It is very important that survivors of child sexual abuse understand that the National Redress Scheme (NRS) will ask them to sign away their civil rights for compensation in exchange for a redress payment under the NRS. You will be asked to sign a document called a “Deed of Release”.
Survivors should speak to a lawyer before they accept a payment under the NRS and enter a Deed of Release because some survivors might be entitled to more money than the NRS is able to offer.
The decision to accept a payment under the NRS may have significant consequences. For example, late last year a Victorian court awarded a survivor $717,000 for sexual abuse committed in the early 1970s by his school teacher. Under the NRS, this particular survivor would only have received a maximum payment of $50,000.
You can contact Turner Freeman Lawyers for advice on these issues.
What is a Deed of Release?
The NRS will ask you to sign a document called a Deed of Release.
A Deed of Release is a legal document that contains the agreement between parties to settle a legal dispute. It will usually include a term that one party agrees to not take any further legal action against the other party in exchange for the payment of money.
One of the purposes of a Deed of Release is to bring an end to the injured party’s legal rights and the other party’s legal responsibility to pay any more money to the injured party – once and for all.
Here is an example of how a Deed of Release works:
- A survivor was sexually abused by a staff member at an orphanage run by the NSW Government.
- The NSW Government pays the survivor compensation for the abuse and the survivor signs a Deed of Release.
- A few years later, the survivor finds out from a lawyer that they should have been paid more money for the abuse.
- The Deed of Release will prevent the survivor from asking the NSW Government for more money, including by suing the NSW Government.
When will the NRS ask me to sign away my rights?
After you submit an application for a redress payment, the NRS will consider your eligibility and how much money you should be paid. If they accept your application, they will make an offer to you.
You will usually have 6 months from the date of the offer to either accept or reject the offer.
If you reject the offer, you cannot apply under the NRS again.
If you accept the offer, you will be asked to sign a Deed of Release.
What rights will the NRS ask me to sign away?
The law setting up the NRS says you must sign a Deed of Release before the NRS can make a redress payment to you.
You will be provided with a Deed of Release. The Deed of Release will say that:
- You cannot bring a civil claim later against the institution responsible for the abuse;
- You cannot bring a civil claim later against any officials of the institution, except for the abuser; and
- You cannot continue a civil claim already made against the institution.
It is very important that you obtain legal advice on whether to accept a payment under the NRS. You may be entitled to more money than the NRS is able to offer.
Why will I be asked to sign away my rights?
The NRS will ask you to sign away your rights so that you make a decision between bringing a civil claim or accepting a payment under the NRS for the abuse.
This decision might have significant consequences for you.
Should I accept a redress payment?
It is very important that you are able to make an informed decision before accepting a payment under the NRS. You may want to be properly compensated for the years of suffering you have endured and ensure that there is enough money for you to obtain treatment, be off from work and provide for your loved ones.
You should contact Turner Freeman Lawyers for advice on whether to accept an offer of redress or pursue a civil claim for compensation.