cent of applicants received either assistance with their application or received counselling.

Redress WA also saw all successful applicants receive an apology letter signed by both the Premier and Minister for Community Services. Additionally, more than a third of applicants asked for and received copies of their assessment material, which laid out their claims and acknowledged the extent and impact of the abuse on their lives. More than one third of the applicants asked for details of their abuse to be referred to the Western Australia Police. These support services were found to be an important and successful feature of the scheme, with feedback noting their significance in providing just recognition to the applicants.

In administering the scheme, the State understood that some potential applicants would have been unwilling to engage with government to seek redress. To ameliorate this reluctance, the State sought appropriate, independent front-line services and dedicated counselling support by engaging external service providers and non-for-profit organisations to provide such services. The use of external providers was effectively utilised to provide a number of support services in an attempt to address the negative perception applicants may have had towards government agencies and their related services.

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Last Updated: 12-12-2014