Page 1907 - Week 06 - Thursday, 9 June 2022

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MS DAVIDSON (Murrumbidgee—Assistant Minister for Families and Community Services, Minister for Disability, Minister for Justice Health, Minister for Mental Health, Minister for Veterans and Seniors) (10.28): I would like to say a few words in support of the significant amount of work that is being done to improve services and supports for people who have experienced sexual assault and violence. I also want to thank everyone who has contributed to this work to date. It has taken quite a period of time to reach this point. I think that reflects the complexity of the work that needs to be done and the significance of the contributions that have been made from community sector organisations and from government agencies that have been involved.

I note that there are a couple of recommendations in particular that are going to be helpful for people. There is recommendation 17, around how we can better provide support and services to people in the LGBTIQ+ community, the disability community and culturally and linguistically diverse people in our community. I am very pleased to see that the ACT government will be supporting work to provide for more positive and inclusive engagement over time that will help to build trust, as well as to improve the services, knowledge and understanding of how they can better support people from those diverse communities.

I also note recommendation 8, around the needs of people who have experienced child sexual abuse, and improving training to the sector, to professionals, on dealing with people who have experienced child sexual abuse. That includes health services, child protection workers, educators and workers in domestic and family violence settings. I think these changes will greatly improve the experiences of people in being able to access the right services and support when they need it.

I note that the Women’s Health Matters survey from 2021, which contributed to this project, found that 33 per cent of women said that it took them longer than 12 months before they felt ready to reach out for support and that a significant number of people never felt ready to reach out for support for their mental health and wellbeing after having experienced sexual assault. To people out there who may have experienced this and may be wondering if there is anything that can help them: there are services in the ACT that can help you. Some of those services include the Domestic Violence Crisis Service, noting that a significant number of sexual assaults occur within a relationship that involves domestic and family violence; the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre; the ACT Women’s Health Service; and also the Victims of Crime Commission.

The feedback that we have heard about these services has been overwhelmingly positive, in that they really understand people’s needs and want to help them. To quote, for example, someone talking about the ACT Women’s Health Service: “It is really good that they take into account that violence and abuse impacts on your whole life.” The feedback about the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre was that the location was accessible for a person with disability and that CRCC was supportive and welcoming from the person’s first phone call. “Amazing support and I had regular counselling for months,” was what this woman said. We know that those services have been under enormous pressure and I thank them for the ongoing work that they do. I will be very pleased to be able to see them supported into the future.

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