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Institutional Abuse and Legal Redress (LAWS90153)

Graduate courseworkPoints: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2019
Subject levelGraduate coursework
Subject codeLAWS90153
Availability(Quotas apply)
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

Following a five year inquiry and the 2017 release of the report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse after, the issue of child sexual abuse in institutional settings gained extensive attention from the public, political representatives and legal commentators. The inquiry contributed to new understandings of the incidence and extent of physical, sexual, psychological and emotional abuse in a range of institutional settings, including schools, hospitals, churches, sporting organisations, foster homes and other accommodation services. The debate on how the law may best respond to the abuse continues, with judicial attention to the current law, and political attention to law reform. There are many challenging issues associated with the legal redress of child abuse, including time limits for claims, liability for the criminal acts of others, the onus of proof, and the appropriate compensation regime.

This subject examines the background to and current understandings of child abuse in institutional settings, the relevant tort law in Australia (with international comparisons) and the challenges of its application to these situations, recent and proposed tort law reforms, and the new Australian ‘Redress Scheme’.

Bill Madden is a lawyer specialising in injury compensation including intentional torts and the overlays provided by statutory reform and statutory schemes. He is a regular writer and presenter on tort law topics.

Principal topics include:

  • The challenges of historical abuse
  • Findings from the Royal Commission and other inquiries
  • Liability of the perpetrator – the legal framework
  • Liability of the institution – the onus of proof, criminal acts, vicarious liability and non-delegable duty
  • The significance of mandatory reporting of abuse
  • Tort law reforms – limitations, the onus of proof and legal structures
  • Redress schemes, framework, boundaries and fairness
  • Future reforms.

Intended learning outcomes

A student who has successfully completed this subject will:

  • Have a critical understanding of the challenges for the legal system provided by historical child abuse in institutional settings
  • Have developed a sophisticated understanding of the substantive tort law issues regarding compensation by institutions for abuse by employees and others
  • Have examined in detail the merits of compensation provision in tort law compared to statutory schemes
  • Have gained critical insight into current and forthcoming issues in the abuse compensation sphere.

Last updated: 3 April 2019