The ACT Government has now joined Victoria and New South Wales in removing the time limitation periods that govern civil claims for injury based on child sexual abuse.
Similar changes are expected to take place in Western Australia and Queensland over the coming months. The remaining states and territories are yet to move.
The changes are one of many of the recommendations the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse made late last year.
What do the changes in the ACT mean?
The changes are significant for people who have been sexually abused in institutions operating in the ACT.
The new laws say that a claim for damages brought by a survivor of child sexual abuse in an institutional context can be made at any time – no matter when the abuse happened, whether it is in the 1950s or 1980s.
There is no longer a 6 year limitation period.
The changes also say that the mandatory pre-action procedures requiring the giving of notice to a defendant also do not apply to these types of claims. Instead, only reasonable notice before starting court action must be given to a defendant.
Unlike the changes in NSW and Victoria, the changes in the ACT do not apply to people who experienced physical or emotional abuse in an institutional context. Instead, ACT claims will only benefit from the new changes where they ‘substantially arise from sexual abuse’.
This is a landmark achievement for survivors and victims. While these changes remove a significant, insurmountable barrier, the Royal Commission has recommended many other legislative reforms in the civil litigation and redress contexts. We hope that further reforms will be made across Australia in the near future.
If you or someone you know would like legal advice on bring a claim for child abuse, Turner Freeman has an expert team of personal injury lawyers who can provide you with professional legal advice and assistance.
If you or someone you know has been affected by child abuse, support is available. Please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or 1800 Respect on 1800 737 732.