NSW abuse survivors 'betrayed' amid new bill proposal

Source:Xinhua Published: 2013-5-20 14:31:38

Human rights lawyers and women's organizations Monday have appealed to the UN about proposed changes to the NSW victims compensation scheme.

A bill introduced into parliament earlier in May proposes a time limit for NSW victims of sexual assault, domestic violence or child abuse to make a claim for compensation; of within ten years of the crime.

Over thirty legal, human rights, health, community and women's organizations Monday together filed a complaint with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Rashida Manjoo.

"We call on the Special Rapporteur to tell the NSW Parliament about these human rights violations. This bill should not pass in its current form," said CLCNSW Chairperson Anna Cody.

Community Legal Centres NSW (CLCNSW) believes the proposed changes may violate human rights treaties and make it more difficult for women who are victims of crimes to claim in the future.

"The changes to Victims Compensation legislation will have a disproportionate impact on victims of some of the most serious crimes, including victims of child abuse, sexual assault and domestic violence," said Women's Legal Services NSW principal solicitor Janet Loughman.

"Australia has signed international conventions that stop governments from passing laws that limit women's access to justice, and that includes access to compensation," Loughman added.

Rachael Martin, convenor of CLCNSW Victims Compensation Committee said the amendments fail to recognise the psychological harm suffered by abuse survivors.

"For those victims caught by the new time limits, it sends the message that their traumatic experiences aren't worth compensating," Martin said.

The proposed bill comes in the wake of a controversial announcement by Legal Aid NSW Monday that they will not fund any new compensation cases for victims of institutional abuse.

An ongoing royal commission into child abuse in Australian churches, schools, scouting groups and orphanages is expected to uncover many victims, who will now be unable to claim compensation.

"This is terrible blow to thousands of victims of crime, many of who have been waiting years for compensation, only to be told that overnight their benefits will be slashed.

"Making these cuts retrospective will deliver harsh and unjust cuts to some of the most vulnerable people who need support, not attacks, from the State government," Greens MP David Shoebridge told local media.

Shoebridge described the decision as "a terrible betrayal of victims of abuse".
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