Page 979 - Week 03 - Thursday, 30 March 2023

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heal report. The inclusion of the further offences identified by the committee will better support consistency. This not only helps to improve criminal justice outcomes for victim-survivors, but also reflects community attitudes by aligning the presumption of bail for those charged with the above offences with the presumption that applies to other serious sexual offences.

As always, the impact of the amendments on human rights will also be carefully monitored and considered. This approach will ensure that our legislation is fit for purpose and appropriately balances the need to protect the community and uphold human rights.

In relation to the second of the agreed recommendations, it is acknowledged that the bill will impact on First Nations people, as they disproportionately experience sexual violence. The ACT government agrees in the government response that it will continue to consult with stakeholders representing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities on the current and future amendments to ensure any such impact on these communities is appropriately monitored and evaluated.

In relation to the third of the agreed recommendations, I acknowledge that concerns were raised in the inquiry about the use of the term “victim-survivor” in the explanatory statement to the bill, and how use of this term may be thought to impact on the onus of proof or remove the right to the presumption of innocence. Clearly, a person who is alleged to have committed an offence is innocent until proven guilty, as outlined in section 22(1) of the Human Rights Act 2004 and reflected in our broader criminal law framework.

The bill does not seek to change the onus of proof, nor does it ignore the presumption of innocence. Rather, the references to “victims” and “victim-survivors” are intended to be inclusive and recognise that not all people who experience sexual assault will have a matter finalised by way of a guilty verdict in the criminal justice system. The government response and the revised explanatory statement addresses these concerns to confirm what I have just outlined.

The government values public discourse and open dialogue to ensure our laws are robust, are consistent with human rights obligations and meet the needs of our community. It is my view that the bill has the potential to significantly improve the experience of victim-survivors of sexual assaults, an objective this government seeks to promote wherever possible.

As the Assembly will know, sexual violence is a serious problem of epidemic proportions in Australia. When I introduced the bill to the Assembly last year, I told of a survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics which found that one in five women have experienced sexual violence, while a study by the Australian Institute of Criminology found that, on average, a woman is killed by an intimate partner every 10 days. These are shocking and unacceptable figures. That is why, in response, the government has carefully considered the recommendations of the committee report and the submissions made during the inquiry.

In closing, I thank the standing committee for conducting the public inquiry into the Sexual Assault Reform Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 and for providing an


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