This stage of her case vindicates the legal strategy and course of action taken by her lawyers in advising her to delay returning to Australia until the government agreed to submit to this process in the event of a failure to agree. Consequently Vivian will not have to suffer years of pointless litigation and appeals whilst living disabled without any means of support.
The Commonwealth has admitted liability and Sir Anthony Mason, a former Chief Justice of the High Court, is presiding over the arbitration hearing which commenced on Monday, 27 March. The hearing will reconvene on April 24, after the Easter break.
Justice Marcus Einfeld, QC, heads Vivian’s legal team. Mr Einfeld said in the impromptu press conference outside the private arbitration hearing that the case is “all about justice for Vivian Solon.”
Since returning to Australia on November 18 last year, Vivian’s physical health had improved, Mr Einfeld said, but she is unlikely to recover fully. “She still suffers from very serious physical disabilities, which you can see for yourselves. She also suffers still from a considerable result of the trauma that she’s undergone.”
The interim care package negotiated with the Government includes accommodation in a Sydney flat, transport and 24-hour specialist medical care. Vivian’s sister, who travelled with her from the Philippines, is her carer and Vivian would like her to be allowed to stay on as part of the compensation package.
Mr Einfeld indicated that the sum being sought is a “very substantial” amount — the cost of her lifetime care. “The broad issues are: what is the appropriate compensation for a woman who has been taken away from her children and her country for four years, and kept in very unsatisfactory circumstances? This hearing is therefore to assess the quantum of that compensation.” He went on to sat that, “it will be used to try to make sure that Vivian has, for the rest of her life, a reasonable level of comfort in Australia to enjoy her children as they grow up, and to enjoy her rights as an Australian citizen. I mean, obviously there are medical expenses, there are expenses associated with her wheelchair, there are nursing care issues, loss of earnings, pain and suffering, and what we call exemplary damages, that is damages to deter the authorities from doing this sort of thing again.”
— Dee Dicen Hunt