Territory Stories

Debates Day 4 - Tuesday 9 May 2017



Debates Day 4 - Tuesday 9 May 2017

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Parliamentary Record 5


Debates for 13th Assembly 2016 - 2018; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 13th Assembly 2016 - 2020




pp 1623 to 1686


Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES Tuesday 9 May 2017 1634 What a sentence. This bill is fair and recognises the difficulties that victims face in simply acknowledging the abuse they suffered as children, let alone the complexities involved in launching legal action against the perpetrator in a timely manner. It is not about money. Any suggestion otherwise represents a slap in the face for the child abuse survivors who are brave enough to speak out and confront those who betrayed the most intimate of trust. While the proposed changes remove the limitation period in which civil litigation must begin, this Territory Labor government is one that believes a strong society is built on the foundation of an equitable justice system. This bill adheres to the legal principle of res judicata, which refers to a matter that has previously been judged on its merits and is not able to be re-litigated. Given that the Royal Commission data determined it took survivors on average 22 years to disclose their abuse, the amendments to the Limitation Act will provide adequate time frames for them to understand and respond to the hurt they suffered. It will also send a loud message to offenders that Territorians will not condone any type of abuse, be it sexual, physical or psychological, against the future generations of this place we all love and call home. We have all either witnessed or read about the impact child abuse can have on victims decades after the fact, including mental health issues and substance addictions that can prevent them from leading productive, fulfilling lives. We cannot undo the revolting actions of offenders or erase the physical and psychological marks they have left. But with this bill we can allow survivors of child abuse all the time they need to process what has happened to them and decide whether seeking damages will help them heal. Madam Speaker, I support this amendment. It is long overdue and I commend its passage to the House. Ms LAWLER (Education): Madam Speaker, I support this bill which seeks to amend the Limitation Act so that time is no longer a barrier for Territorians seeking damages and justice for a person who has experienced abuse as a child. It is great to see that we are in line with New South Wales and Victoria regarding this. These changes are about showing compassion for those in society who are most vulnerable to ensure they are not prevented from seeking justice when they are ready and able to. Currently in the Northern Territory the Limitation Act requires that legal proceedings in response to an injury or a wrongful act, including abuse, must commence within three years from when the action happened. If the injury or abuse happened while a person was a child the legal proceedings must commence within three years of the person turning 18 years of age. Most of us who are over 18 years of age can imagine that three years after 18 years of age is still not very old. Most of us would have still been mulling things over in our head and trying to sort out our lives at the age of 21. Most of us would not have had our act together or been able to resolve some of the complex issues we may have experienced as children. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse commented that while limitations for some personal injury claims may be appropriate, for example, if you trip on a footpath or injure yourself, time limitations are not appropriate for someone who was abused as a child. The Member for Katherine spoke about that Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and how horrific it has been to follow those cases. As somebody who has worked in schools as a teacher and a principal, and having been involved with young people in sports, hearing those storiesand the trust that families placed in institutions such as the church, schools, boarding facilities and sporting clubs. It is just horrific to think there were people who abused those children. While listening to those stories it was traumatic for me to think it might have been my child, niece, nephew or family member. For those of us who are very fortunate not to have experienced those traumas in our lives, we are lucky. One in four children experience abuse in their childhood. It was horrific to listen to the stories through the Royal Commission. But it is fantastic to see this legislation coming through each state. The Limitation Act is being addressed. It is 2017, so why has it taken so long for this to happen? Any sensible person would think this is well and