Victims of child sex abuse have been promised a more “compassionate” approach from NSW government agencies processing their civil claims.
They will also be able to access state care records more easily as part of the government’s first official response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
“No more government denial and ducking,” Attorney-General Brad Hazzard said.
He said the government would direct state agencies and their lawyers to avoid enforcing a six-year statutory time limit for survivors of child abuse to bring civil claims in court.
The Victorian government has recently gone a step further and pledged to remove the time limit altogether via a change in legislation.
But Mr Hazzard said a directive from the NSW government would be enough to convince state agencies not to apply the time limit and that legislative changes would not be needed.
Community Services Minister Gabrielle Upton said under the changes, child abuse victims would be able to access their care records in a couple of months.
That’s compared to the current 12-month period.
She said the government had listened to the criticism levelled at state agencies at the royal commission.
“We’ve made mistakes,” Ms Upton said.
“We will not make those mistakes again.”
The commission has heard graphic and disturbing evidence of abuse, including from 16 women who survived institutional care at the Parramatta Girls Home.
Bonney Djuric, founder of support network Parragirls, welcomed the moves.
“Without exception every Parramatta Girl, as indeed do other care leavers, shares a heartfelt desire to ensure what we experienced as children never happens again,” Ms Djuric said.
“These measures will go a long way in ensuring this hope can be fulfilled.
“The NSW government has evidently listened to and heard the pain and suffering experienced by survivors of the Parramatta Girls Home.”
Leonie Sheedy, from Care Leavers Australia Networks, said it was crucial for abuse victims to have timely access to their care files as it allowed them to take the matters to court.
“Everybody else has a right to know their family information except for NSW state wards,” she said.
“We need access to all our information – even the horrible nasty bits.”