Page 239 - Week 01 - Thursday, 10 February 2022

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Press Club yesterday. This week the Assembly has seen two pieces of legislation tabled that seek to address significant legal barriers experienced by victim-survivors of gendered violence. Are these legal reforms enough to address the issues women experience when seeking justice?

MR RATTENBURY: Ms Higgins and Ms Tame have set forward and articulated a challenge for all Australians to reflect on how we approach gendered violence, and on how we make this a safer world for victims of sexual violence, sexual assault and the like. That is something that each of us has a part to play in. The legislation that we brought forward this week will go some way to addressing that. I do not think it is a full answer, because there is still work to be done. That has been identified in a range of places, but the legislation we have seen tabled this week will make a difference. As I talked about in this chamber just this morning, the reform put to us by Ms Tame—that we should change the name of the offence from maintaining a sexual relationship with a child to persistent sexual abuse of a child—is one that we have been able to act on quite quickly. Technically, that is a relatively simple reform. We have been able to move on that quite quickly.

Certainly, Dr Paterson’s bill this week referring to consent is a very important step forward, both in a legal sense and, particularly, in a cultural sense of making clear what the expectations are and what the ground rules are. That is very important, and I am very pleased to see that legislation reform come back to this Assembly at time when my sense is that it will pass.

When Ms Le Couteur sought to bring that forward last term she was not able to get the support of either the Assembly or the committee, but now I think the world has changed. People understand things better, and we will see that progress. That is why it is in the Parliamentary and Governing Agreement. I am very pleased that Dr Paterson has brought that legislation forward.

I think the simple answer to Mr Davis’s question is that we have more to do but the ACT is making great progress. The legislative reforms we are seeing are a good start. In December we received the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response report—(Time expired.)

MR DAVIS: Minister, how does the legal reform that you mentioned fit into the government’s broader work on sexual assault prevention and response?

MR RATTENBURY: As I was just touching on, in December the government received that report. It sets out the ambitions of our community based on the input from a range of victim-survivors, workers, service delivery agencies in the field, experts, academics, the Victims of Crime Commissioner and various others. The government will respond to that formally later this year. Minister Berry is leading that process. It will go through cabinet consideration, and we will see a public response to that. Clearly, there is a vast program of work there. That report carefully and explicitly spells out that it is not just a legal response; a legal response is not enough in itself. The legal reform is important, but that report identifies very clearly that there are a range of responses that need to be made—be they service responses, cultural change, education or the shifting of community expectations and community mores.

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