Page 1300 - Week 04 - Thursday, 5 May 2022

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To make long-lasting change … we need to bring everyone along on the journey for change.

That is what the ACT government work will do.

Finally, this bill will form a part of broader work that will occur within the ACT government in responding to that report. I will be leading this work on behalf of the ACT government and will work very closely with the community on how we respond together to prevent and respond to sexual violence.

I look forward to working very closely with Dr Paterson. I know that she has a personal interest and has shared her own lived experienced and personal story with the Assembly. I know we have all appreciated the sharing of that story to bring us to an understanding of sexual assault, rape and violence in our community and how we can respond to that better. I look forward to working with Dr Paterson and all my colleagues in this place, as well as communities, and listening carefully to victims about how we can better support them as victim-survivors and how we can prevent sexual assault and violence from happening in the first place. I strongly support this bill.

MS VASSAROTTI (Kurrajong—Minister for the Environment, Minister for Heritage, Minister for Homelessness and Housing Services and Minister for Sustainable Building and Construction) (3.48): I welcome the Crimes (Consent) Amendment Bill 2022. This bill is important legislation that has personal significance to many people in the ACT. I would like to acknowledge the work of Dr Paterson on the bill and thank her for introducing the bill to the Legislative Assembly.

Thank you to all the survivor advocates who have been tirelessly working for reform to consent laws in Australia. I acknowledge that they have been fighting with significant strength for holistic changes to how we approach sexual violence. This has been a long time coming, and I want to recognise the many people who have been working to see the strengthening of consent laws. Having worked with many gender-based organisations over many years, I have sat with people as they have shared their experiences and their determination to make things better. I have seen the development of great resources and tools, and educators keen to share knowledge about how to equip our young people to embrace affirmative consent. However, this needs to be underpinned by strong legislation.

Sexual violence is a complex issue. It has negative impacts on people’s physical, mental and social wellbeing. Offences are under-reported, undercharged and difficult to prosecute, yet they cause ongoing and traumatic harm for victim-survivors. While nothing we can do will remove the pain and the impact of sexual violence, we do need to reform our criminal justice system to better respond to sexual violence and protect victim-survivors. The law needs to reflect community expectations that sexual activity should only proceed when there is full and active consent. Consent cannot be assumed.

The ACT government is currently considering the final report of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Steering Committee. The full government response will be delivered this year, as noted by Minister Berry. The steering committee has heard

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