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.
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.
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.
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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