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 1641 Evidence before the Royal Commission showed that survivors of child abuse can continue to be affected decades after the harm is inflicted. Can you imagine an act or repeated acts causing trauma to a person years and years after it occurred? Times are changing, and society is now openly compassionate and supportive of victims and survivors of child abuse. No victim chooses to suffer. No victim wants to be traumatised. This bill supports those who have suffered child abuse to come forward and get the support they need. As the Attorney-General stated in her speech, the Royal Commissions research revealed that the average time to disclose childhood sexual abuse is around 22 years. Using this research I will provide an example. A child abused at 10 years old may not disclose the abuse until 22 years later, when they are 32 years old. That is how old I am, and I could not imagine having lived two-thirds of my life with the trauma and anguish caused by abuse. I feel fortunate that I have not had to endure such trauma in my life, but there are others who have not been so lucky. I am supportive of the Limitation Amendment (Child Abuse) Bill to support those in the community who are our most vulnerable. As the Attorney-General stated this morning, limitation periods are a restriction to justice and ignore the compassion for survivors of child abuse and the justice they deserve. I agree wholeheartedly that this bill recognises the vulnerability of children and will provide survivors of child abuse with the time to comprehend and respond to the harm they have suffered, whether it was recently or years earlier. Very importantly, the bill applies retrospectively, which means limitation periods will not apply, regardless of when the abuse occurred. Those who have suffered years of trauma from abuse will be able to access support in a time when they are able to confront their abuse in their own mind and space. This bill demonstrates the governments compassion and commitment to supporting survivors of child abuse by removing time barriers and allowing them the opportunity to bring their claims before a court. I acknowledge and thank my government team members who have spoken today, the opposition for its support of this amendment, and the Independents who support it, particularly the Member for Nelson. Madam Speaker, I commend the bill to the House, and I thank the Attorney-General for bringing this longawaited legislation before the House. Mr McCARTHY (Housing and Community Development): Madam Speaker, I am honoured to join this debate on very important legislation. I commend the Attorney-General for bringing Territory law to this place. To the young people in the gallery, you have come at a very important time. You are witnessing the important changes and amendments to Territory laws that impact on us all, as citizens of the great Northern Territory. This bill that you are seeing debated in the peoples House is about a change to law that is being incorporated across our country. Other Australian states and jurisdictions are making these changes and the Northern Territory has joined them. It is in response to something quite substantial in the Australian communitythe Royal Commission. The Attorney-General has delivered important information regarding this bill, and the passage of this bill through the Housevery carefully prepared, briefed and supported so that members of this House understand what we are doing here, why it is so important and the outcomes it will provide for vulnerable people within our community. I refer to the Attorney-Generals speech in this House. This process started in September 2015 from the Royal Commission into the Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. There have been some passionate contributions on that by members who are elected community representatives. It is so important that state and territory governments remove limitation periods that apply to claim for damages resulting from child sexual abuse. It is also important to note the Attorney-General outlined the other jurisdictions that have been processing the same amendments necessary to incorporate this into an outcome for all Australians. To date, New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria have removed limitation periods for child abuse cases. The Australian Capital Territory has more specifically enacted legislation to remove limitation periods in relation to child sexual abuse that occurred in an institutional context. Western Australia and Tasmania have proposed similar bills to remove limitation periods. New South Wales and Victoria have implemented broader amendments applying to sexual and serious physical abuse, and in limited circumstances psychological abuse, whether or not that abuse occurred in an institution.