Second Reading: Limitation of Actions Amendment (Child Abuse) Bill 2015

Mr HIBBINS (Prahran) — I rise to speak on the Limitation of Actions Amendment (Child Abuse) Bill 2015, the second bill to come before Parliament today in relation to responding to the recommendations in the Betrayal of Trust report. I acknowledge the substantial contributions of all members in this house to the debates on both bills.

This bill amends the Limitations of Actions Act 1958 to implement recommendation 26.3 of theBetrayal of Trust report, which suggested that the Victorian government consider amending the Limitations of Actions Act to exclude child abuse from the operations of the limitations period under the act. This is critical to achieving justice and holding offenders to account.

This bill removes all limitation periods for damages founded on the death or personal injury of a person resulting from child abuse. By removing the 12-year long-stop limitation period for actions under part 3 of the Wrongs Act 1958, this bill applies to instances of child abuse that occurred at any time, regardless of whether those claims were previously affected by a limitation period.

The removal of limitations will not undermine the right to a fair hearing. It will not affect the court's inherent jurisdictional power to control or dismiss proceedings that could undermine the administration of justice, such as where the fair hearing of a matter is impossible due to the loss of evidence through the passage of time. The bill also recognises that the effects of child abuse are not always confined to the primary victim of that abuse but can also extend to dependents of the victim who may be unaware for many years that childhood abuse was the cause of the victim's suffering and possible death.

This bill is important to give victims and families access to justice, to hold abusers and organisations that looked the other way or enabled abuse to account and to help prevent child abuse occurring in the future. As stated by the Law Institute of Victoria:

… civil litigation is an important avenue for legal redress, providing not only access to compensation, but acknowledgement and accountability for the harm victims of abuse have suffered. Court judgements also provide a valuable form of public condemnation of child abuse, and create a powerful incentive for organisations to change their practices to prevent child abuse.

I understand the Law Institute of Victoria has forwarded recommendations for psychological and emotional abuse to be included in this bill, and the Greens will look at that issue further in the Legislative Council. Disclosure of child abuse often occurs decades after the fact, well after the long-stop limitation period of 12 years. While time limitations on civil claims can be appropriate, it is overwhelmingly in the interests of victims and the public to remove this limitation in instances of child abuse. The Greens support this bill and wish it a speedy passage.