In brief

On 4 April 2024, amendments to the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Act 2018 (Cth) (Act) came into effect, following the annual review of the National Redress Scheme (NRS).

Amendments

The latest amendments slightly alter the processes and operation of the NRS. We set out below five key amendments:

1. Incarcerated applicants
The restriction on people applying from prison has been removed for all except those who have been sentenced to 5 years or more imprisonment for unlawful killing (including attempt or conspiracy to commit), a sexual offence (including intent to commit) or a terrorism offence (including attempt and conspiracy to commit).
 
This is arguably the most significant amendment for institutions as it may lead to a spike in applications from incarcerated persons.
 
2. Applicants with serious criminal convictions
The special assessment process for the eligibility of people with serious criminal convictions has been refined. The amendments now allow for discretion with respect to restrictions on eligibility to apply to the NRS where the applicant is currently or has previously been sentenced as listed above (unlawful killing, sexual or terrorism offence). This discretion centres on "exceptional circumstances" in which these restrictions may cause the NRS to come into disrepute or cause a loss of public confidence in the NRS.
 
3. The process for reviewing an offer of redress
When an applicant seeks a review of their offer, they are now able to provide additional information and/or records to assist the review process. Prior to these amendments the NRS still had the ability to reach out to the applicant to request any necessary further information or clarification either before issuing a Request for Information (RFI) to the institution or upon receipt of their response before making their determination. The NRS can now also reach out to participating institutions or partly-participating institutions in this respect for additional information.
 
4. The use of protected information
The amendments provide additional authorisations for sharing protected information. All but one of these new authorisations are for the NRS and not any participating institution. The most notable new authorisations are:

  • The NRS can tell an applicant information about an institution not participating in the NRS;

  • The NRS has powers of disclosure with respect to determining whether an applicant is subject to financial guardianship orders; and

  • An institution can disclose protected information for the purposes of "investigation and disciplinary procedures".

5. Finalised application reassessment
An already finalised NRS application may be reassessed if a relevant non-participating institution subsequently joins the NRS and a new determination may be made taking into account the responsibility of the newly participating institution (this amendment to take effect no later than 4 October 2024).

Conclusion

These amendments have little impact on how an institution ought to operate in the context of the NRS, however, awareness of these amendments may assist in predicting future trends.

This is commentary published by Colin Biggers & Paisley for general information purposes only. This should not be relied on as specific advice. You should seek your own legal and other advice for any question, or for any specific situation or proposal, before making any final decision. The content also is subject to change. A person listed may not be admitted as a lawyer in all States and Territories. © Colin Biggers & Paisley, Australia 2024.

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