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Abuse survivors welcome Qld reforms

AAP logoAAP 2/08/2016 By Jamie McKinnell

Institutional sexual abuse survivors, lawyers and child safety advocates have welcomed moves in Queensland to lift restrictions on when perpetrators can be sued for child abuse.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on Monday announced she would personally introduce into parliament the legislation in two weeks, in line with a key recommendation from the child sexual abuse royal commission.

"The statute of limitations has effectively barred these victims from seeking justice," Ms Palaszczuk said.

Currently, survivors of institutional abuse can only sue the perpetrators within three years of their 18th birthday.

But Bravehearts criminologist Carol Ronken said research showed it can take more than 20 years for some survivors to confront and speak about their abuse.

"The application of any limitation provisions to deny adult survivors access to redress is theoretically, practically and morally unjustifiable," she said.

Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath said the government would release an issues paper on whether the same restrictions should be lifted for other forms of abuse, including physical and psychological.

The removal of limitations applying to sexual abuse survivors was "long overdue", she said.

"People have been waiting and calling for these reforms."

Australian Lawyers Alliance Queensland president Michelle James said the reform would give survivors renewed hope they can access justice.

"We are very pleased the state government has not waited any longer for the Commonwealth to act," she said.

Queensland's Liberal National Party (LNP) opposition announced the same policy two weeks ago.

LNP leader Tim Nicholls said the government's "belated" changes were proof Labor was merely following his party's lead on something that was "morally and legally" the right thing to do.

But he conceded the main thing for survivors wasn't which party made the announcement first, but that they had the right to make a claim.

NSW and Victoria have already lifted the limitations and the ACT on Tuesday announced its intention to do the same.

Ms Palaszczuk also called on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to develop a national redress scheme.

A $100 million state-based redress fund set up after the Forde inquiry almost 20 years ago attracted 7453 claims, of which just over one third related to sexual abuse.

The changes will mean those who received a payout have no legal barriers to pursuing further civil claims, but Ms D'Ath said it was a difficult thing to cost and not everyone would want to go down that path.

Ms Palaszczuk said for some victims, who may have "met with tragic circumstances", the changes might have come too late.

"I think we should also stop and take note that some of this horrific abuse has taken a toll on families and a toll on people's lives," she said.

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