Existing laws make it very difficult for victims to use the court system - and it is hardly preferable to have courts jammed with claims that prolong the wait for justice and increase the costs to the community.
This is particularly worrying as legal aid budgets are squeezed, compensation fund payouts limited and the allowable times for making a civil claim shrink.
While many victims will welcome the chance to tell their stories, governments need to co-ordinate a response to compensation. It should not be beyond the wit of governments to serve the needs of victims of crime while protecting the public purse.
Previous legislative attempts relating to the Stolen Generations are instructive.
While the Howard and Rudd governments blocked compensation, the Stolen Generations Compensation Bill of 2008 - and, in particular the associated parliamentary inquiry - covered the options of an ex gratia payment scheme or a no-fault compensation scheme. The schemes would have been managed by a tribunal. In the case of institutional child abuse, the government is not the defendant and as such cases will be even more complex. That means the legal system will carry the burden.
The better option is to design a scheme that can quickly assess child abuse claims and pay reparations capped at a nominal amount. It could likewise take into account payments already made by the institutions and allow for flexibility if court action is pursued.
In Ireland, a compensation scheme was set up by an act of parliament for victims of abuse by the Catholic Church. It was run by the Redress Board and victims could not double dip through it and the courts.
For NSW victims, their avenues of redress are already being curtailed. The government is putting a ceiling on the compensation payable to victims of crime, and a time limit on claims.
The changes will reduce the maximum compensation payouts to victims of crime from $50,000 to $15,000. Under the Victims Rights and Support Bill, an application must be made within 10 years of the act or, if the victim was a child when it occurred, within 10 years after they turn 18.
Attorney-General Greg Smith calls it a simpler scheme that gives victims immediate help with out-of-pocket expenses and access to free counselling. The changes were prompted by a $300 million deficit in the Victims Compensation Fund. But it is also apparent that Smith has subscribed to the view that it takes more than cash to mend wounds. He cites Howard Brown, a member of the NSW Victims Advisory Board which recommended the changes, that victims of sex abuse need counselling, not money. They need both.
As the Public Interest Advocacy Centre put it to the Senate committee in 2008: ''It is critical that a mechanism distinctly shaped by the needs of the Stolen Generations is put in place to service the dual objectives of redressing past harm and creating measures of reparation that offer enduring social, cultural and economic benefits to those affected.''
The advocacy centre proposed a model it claimed would allow for: access by those harmed to an agreed form of compensation; the existence of a scheme for financing a range of reparations measures; the possible containment of litigation, creating finality and certainty for governments and those affected; and an effective mechanism for providing social justice.
The same goals can be applied to any system of compensation for child abuse victims.
The O'Farrell government denies it is anything other than coincidence that its legislation has been brought into Parliament as the federal royal commission hearings into institutional abuse begin. The separate inquiry into child abuse cover-ups in the Hunter Valley and the Victorian parliamentary committee inquiry into that state's abuse are both due to report before the federal commission has its first public hearings.
Federal and state MPs need to work quickly to tackle the long-term issue of justice and compensation for victims.