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LNP and independents deliver child abuse justice in Queensland

By Amanda Gearing - posted Friday, 11 November 2016


Queensland is the first state of Australia to allow courts to re-open unfair settlements and secrecy agreements for victims of child sexual abuse.

The state opposition and independent members this week combined forces to pass the amendment despite Government rejection of the proposal.

The new law is Australia’s most progressive child protection legislation.

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The legislation provides that “an action may be brought on a previously settled right of action if a court, by order on application, sets aside the agreement effecting the settlement on the grounds it is just and reasonable to do so.”

Any damages awarded under the new amended laws will take into account “any amounts paid or payable” under the previous agreement.

The reform was introduced as an amendment to Government legislation to improve access to justice for victims of institutional child sexual abuse recommended by the Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse.

Labor, the LNP and the independents all backed the reforms to repeal the 40 year old Statute of Limitations retrospectively.

The Statute required victims of child sexual abuse in Queensland to file a legal action before they turned 21 or lose their right to seek damages.

Only a handful of child sexual abuse victims in Queensland has ever been able to file a legal action in time.

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Most claims were therefore statute barred and victims were forced to sign deeds of agreement that they would never sue and that they would not speak about their settlement in exchange for small ex-gratia payments.

Silence clauses enabled institutions to protect their reputation by preventing victims from speaking about their settlement.

In a rare show of bipartisan solidarity, the Government also backed one of two amendments by the Opposition, to the Government bill.

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Declaration: A relative of the author was a party in a civil action for damages relating to child abuse. The offender was jailed in 2006.



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About the Author

Dr Amanda Gearing graduated with a Masters' Degree from QUT in 2012 and a PhD in Global investigative journalism in 2016. Amanda was The Courier-Mail's reporter in Toowoomba for ten years until 2007 and received several awards for her work including Best news Report (All Media) in 2002. She has written in Australia and the UK for national and state newspapers and has produced documentaries for ABC Radio National. In 2012 she won a Walkley Award for Best radio documentary for The day that changed Grantham. She also won a Clarion Award for her radio documentary A living sacrifice in 2013. Her non-fiction book The Torrent was published in 2012 and an updated edition will be published in February 2017.

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