New laws to hold institutions accountable for child sex abuse

Published: 26 Sep 2018

New laws introduced into Parliament remove long-standing legal barriers and pave the way for thousands of survivors to sue institutions responsible for child sex abuse.

The changes include:

  • Removing the ‘Ellis Defence’ that allowed some institutions to avoid responsibility. If institutions fail to nominate a proper defendant to be sued, the Court will have power to appoint trustees to be sued.
  • Extending responsibility to non-employees like volunteers or religious officers.
  • Enforcing a duty of care on all institutions that exercise care, supervision or authority over children. An organisation is responsible unless it can prove it took reasonable steps to prevent it.

Limitation periods have already been removed for death or personal injury because of child abuse, including against a perpetrator or institution.

These changes follow extensive consultation with government and non-government organisations, survivor groups, religious institutions, the insurance industry and legal professions.

NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman said the vital reforms, recommended by the Royal Commission’s Redress and Civil Litigation report, remove long-standing legal barriers, enabling survivors to take action against institutions including churches that have failed to keep children safe from abuse.

“Overhauling the civil litigation system is an historic milestone for survivors, making it easier for them to pursue compensation for child abuse. Nothing can erase the devastation survivors have suffered, but these changes will help ensure institutions are more effectively held to account,” Mr Speakman said.

“NSW was the first state to pass laws to enable the establishment of the National Redress Scheme and to introduce a comprehensive criminal justice response to the Royal Commission.”

Find out more about protecting our kids.

Survivors of child sexual or physical assault can access confidential counselling that is available through the Victims Support Scheme.

Other support services that operate 24/7 include:

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