Media Releases

Attorney-General Cruelly Leaves Public Trustee Victims in the Hands of their Abusers

Today in Parliament I asked the Attorney-General, as I did yesterday, if she would establish an independent, fair, and accessible compensation scheme for victims of the Public Trustee’s systemic mismanagement of clients.

She refused.

Gallingly, she mounted the defence she relied on yesterday: that an independent review of the Public Trustee by Damian Bugg AM did not recommend a compensation scheme.

How convenient for Ms Archer: the terms of reference for the Bugg review did not ask him to consider compensation so of course he did not address the matter in his recommendations.

This is a heartless government piling cruelty on cruelty for many vulnerable Tasmanians.

In framing my question to Ms Archer I consulted closely with Advocacy Tasmania which is working tirelessly to pick up the pieces for these victims.

Attached is the text of a post Advocacy Tasmania put on its Facebook page yesterday, which I whole-heartedly endorse.

Extract from a Facebook post by Advocacy Tasmania 1 June 2022

Government says Public Trustee to decide Tasmanian victims’ compensation claims

In other words, the abuser determines their victims claims.

In parliament today, Kristie Johnston, Independent Member for Clark, asked Attorney General Archer how victims will be able to access compensation for the abuses suffered at the hands of the Public Trustee. In an astounding response, the Attorney General advised that victims will apply to their abuser, the Public Trustee.

It’s great the door is open for victims to seek compensation, but the process proposed by Attorney General Archer is completely unacceptable. Nowhere else would it be appropriate to make victims beg for compensation to the very same people who harmed them in the first place. Imagine asking someone who’d survived family violence to go to their abuser and beg for compensation. Then give their abuser the power to decide if they’d done wrong and how much it would cost to make it right. It’s absurd and disgusting.

The people at the centre of these systems always get forgotten. Over the last decades, we’ve supported hundreds of clients to try and get justice from the Public Trustee. Their processes have been consistently obstructive, and they have sought to protect their own. People rarely felt heard, processes could take years and, even then, simple complaints were left unresolved. Yet now our government believes the Public Trustee should consider their own victims’ compensation claims. The same organisation that the government’s own independent review found to have genuinely misunderstood their legislative obligations for at least 26 years?

This is the wrong organisation to be making decisions about the harms it has caused and the amount of compensation to pay.

Tasmanians who have lost everything at the hands of the Public Trustee deserve an independent process. This process needs to be clear, accessible, and actually have a budget behind it. It needs to help people so that they can put their lives back together with some dignity. They must not be forced to beg for scraps through a process stacked against them and one which would have their claims determined by their abusers.

The Bugg independent Review looked at the administration, operations, and practices of the Public Trustee. The Government set these terms of reference and limited its scope to only these matters. There was no focus on compensation because the Attorney General did not ask for there to be.

What the terms should have considered was the actual lived experiences and harms suffered by Tasmanians in this system. It should have looked at the impact on victims and how this could be made right. It should have focused on people.

The Government has the power to do this now. But the Government needs to do this the right way. They must now stop this ongoing suffering and give Public Trustee victims dignity through a fair, independent process.

Tasmanians who have lost everything at the hands of the Public Trustee deserve an independent process. This process needs to be clear, accessible, and actually have a budget behind it. It needs to help people so that they can put their lives back together with some dignity. They must not be forced to beg for scraps through a process stacked against them and one which would have their claims determined by their abusers.

The Bugg independent Review looked at the administration, operations, and practices of the Public Trustee. The Government set these terms of reference and limited its scope to only these matters. There was no focus on compensation because the Attorney General did not ask for there to be.

What the terms should have considered was the actual lived experiences and harms suffered by Tasmanians in this system. It should have looked at the impact on victims and how this could be made right. It should have focused on people.

The Government has the power to do this now. But the Government needs to do this the right way. They must now stop this ongoing suffering and give Public Trustee victims dignity through a fair, independent process.

Leave a Reply