WA on board with national redress scheme

By AAP Newswire

Counselling under the $3.8 billion national redress scheme may amount to some child sexual abuse survivors "taking a vacation", a federal minister has suggested.

Western Australia has become the final state to commit to joining the scheme, extending its coverage to more than 90 per cent of an estimated 60,000 eligible survivors.

The scheme will provide maximum redress of $150,000 and access to counselling, either through state-provided services or a lump sum payment of up to $5000, in addition to Medicare-funded services.

Asked about concerns over access to services outside metropolitan areas, Social Services Minister Dan Tehan said the federal government set up the system to be as flexible as possible for individuals.

He said if the state or territory has not committed to offering the services themselves, it will be up to the survivor to determine the type and form of counselling.

"I say this - and I don't say it flippantly at all - in some instances they will want to take the money and they might think the best type of counselling for them is to take a vacation, and they will have that right to do it," Mr Tehan told reporters on Wednesday.

"They will have the individual choice to decide what is the best form of counselling for them."

Mr Tehan said the federal government had consulted closely with the states and territories to ensure that if they have committed to providing counselling, it will be right across their jurisdictions.

A number of organisations have highlighted the life-long impact of child abuse, with a Senate inquiry submission by Shine Lawyers arguing neither option for counselling and psychological services under the scheme meets survivors' desperate needs.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said WA Premier Mark McGowan gave him a firm commitment that the state will join the scheme, making it truly national.

Mr Tehan said the scheme will cover 93 per cent of survivors, adding more non-government institutions are expected to join it.

The Catholic, Anglican and Uniting churches, Salvation Army, Scouts and YMCA are all on board, with the scheme to begin on July 1 if the legislation passes the Senate.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the redress scheme should have followed the royal commission's recommendation of a $200,000 upper limit for compensation and provided further access to counselling.

The government argues that while the $150,000 redress cap is lower than the commission recommended, the $76,000 average payment is $11,000 higher.