'Extremely upsetting': Abuse survivor slams redress scheme
IT WAS heralded as an honourable gesture to survivors of institutional child abuse.
But a year on from its implementation, questions have been raised about the disheartening process involved with the National Redress Scheme.
Casino man Robbie Gambley was at the forefront of calls for a redress scheme and was among official guests in Canberra when Prime Minister Scott Morrison made a formal apology to survivors.
Mr Gambley, abused as a child by his Bonalbo science teacher, said he'd withdrawn his application due to the complexities of the process.
He said this included the scheme's proposed subtraction of funds he received through private civil action against the Department of Education and the perpetrator, and funds from his own civil action, from the sum he'd otherwise be entitled to. He said this was disheartening.
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When he called the scheme to withdraw this original application, Mr Gambley discovered the original documents which supported his claim, including police reports and an apology letter from the Department of Education, had been destroyed after digital copies were made.
"When they destroyed my documents, that was extremely upsetting," Mr Gambley said.
It's understood the Department of Human Services, responsible for those documents, apologised to Mr Gambley yesterday, hours after The Northern Star lodged questions with another department associated with the scheme.
While he's now working with the organisation Know More in the hope of submitting a fresh application, Mr Gambley said some abuse survivors weren't applying at all because it was "too daunting".
He said the impacts made by survivors' contributions to the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse should be duly acknowledged.
"Australia is a better country now, for the brave people that went to police and went to the Royal Commission," he said.
"Children are safer now and society is better now than it was before the Royal Commission. I don't wish to sound harsh but at the moment (the redress process) is not working very well.
"It's a brutal assessment.
"People are finding the process so daunting."
He said it was "critical" the procedures were thorough to allocate redress in the right ways, but said this shouldn't cause further harm.
"The national redress scheme should be strict, but it should not be cruel," he said.
Mr Gambley said he'd given Page MP Kevin Hogan a letter to give to the Prime Minister, detailing his concerns.
"I'm not asking for a sheep station or a mansion," Mr Gambley said.
"We just want to be able to live with dignity and with some comfort."
Since it launched a year ago, the Commonwealth and every state and territory has joined the National Redress Scheme, along with 47 non-government institutions at more than 40,000 individual sites.
As of June this year, the scheme had received more than 4100 applications, while 229 redress payments had been made.
The Department of Social Services could not confirm whether any of those payments related to Northern Rivers institutions.
Heartfelt House CEO Kate Loubet, who helps abuse survivors at the Wollongbar facility, said more people had been seeking their services since the Royal Commission and said they'd also received feedback that the redress process was "very long" and "difficult".
Minister for Families and Social Services Anne Ruston said the Federal Government recognised survivors "have been waiting a long time for redress" and stressed it was the first scheme of its type and scale in Australia, had its complexities and was "not perfect".
"That is why I have asked my department to investigate how we can improve the process and I have instructed the department responsible for processing applications to fast track their work," she said.
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