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15 Nov 2017

Limitation of Actions (Child Sexual Abuse) Amendment Bill

The Hon. A.L. McLACHLAN (21:00): I rise to speak on the Limitation of Actions (Child Sexual Abuse) Amendment Bill 2017. I speak on behalf of the Liberal opposition and indicate that the Liberal opposition will be supporting the second reading and the passage of the bill. This bill seeks to amend the Limitation of Actions Act to remove current time limitations for lodging civil claims that arise from child sexual abuse. I know that the bill is similar to one introduced in the other place by the member for Bragg; however, this bill differs slightly in its application. The government has, however, repeatedly forced adjournments on occasions that it has been called to a vote in the other place.

Both bills seek to implement recommendation 85 of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which called for state and territory governments to remove statutory limitation periods for claims brought by a person resulting from sexual abuse in an institutional context. The current act seeks a statutory limitation for personal injury claims of three years. This limitation period begins once a child turns 18. This means that once a child who has suffered abuse in an institutional setting has turned 21 years they are prevented from pursuing any civil action relating to their injuries.

This bill goes further than the recommendation in that it removes limitation for all child sexual abuse victims, not just those who have suffered abuse in an institutional setting. When introducing the bill, the Hon. John Darley cited an extract from the report, which states:

While our recommendations relate to institutional child sexual abuse, we have no objection to state and territory governments providing for wider changes.

Thus, the extension of the bill seeks to implement that advice. This extension recognises that an immediate complaint by children of sexual abuse is relatively unusual. More often, victims of child sexual abuse delay talking about or reporting the offending against them. There are a multitude of reasons why this is so. The age and the development of the victim, the severity of abuse and the relationship they have to the abuser all contribute to this. Some victims are manipulated into remaining silent, often for many years, by their abuser. Some may also suffer from repressed memory.

The Liberal Party recognises that all victims, regardless of whether they were abused in an institutional setting or otherwise, are susceptible to the same. The Liberal Party therefore supports the bill and its extension beyond victims in an institutional setting. I commend the bill to the chamber.

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