Righting the wrongs: What the new Defence abuse reparation scheme means for survivors
Defence abuse survivors have renewed hope following the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s announcement of a new reparations scheme.
For survivors this new, less restrictive scheme represents a second chance at reparations and recognition for abuse suffered while serving their country, and follows the 2016 closure of the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce.
Tindall Gask Bentley partner Tim White, an experienced military claims specialist who has helped Defence survivors across Australia, said the new scheme was a shining light amidst the darkness for many former and current Defence personnel who thought the door was firmly shut on ever getting acknowledgement for their suffering.
“Anyone who missed the DART deadline was left to wonder if they would ever get another opportunity to be heard, to get some form of closure,” Mr White said.
“Some simply did not know the DART existed. Others failed to file their claims in time and, for others, the abuse happened too late – given the DART’s original cut-off was for abuse that occurred before April 11, 2011.
“Ever since, there have been calls from victims and advocates alike for a new DART, or to have one set up permanently to handle all abuse claims.
The original DART received 2439 complaints, of which 1723 received payments totalling $66.63 million. However, many advocates have warned this is just the tip of the iceberg and the new scheme should expect many more people to come forward who were perhaps too fearful to do so before.
Key aspects of the new scheme, to start in early 2018, include:
- Survivors can make claims for abuse that occurred any time on or before June 30, 2014, the broader time limit opening up access to the scheme to more Defence people than ever before;
- No requirement for survivors to have reported the abuse to Defence previously;
- A deadline of June 30, 2021 to make a reparations claim, giving survivors much more time than under the old DART;
- Survivors can apply for up to $45,000 for the most serious forms of abuse, or a payment of up to $20,000 to acknowledge other abuse involving unlawful interference accompanied by some element of indecency and;
- Introduction of the Restorative Engagement Program which offers critical closure to survivors through acknowledging and apologising for their traumatic experiences.
“There are many positive aspects to this new scheme,” Mr White said.
“The DART’s restrictive time limits were once enormous barriers that have now been lifted, and in doing so a weight will have been lifted off the shoulders of many survivors.
“I commend Defence for recognising where they could improve and begin to right the wrongs of the past.”
Australia’s military compensation system is complex but, for many survivors, the hardest part of making a claim is talking about their abuse. Complainants will likely find it easier to entrust us to assist them through the process, with our firm becoming the “middle man” between them and the Scheme, taking the pressure off them while advocating on their behalf.
“Any prospect of improved services and compensation for Defence abuse victims is always welcome,” Mr White said.
“These brave people experienced horrific trauma while serving their country and that needs to be recognised. We stand alongside all victims and will fight to protect their rights and entitlements.”
If you would like to be kept updated about news regarding the new Defence abuse reparations scheme, or to start your claims process, you can register your details here.
If you need any legal help with your military compensation claim, contact TGB partner Tim White. Tim specialises in military claims and is a Legal Officer in the Royal Australian Air Force Reserves.
Please note TGB can assist current and former ADF members Australia-wide.