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 1631 This bill removes limitation periods for child abuse claims. Whilst it is a requirement of the national Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, it is also a compassionate and sensible thing for us to do. We all recall that in September 2015 the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse released its Redress and Civil Litigation report, which, amongst other things, recommended that state and territory governments remove limitation periods that apply to a claim for damages resulting from child sexual abuse; that such amendments should operate retrospectively; that the amendments preserve the courts existing jurisdictions and powers to stay proceedings; and that the amendments be implemented as soon as possible. I am pleased this bill implements those recommendations. One of the Royal Commissions most notable findings was that through its years of work and the thousands of allegations it examined, on average it took a victim 22 years to reveal abuse. Limitation periods to sue someone are generally about three years after the harm, three years after someone turns 18 or, in some cases, after six years. That is why the Royal Commission recommended change, and it was right to do so. I am aware that in the ACT there have been a number of cases in which victims were not able to sue the offender, even when they had proven the harm, due to the Limitation Act provisions. In fact, there have been cases in which the victim has been told they are simply out of time. As an additional blow, they had to pay the court costs of the offender. It is a double hit to very vulnerable people. Another example is when a victim was unable to claim due to legal limitation periods in Queensland. It was the case of Hopkins v Queensland in which a victim was abused as a child in foster care. She was unable to sue beyond six years after her 18 th birthday but did not become aware of the psychiatric harm she suffered until this period had well and truly expired. Due to legal limitation periods a group of 15 young women in NSW were statute-barred from pursuing claims against the Parramatta Girls Home, where they were raped and bashed. I do not think anybody here feels that is fair. I suspect the limitation bill as it currently stands did not anticipate that it would have such a detrimental effect on complex issues like institutionalised child abuse. That is why it is very important that the legislative change is retrospective, with safeguards to ensure the courts have discretion about historical claims or claims that have already been properly examined in the court system. It is very much about appropriate opportunity for justice. This bill provides much-needed support to victims of child sexual abuse. We know the work of the national Royal Commission is ongoing, and our government will continue to examine recommendations being made. If required we will bring further legislative change such as this before the House. Well done to the Attorney-General and her department for the work being done on this. It is often difficult for victims to have their voices heard, and it is an important role of any government to assist them in that process and not put up road blocks along the way. I thank the Parliamentary Library Service for some of the research they provided me in preparation for the debate today. Whilst I do not quote a lot of material in the House, it provides a much broader understanding of the things we talk about, such as the importance of the legislation before the House. Mr WOOD (Nelson): Madam Speaker, I support this very important bill. I thank the Member for Sanderson for her views on this bill, as well as the Member for Spillett. I also thank the government for introducing the bill. I think everything has been covered very well by all speakers, but I want to refer back to the second reading, which says: The bill demonstrates the governments compassion and commitment to support survivors of child abuse by removing time barriers and allowing them the opportunity to bring their claims before a court. As the Member for Sanderson mentioned, there were a number of cases in Queensland and NSW where people who had been abused were not able to take their cases to court simply because of time barriers. This is an amendment to the Limitation Act, so it removes those limitations which stop people from taking someone to court over matters that occurred outside of the normal limitation period.