National Redress Scheme falls short for survivors

The Healing Foundation says the National Redress Scheme for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse is falling short of delivering trauma aware healing informed responses.

Because the majority of submissions published by the Joint Select Committee reflect the views of non-Indigenous survivors, or the interests of the institutions, The Healing Foundation has lodged a submission to ensure the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander survivors are considered as part of the review.

The Healing Foundation CEO Fiona Petersen is today appearing before the Joint Select Committee in Parliament to ensure that the redress process reduces re-traumatisation and is delivered in a trauma aware and healing informed way.

“As the voices of Stolen Generations survivors have made clear, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities carry a heavy burden of trauma and disadvantage arising from institutional abuse,” she said.

“The National Redress Scheme is a fundamental part of the healing journey for survivors. However, unless trauma is actively addressed at every point of contact in the redress response, there is a significant risk that survivors of institutional abuse will not be allowed to heal.

“A key weakness in the Scheme’s administration is the response that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander survivors receive when engaging with formal agencies such as Centrelink – survivors report discrimination and alienation in their contact with both staff and application processes, which can contribute to trauma and create a barrier to accessing redress.”

Particular attention must be given to ensuring support is available for applicants who have been rejected, and to making review processes accessible.

Unfortunately, the current processes do not meet this expectation, which could re-traumatise Stolen Generations survivors, many of who are already at a disadvantage.

“The breakdown of family and social structures caused by removal and abuse decimated communities and it deeply impacted Stolen Generations survivors,” Ms Petersen said.

“Survivors did not know where to go to seek support for anything, they no longer belonged to a community, held no memories of belonging to one and were not able to draw on the strengths of a community to help them.

“The voices and experience of Stolen Generations survivors need to be the touchstone we keep returning to when reviewing implementation of the National Redress Scheme.”

Ms Petersen said The Healing Foundation has considerable data and evidence to illustrate the trauma and disadvantage experienced by Stolen Generations survivors, their families and communities.

“The Healing Foundation commissioned a series of reports from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), which form Australia’s first demographic study of the Stolen Generations and their descendants,” she said.

“The reports have uncovered an alarming and disproportionate level of disadvantage and prove that the negative impact of past atrocities is having a flow-on effect to later generations, therefore creating an escalating cycle of disadvantage.

“The AIHW data estimates that 17,150 members of the Stolen Generations are still alive today and that they experience higher levels of adversity in relation to almost all of 38 key health and welfare outcomes.

“Even compared to their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders contemporaries, who are already at a disadvantage in Australia, Stolen Generations members are suffering more – financially, socially and in areas of health and wellbeing.”

Background

The Healing Foundation made a submission to the Joint Select Committee on Implementation of the National Redress Scheme in June 2020. The submission can be found here.

In response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, The Healing Foundation released a discussion paper titled Restoring our Spirits – Reshaping our Futures. The paper can be found here.

To coincide with Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s apology to victims and survivors of institutional child sexual abuse, The Healing Foundation released a cultural framework, titled Looking Where the Light Is: creating and restoring safety and healing. This report can be found here.

The AIHW Report – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Stolen Generations and descendants: Numbers, demographic characteristics and selected outcomes – is available here.

The Healing Foundation is a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation that partners with communities to heal trauma caused by the widespread and deliberate disruption of populations, cultures and languages over 230 years. This includes specific actions like the forced removal of children from their families.

Media contact: Ben O’Halloran – 0474 499 911 or ben@healingfoundation.org.au

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