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Redress scheme for child abuse survivors

AAP logoAAP 4/11/2016

Survivors of institutional child abuse will be able to get up to $150,000 as part of a national redress scheme announced by the federal government.

But there is doubt all states, territories, churches and charities will take part in the opt-in scheme and provide their share of restitution.

The scheme will be set up by 2018 and offer survivors psychological counselling as well as money.

The government says it's a fair and generous scheme that acknowledges the wrongdoing inflicted upon survivors.

Social Services Minister Christian Porter said the cost of supporting 3000 victims from commonwealth facilities would be between $570 million to $770 million over 10 years.

"The central thing we are trying to avoid in all of this is to re-traumatise victims who have already been through an enormous amount," he told reporters in Perth on Friday.

It will operate on an opt-in and "responsible entity pays basis", he said.

Mr Porter said the Commonwealth couldn't force states to join due to constitutional reasons.

"The unequivocal legal advice is that it is very, very unlikely we have the power to establish a single scheme by compulsion."

While South Australia has opted out of the scheme, most of the other states are supportive.

Victoria on Friday said it had always preferred a national scheme but is now "well advanced" toward its own system.

"I'm keen to avoid any further delay and I will be urgently seeking more detail from Minister Porter about how a national scheme would operate and what funding the Commonwealth intends to contribute," the state's attorney-general Martin Pakula said.

NSW said it welcomed the announcement and "looks forward to working with the Commonwealth on the details of the scheme", while WA says it favours a national scheme.

An independent advisory council will involve survivor groups, legal and psychological experts.

The head of Care Leavers Australia Network welcomed the scheme as a good first step.

"But it's not good enough to say we can't put pressure on the states or the churches and charities," chief executive Leonie Sheedy told AAP.

"It should be a mandatory obligation to participate and contribute."

The Catholic Church's Truth Justice and Healing Council said the system would be fair, simple and generous.

"This is by far the best chance we as a community and particularly the institutions responsible for the abuse will have to do the right thing," chief executive Francis Sullivan said.

"It will mean the scheme will determine redress payments and that payment will be met by the institution responsible for the abuse."

An extra benefit would be institutions such as the Catholic Church would "now no longer be in the business of investigating and determining claims against themselves".

Law Council of Australia president Stuart Clark welcomed the Commonwealth agreeing to be "funder of last resort" because it would ensure survivors can still receive redress even when an institution has closed or become insolvent.

Anglican Primate, Archbishop Philip Freier, said he encouraged the states to join so it could be truly national.

"However, there is still a considerable amount of detail to be released, so at this point we can only say we strongly support the proposal in principle," Archbishop Freier told AAP.

Sydney Catholic archbishop Anthony Fisher has says the church supports the scheme and is awaiting details on how it will be delivered.

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