Dying man’s redress wish: ‘bloody start helping us’
IT HAS been more than half a century since Vernon Wilson began his career with the Australian Defence Force.
Within hours of signing up and swearing his name on the Bible, he was abused.
The Goonellabah man is now living with terminal lung cancer and this could be his last Christmas.
On the cusp of becoming a grandfather, he hopes to make this Christmas a little more special for his family, bolstered by the National Redress Scheme payment he'd been expecting.
But he fears he could die waiting for that money.
Shine Lawyers abuse law expert Lisa Flynn said Mr Wilson's application was submitted nine months ago.
"Whenever we call to see if a decision has been made we are told it's progressing," Ms Flynn said.
"We are told this with all of our clients, though. Some have now been waiting for an answer for over a year.
"Vernon is a very sick man and he should not be having to spend the end of his life frustrated and angry because the redress scheme is failing to keep up and deliver what it was set up to do.
"Vernon has been through enough, having been sexually abused during his career in the Australian Defence Force. All he wants is for his abuse to be acknowledged and to be paid the compensation he deserves so his family can enjoy what is probably going to be their last Christmas together."
Ms Flynn said her firm had asked for Mr Wilson's case to be prioritised.
"Clearly that hasn't been done," she said.
"His health is deteriorating and he has no idea what is happening with his redress claim."
She said it appeared the redress scheme was "not coping".
"There needs to be an explanation for the delays and specific timeframes introduced that stipulate how long a claim will take to be processed," she said.
"The scheme's own figures show they have only processed a very small portion of applications which is infuriating for sexual abuse survivors who were told when it was introduced that the scheme would provide timely compensation payments without legal involvement."
The NRS reported in its most recent ‒ November 11 ‒ statement that it had received 5290 applications for redress.
The scheme had made 814 decisions, including 708 payouts totalling more than $56.9 million.
A further 98 offers of redress have been made and not yet accepted and 3470 applications are currently being processed, according to the NRS.
The average payment as of November 1 was $80,466 and more people received redress in July to September this year than the first year of the scheme.
Mr Wilson, a Vietnam veteran, said he'd undergone radiation for his tumour but his prognosis remained poor.
He said while the redress scheme should be helping abuse survivors, he felt confronted by hurdle after hurdle.
"I wish I wasn't even claiming for it but because of what happened, I feel I have to," he said.
"I don't know if I'm going to see next Christmas or the Christmas after.
"We're all suffering. Why should we have to suffer?
"They're putting us through hell.
"They should get their fingers out of their arse and bloody start helping the whole lot of us.
"They need a kick up the bum."
The Department of Social Services issued a statement in response to concerns raised by Mr Wilson.
"The Department cannot disclose information about people and their applications under Section 92 of the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Act," a spokeswoman said.
"Priority applications for people who are elderly or very ill are identified and expedited where possible.
"Processing times vary depending on the applicant's circumstances, with some applications more complex than others.
"The Government is committed to improving processing times through streamlining the assessment process, appointing more Independent Decision Makers and assigning a dedicated staff member that stays with an applicant from beginning to end."