Rising to Speak on A Bill to Support Victims of Crime

*Content Warning: mentions sexual assault.

Speaking my support for the Justice Legislation Amendment (Supporting Victims and Other Matters) Bill was another true honour in Parliament this week.

Whether through institutional abuse or in the criminal justice system more generally, the often-shattering effect of crime upon its victims cries out for our understanding and for the legislative recognition and remediation only we in Parliament can give, and we will through this Bill.

The Justice Legislation Amendment Bill addresses issues upon which I believe there is widespread community acknowledgement and even a consensus, that more should be done for the victims of crime. The Bill does a great deal more.

In brief, a key feature of the Bill is its provision for public identification of a victim-survivor in a range of ways, and most particularly to;

  1. Permit the public identification of a victim/survivor of a sexual offence should they give written consent, without requiring permission from the court;
  2. Ensure that victim/survivors are able to self-identify in a public way, including online;
  3. Identify child victim/survivors, but only when a qualified independent expert, such as a doctor or psychologist, formally certifies that the child comprehends the consequences of identification and has the capacity to consent; and
  4. Permit the court to allow identification by the media of deceased victim/survivors and those lacking in decision making capacity.

Different provisions will be necessary for those under the age of 18 years. Accordingly, the Bill provides a detailed scheme as to self-identification for adults and for young people.

For adult victim-survivors the Bill makes it clear that they may self-publish in ways which identify them as a victim-survivor of a sexual offence. This may be done on social media, which is thought likely to be part of their process of recovery and healing. The Bill will specify that this conduct does not constitute an offence.

Importantly, however, even though a victim-survivor may have self-published their story (and consequently self-identified), their having done so does not constitute permission generally for a third party to similarly publish.

Allied to the provisions benefitting the survivors of sexual abuse, are the Bill’s amendments to the Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996, (the VOC Act), allowing delegation of certain duties and authority of the staff of the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT). This body fulfils a vital social need in providing valuable financial assistance to those in our community whose lives are affected by violent crime.

Ultimately, this is a lengthy and detailed Bill with multiple amendments which as a collective body, strengthens the systems and processes in place to support victims of crime, and affords them the autonomy over their own stories that they have always deserved.

The Andrews Labor Government will always stand with victims of crime and their families, and we are proud to deliver them advocacy through this proposed legislation.