On 15 October 2015, the introduction of proposed legislation by
the NSW shadow Attorney General for the amendment of Limitation
Act 1969 (NSW) to remove the limitations period for matters
related to historical child sexual abuse was defeated.
Similar legislation was enacted in Victoria (which abolished
limitation periods in civil child abuse matters) as of 1 July this
year. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child
Sexual abuse has been recommending this action.
What were the proposed changes?
The proposed changes would have removed limitations period
specifically for child sexual abuse. At present, the limitation
period for 'personal injury' in NSW is 3 years from
The operative provision, section 6A ('Exclusion of
actions for recovery of damages of child abuse') proposed
to exclude the application of the Limitations Act to causes of
action relating to "the death of or personal injury to a
person, regardless of whether the claim for damage [was] brought in
tort, in contract, under statute or otherwise"2
resulting from "an act or omission in relation to the person
when the person is a minor that is a physical or sexual
The proposal would have operated retrospectively. It would have
applied whether or not action had been commenced previously on the
same cause action, and whether or not judgment on the cause of
action had been previously given 4.
There was a safety measure in section 6A (3) reserving a right
for the Supreme Court not to apply the provision where it would
prejudice a defendant and interfere with the provision of a fair
trial for a defendant 5.
Scope for re-introduction in the future?
The NSW government is insisting that the proposal be linked to a
national redress scheme (presumably with Federal government as a
funder of last resort). This suggests it is concerned with an
amplification in child abuse litigation, and consequent spike in
compensation payouts if limitation periods were relaxed. Doubts
have been raised about that assumption, citing the reluctance of
many sexual abuse victims wishing to litigate 6.
On 19 March 2015 the former Abbott government made clear that it
opposed the implementation of a national redress scheme with the
Commonwealth as a funder of last resort 7. The Turnbull
government has not given any indication as to whether that policy
1 Limitation Amendment (Child Abuse Civil
Actions) Bill 2015, section 6A (1)(a). 2Limitation Amendment (Child Abuse Civil Actions) Bill
2015, section 6A (1)(a). 3 Limitation Amendment (Child Abuse Civil Actions) Bill
2015, section 6A (1)(b)(i). 4 Limitation Amendment (Child Abuse Civil Actions) Bill
2015, section 9. 5 See note under s 6(3)(c). 6 See
reply of Paul Lynch before the NSW Legislative Assembly. NSW,
Second Reading, Legislative Assembly, 15 October 2015 (Paul
Consultation Paper – redress and civil litigation
Commonwealth, submission to Royal Commission into Institutional
Responses to Historical Child Sexual Abuse, 19 March
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