Page 1904 - Week 06 - Thursday, 9 June 2022
I also want to acknowledge the work done by the Attorney-General on the progression of the Family Violence Legislation Amendment Bill 2022, which was introduced in the Legislative Assembly on 10 February 2022. The bill seeks to amend the name of the offence in section 56 of the Crimes Act from “sexual relationship with a child or young person under special care” to “persistent sexual abuse of a child or young person under special care”. This was one of the sub-recommendations made within recommendation 23 of the report. The change in the wording of the offence seeks to reflect the true nature and severity of the crime more accurately.
In addition to this action, in March this year the government announced its work to respond to recommendation 15 and commence work to review sexual assault matters that were reported to police and not progressed to charge. This work has recently commenced and is another step towards better understanding and improving the system responses for victim-survivors.
Many of the matters agreed to in the government response will carry a financial impact for the territory. Announcements in relation to the funding of new initiatives in response to the report will be made in due course. The ACT government recognises that systemic change takes time and that many of the recommendations will need to be implemented in stages. Further work and reforms will be considered in the upcoming 2022-23 territory budget and in future budget processes. I would like to thank the steering committee and the many members of the working groups, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander consultation committee and the workplace reference group for their hard work to deliver this report.
The report and the government response may be difficult to read for some of us. Woven throughout the report are victim-survivors’ firsthand experiences of the system’s inadequacies. Change is not easy; but, in this instance, it is critical and it is necessary. Despite our best intentions, we must look at the findings of this work and critically reflect on our current practices and how they might contribute to the re-traumatisation of victim-survivors.
It is only with true commitment to understanding the impact of sexual violence on an individual, and how the current system is failing these people, that we can address this problem and truly create lasting change. The government response is only the first step in creating long-lasting reforms to improve how we, as a community, prevent and respond to sexual violence. This work will require intensive focus, energy and resources, but I know we can all agree that it is worth the investment. I am hoping that we will continue to work together across party lines to address this issue in a holistic way that looks at all aspects of the system.
I would like to finish by acknowledging the victim-survivors of sexual violence who bravely shared their experiences of seeking assistance and justice, following sexual violence. Their insights are a powerful reflection of just how difficult it is for victim-survivors to navigate a complex and fragmented system and find a pathway to safety and recovery that meets their needs. These individuals have been critical to shaping this reform process. The importance of engagement with victim-survivors is summed up perfectly by the words of Australian of the Year Grace Tame, who said: