A Shoalhaven man has told of the pain and anguish of having to relieve a horrific rape as a six-year-old, while trying to justify his right to a disability pension to Centrelink.
The man, now in his 60s, who wished to remain anonymous, has asked why he had to answer questions over the attack in the 1960s that almost killed him and divulge a subsequent victim compensation payout he received in 2016.
He has spoken of an ongoing battle with the Department of Human Services over his disability pension which he was still clearly distressed about in December last year.
His battle started in March last year with an inquiry by a Centrelink employee saying he needed to fill out an income asset form or his pension would be cut off on April 24.
“My understanding was because the payout for the incident was for while I was a juvenile the file was suppressed and a court order was needed to be able to access that,” he said.
“I was told by the staff member that wasn't the case and would have to tell him about the payout and what it was for.
“I have had to relive it all again.”
The issue continued well into April, when a social worker was provided to help the man, who also struggles with his literacy, to fill out the forms.
“This whole affair has just brought everything back,” he said.
“I have had to relive it all again just for a piece of paper – something I shouldn't have to do.”
And he still wasn’t able to confirm if his paperwork had been lodged.
In the end he had to physically travel to Nowra to ensure his paperwork was received.
The man said he has spoken out so other victims of such offences are not subjected to the same treatment.
“No one should have to go through these sorts of things again. Especially young children or families,” he said.
“This has been horrific. It has brought back all the memories and to hear I might have to do it every time my case is reviewed for my pension to continue each three years.
“That is just horrendous.”
The man was so badly injured in the attack he was not supposed to live and had to undergo numerous surgeries.
The information continued back and forth until late last year, with the man even contacting the Attorney General’s office, Ombudsman and the Privacy Commission.
He even contacted his local member of parliament, only to have the police turn up on his door because it was feared he was a suicide risk.
The man questioned if Centrelink staff were actually trained to deal with people in such situations who have undergone such traumatic events.
A spokesperson from the Department of Human Services said staff receive training to deal with sensitive circumstances.
“We understand that events such as this are very difficult and we apologise if interactions with the department caused distress,” the spokesperson said.
“The department has extended a standing offer to contact this person to ensure they are appropriately supported.”
The spokesperson said the department routinely conducts income and assets reviews to confirm people are being paid the correct amount.
“There has been no recent changes to this process,” the spokesperson said.
“While some types of compensation may affect a person’s payment rate, lump sum payments to victims of crime under state-based schemes are not considered compensation under social security law.
“These payments are not included in the income test, however the amount of money may impact the person’s rate of payment under the asset test.
“The department is not required to ask a recipient about the nature of the crime, however the department does need information about the lump sum, specifically the amount of payout and the date it was received.”