A 65-year-old man who suffered repeated physical, psychological and sexual abuse as a child at the hands of his orphanage carers, was today the first Western Australian to apply for an ex-gratia payment under the State Government’s $114million Redress WA program.
Receiving the application, Communities Minister Sue Ellery said Paul Irvine was one of about 20,000 former wards of the State who over the next 12 months were expected to apply for monetary and emotional recompense for any abuse they suffered as children in care.
“Paul is typical of those people who were abused as children in foster homes, institutions or non-Government or church-based care, and who today can apply for a payment of up to $80,000 and an apology from the State Government,” Ms Ellery said.
“As a young baby, Paul was taken into State care and he spent the next 15 years in three different orphanages, all of which concealed from him his Aboriginality. He was not made aware of his cultural background until he was 19, and he never knew his parents.
“Paul’s physical and psychological abuse began in an orphanage when he was just nine years old and at the age of 12 he was subjected to ongoing sexual abuse. His claims of abuse at the time were ignored by the orphanage.
“Paul’s story is, tragically, irreversible and the terrible events that happened in his childhood have deeply affected his life.
“The State Government sincerely regrets that abuse like this happened. We want to help correct the wrongs of the past through Redress WA, a very significant program that is the most generous of its kind in Australia.
“While we know that money can never make up for the suffering endured by these people, our hope is that this program will help them come to terms with their past and move into the future as happier and healthier individuals.”
People who were under the protection of the State prior to March 2006 will be eligible for Redress WA and may receive an ex-gratia payment of up to $10,000 if there is reasonable likelihood of abuse or neglect, or up to $80,000 in cases where there is medical or psychological evidence of abuse or neglect.
Victims, including non-Aboriginal children, child migrants and Stolen Generation children, will also receive an official apology from the State Government and access to a range of free counselling and support services.
Mr Irvine, who lives alone and has never married, said the abuse he suffered as a child had made it impossible for him to form deep and lasting relationships. He also still carried the scars of physical abuse, including a hearing impairment and spinal problems.
“My upbringing had no meaning other than fear, humiliation, violence, sexual abuse and domination by those who were supposed to care for me,” he said.
“The children at these orphanages were stripped of their individuality and self-respect; and the life-long consequences for me have been destructive in both a personal and professional sense.
“I don’t expect a payment or an apology from the State Government to fix the damage that has been done, but it is very meaningful to me that WA has taken such an important step in acknowledging the way innocent children were treated at the hands of their guardians.”
Redress WA application kits can be obtained by calling the Redress WA free call number 1800 617 233, or can be downloaded from http://www.redress.wa.gov.au
Applications are open for 12 months and must be lodged by 5pm on April 30, 2009. Formal assessment of applications will begin on May 1, 2009, and all claims are expected to be resolved by December 2010.
· adults who, as children, were abused in State care prior to March 1, 2006, including child migrants and Stolen Generation children;
· State care includes facilities that were subsidised, monitored, registered or approved by the State Government, such as foster homes or other residential settings or institutions such as group homes, hostels or orphanages; and
· individuals who have already received payments from non-Government organisations (for example churches) also may apply to Redress WA.
· individuals who have received damages from a court or a settlement as a result of abuse and injuries described in the application for Redress WA from the State Government;
· relatives of deceased persons, or the estate of deceased persons, who were in State care.
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