Abuse survivors now able to sue unincorporated entities, including churches, directly

January 9, 2019

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) has congratulated the NSW Government on changes to implement recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sex Abuse and address an anomaly which previously prevented child abuse victims from suing unincorporated entities such as churches.

Known as the “Ellis defence”, this defence was essentially based on the argument that an unincorporated entity has no legal personality and therefore cannot be sued, especially as its assets were held in property trusts. Until now this has prevented some abuse victims from bringing claims, depending on how the abuse was perpetrated and the structure of the specific Church and its assets.

ALHR President Kerry Weste says, “We applaud the NSW Government for taking steps to implement a key recommendation from the Royal Commission and reform faith-based property trust legislation to remove the Ellis Defence.   More survivors of institutional abuse will now have access to compensation regardless of the organisation responsible for the abuse. The legislation strikes the right balance between ensuring the responsible entities retain sufficient autonomy over how to deal with property assets whilst ensuring victims have an avenue for seeking compensation”

Ms Weste continued, “The NSW Government’s recent changes are consistent with the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), especially in that children should be protected from any form of harm and violence and that Governments should ensure that children are properly cared for and protected.”

Contact: Matt Mitchell, ALHR media manager 0431 980 365.