Published: 19 September 2016
Author: Amy Olver
Royal Commission update and deadline for private hearings reminder
The Stringer Clark team wish to remind all Australians living in regional Victoria that the deadline for registering for a private session at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (‘The Royal Commission’) closes on 30 September 2016 at 5pm.
The Royal Commission has advised this is a strict cut off date for registration and that no exceptions will be made. If you are unsure whether you want to have a private session we recommend that you register your interest. Registering your interest does not prevent you from changing your mind. Whilst the registration process is quick, there are long waiting periods for a private hearing, and survivors of abuse who have registered their interest can withdraw their interest and/or cancel their appointment at any time.
It is worth noting that registering with the Commission does not mean registering for financial compensation for survivors. It is instead an opportunity for you to put your story on record (in private) and to provide the Commission with background context for when they make their final recommendations in December 2017. The final recommendations and other reports the Royal Commission has published to date may ultimately help inform law makers and lead to law reform. However, many people who have engaged in a private hearing have gone on to seek advice about a potential civil claim and RCT is happy to explore this opportunity on your behalf.
The private hearings have also led to various Public Case Studies, which provide more in depth studies of various institutions and their responses to abuse.
Who can apply?
Anyone who has experienced institutional abuse can register. To date, a staggering 5,842 survivors have taken advantage of seeking a private hearing, while around 1,500 are waiting for a hearing date. The feedback received by our team from survivors who have participated in private hearings has been overwhelmingly positive.
Stringer Clark’s Melbourne office, Ryan Carlisle Thomas (RCT) has represented more than 2,500 survivors of institutional abuse. Clients range from about 12 to 82 years of age. Evidence before the Royal Commission has noted that on average it takes 22 years for survivors of abuse to feel comfortable sharing their story. Anecdotally we have noticed that often survivors of abuse wait for the offender or their own family members to pass away prior to disclosing.
The Royal Commission has assisted the disclosure of abuse by informing the community of the extent of institutional abuse and creating a culture of zero tolerance within the community. However, whilst it was hoped by RCT that claims of institutional abuse might “dry up” with time, unfortunately the cases continue, as more survivors feel comfortable disclosing their abuse.
What is the benefit in sharing a story of abuse?
It is reported that 50 per cent of survivors will not share their story but those who do disclose their experiences by way of a private hearing, inform us that the benefits of sharing their story include:
- Engaging with the Commissioners, which can be a therapeutic experience.
- The opportunity to share their story with people external to their local tight knit networks, who also understand the complexity of the complex issues of abuse and are networked to recommend support services if required.
- The fact that reporting their story is not about financial compensation but is driven by a desire to be heard and ensure systems are improved so that future children are protected.
There is no cost involved in registering and/or engaging with the Royal Commission for a Private Hearing. In addition, RCT has a ‘No Win No Fee’ and ‘Expenses Fee’ policy and will investigate a potential claim for damages at no cost to the claimant.
How to apply?
Contact the Commission directly on 1800 099 340 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternately, contact the local Stringer Clark office to arrange an appointment with one of the team from RCT who regularly visit regional offices or contact RCT directly on 1300 336 441 or at email@example.com.
Stringer Clark and RCT continue to support survivors
We continue to advocate for a redress scheme that is easy to access, does not re-traumatise survivors and offers broad counselling support. We believe that financial payments to survivors are important in helping acknowledge their stories.