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General Issue

Reform of Civil Statutes of Limitation for Child Sexual Abuse Claims: Seismic Change and Ongoing Challenges

Author

Ben Mathews and Elizabeth Dallaston

Historically, civil statutes of limitation applied standard approaches to claims for injuries suffered through child sexual abuse. Due to the features of these cases, many survivors were unable to commence an action for compensation within time, and could not access the civil justice system. However, since 2015, influenced by the recommendations of state and national inquiries, every Australian state and territory has removed limitation periods for child sexual abuse claims prospectively and retrospectively, enabling commencement of a claim at any time, while retaining protections for defendants’ rights to a fair trial. The reforms are a landmark socio-legal development in the common law world. However, the legal principles are complex, and inconsistencies remain in the approaches adopted by the eight states and territories. This article analyses the nature of these reforms, considers their justifiability as public policy, identifies remaining legislative inconsistencies and challenges, and makes recommendations for reform and application.

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