Legislative Council - Wednesday 19 September 2018
Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, I am pleased we are moving down this path. Every time I think about the whole situation I become very tense and upset, because of the blatant disregard of our children in the past. It is still happening around the world and, unfortunately, around our country.
The victims of this appalling continuation of sexual abuse, covered up repeatedly by the churches and institutions, will never recover. They will never be able to forget it, no matter how much money we give them. Many are no longer alive. Many of them took their own lives because they could not cope with what happened to them.
There are friends, people in our families who are victims. If you do not know someone personally, you probably just do not know you do. It is a sad indictment on our society and we as humans that this could have happened for so long and been covered up. You do not have to listen or read very much to see how many of the churches' priests and clergy were moved from parish to parish, to perpetuate and continue the abuse in full knowledge of church leaders.
It is such a terrible thing and we need to remind ourselves as to why we are here. We are here because of the enormous pain and suffering inflicted on innocent children.
It is great we are moving forward with a national redress scheme; however, it is abhorrent we did not adopt the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse's approach to properly addressing this. It all comes down to money. Having said that no amount of money will make this right, nothing will make this right. If we could make every perpetrator pay, maybe there would be some justice. Many of them are dead too. Many of them do not have any money to pay because they have already been sued.
The royal commission findings - there were over 400 recommendations - and the report made it really clear that impact is not directly related to the level of exposure. One young person could be extremely traumatised by an exposure - seeing a priest or someone like that expose themselves - but not have abusive contact or penetrative abuse. Another child might suffer abusive contact or penetrative abuse and not be as emotionally damaged. That would probably not be the norm but it could happen. The scheme that has been designed and this legislation do not recognise that sometimes the impact of the event is not limited to whether it was penetrative contact or exposure. Exposure could mean a child was forced to watch a priest rape another child.
Mr Gaffney - Or anybody in the institution.
Ms FORREST - Yes, that is another level. The institutional abuse is another aspect. I am sure members have seen Steve Fisher on the news recently; he is a well-known campaigner for redress for children abused in state and other care and is not likely to get anything from this. He was abused within the Anglican Church, and I know the Anglican Church has been working with Steve Fisher to deal with this.
I met with Bishop Condie last week to talk about this because the Anglican Church is really upset about this. They wanted to see the royal commission matrix used, not the matrix being enshrined in this legislation or the existing Commonwealth legislation that this legislation joins us to. From what Bishop Condie said to me, I understand the Anglican Church is still going to maintain some of its scheme to assist people such as Mr Fisher and others who were abused within the Anglican Church to access compensation through their program, which is great. This should be covering everybody. It may give some comfort to people who were abused who may not meet the threshold of the matrix set with this, but it does not help the others who were abused in other churches. It is good to see, but it is important to remember it is not what was ultimately recommended.
The states all signed up to it, and the briefing was very helpful. I hope the Leader has more information to impart regarding the process that saw Tasmania sign up to this. If we do not pass this legislation, we are not in the scheme and everyone loses. We cannot change it to require the assessment matrix recommended by the royal commission. It would be almost impossible to change that.
These questions were posed to the Leader yesterday. I assume she has some answers about how the decision was made and if changes need to be made. It is clear there are many people like Steve Fisher who are missing out, who still have all the psychological needs and who need counselling and support. Those needs are still there, as is the case for a child who may have suffered some abuse and had the same level of trauma but fits into the matrix the way it is designed in this redress scheme. It may be become evident there are many of these people and we are letting them all down. We are traumatising them all over again because we are pretending we are helping them, but for those people we are not.
I have not met with Steve Fisher. I spoke to Bishop Condie about his meeting with him, but for Steve it is almost like another slap in the face.
Mr President, I will not oppose this legislation - we need to be in the scheme. I believe this is the only chance I will get to say how disappointed I am that there was this great announcement we were going to adopt the recommendations of the royal commission, but only to this level. That is the whole country, it is not just Tasmania, as I understand it.
I know from speaking to Bishop Condie that there was a lot of discussion and heated debate at some stage about the matrix. When it was presented, it was seen as manifestly unfair and not meeting the expectations of the outcomes of the royal commission.
It is important, when talking about the matrix and how the funding is assessed, that an explanatory statement issued by the Minister for Social Services is available on the federal government website. It relates to the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Act 2018 and the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Assessment Framework 2018.
I understand the framework was not made public until much more recently. This is where the matrix appears in the framework. I believe the framework with the matrix in it was not available to the attorneys-general when they signed up to the redress scheme. I would like to have it confirmed whether that is the case or not.
Mrs Hiscutt - It is not.
Ms FORREST - They did have it? They were very well aware what they were signing up to?
Mrs Hiscutt - It is complicated. We will get an answer.
Ms FORREST - Obviously, they were not delivered together. The act was dealt with separately to the framework, as I understand it. I am not in the federal parliament, so I was not there to watch all this take place.
In the explanation of the provision, it is important to understand what contact abuse and exposure abuse is defined as.
Relevant sexual abuse of a person is contact abuse if:
(a) any of that abuse involved physical contact with the person by someone else or by an object used by someone else (even if the rest of that abuse did not); and
(b) none of that abuse involved penetration of the person.
That is the difference between exposure and contact. I think we understand what penetrative abuse is. Exposure abuse is defined as -
relevant sexual abuse of a person is exposure abuse if none of that abuse involved physical contact with the person (whether involving penetration of the person or not) by someone else or an object used by someone else.
We need to be very clear about what we understand here, and why it is so important there is an understanding of what sort of abuse occurred, but also the level of impact on the individual. Every child is different; every person is different. The impact is not always proportionate to the offence. That is where I believe this Commonwealth scheme falls down. I am sure, if the Commonwealth act had been implemented with the matrix as recommended by the royal commission, it would have cost a lot more money - I have no doubt about that. That is why I say it comes down to money.
I will not oppose the bill, but it is important we understand we are not doing the best we could for these victims. We could do much better. To reiterate the royal commissioners’ comments in their report on determining the need to fully consider the impact, it was noted that -
… the consequences for people who are abused may not be proportionate to the severity of their abuse. For some survivors, what may be considered to be a relatively modest level of abuse may have severe or even catastrophic consequences.
We saw that in some people for whom we might think it was not as serious an episode of abuse as some other children faced, but those people found they were unable to continue and suicided. It goes on to say -
The appropriate response through a monetary penalty under redress must be determined having regard to both the severity and the consequences of abuse for the individual.
We have not done that. We have something, which is better than nothing, but it is not ideal.