Survivors of institutional child abuse in NSW will now be able to overturn unfair settlement payments after “critical” new laws passed the state parliament.
The reforms empower the courts to set aside unfair historic settlement agreements for sexual and serious physical abuse.
“We are righting the wrongs of the past to ensure survivors can access the civil justice they deserve and be properly compensated for the appalling mistreatment they suffered as children,” Attorney General Mark Speakman said.
“Many survivors, who were often suffering trauma and had no legal advice, reported a significant power imbalance when negotiating claims.
“They felt forced to accept inadequate settlements under time pressures due to legal technicalities preventing them from suing responsible institutions.”
The bill also removes restrictions on claims for survivors of child abuse that occurred in custody.
Child protection foundation Bravehearts and law firm Maurice Blackburn were among those who lauded the new legislation as critical for giving survivors access to justice.
“These survivors carry lifelong trauma, with many suffering from complex physical and mental health issues because of the abuse,” the firm’s NSW head of abuse law Danielle De Paoli said.
“(But) some survivors signed up to payments of as little as $5000 for the abuse that occurred, with deeds that prevented them from speaking out, or going to court for a higher payout.”
The reform is the latest in a string of changes, which have included eliminating limitation periods for child abuse claims and abolishing the legal technicalities that shielded some institutions from lawsuits.