Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 03 Hansard (Wednesday, 31 March 2021) . . Page.. 722 ..
the previous year. In the financial year, 99 per cent of referrals to Victim Support were actioned within five days.
Victims’ demand for financial assistance has increased rapidly since the financial assistance scheme was introduced in the ACT in July 2016. In the last financial year, 69 per cent of the received applications were made by women, the majority of which related to harm caused by family violence or sexual assault. Financial assistance has a crucial role in recognising and repairing harm inflicted on eligible victims of violent crime, including via urgent financial assistance such as to relocate victims to safety or improve the safety of victims’ homes, economic loss payments in recognition of the costs incurred as a result of the violent crime or recognition payments to acknowledge the harm caused by the violent crime.
The intermediary program is what assists people with communication difficulties—this includes children, young people and people with disabilities—to communicate their evidence of violent crimes perpetrated against them to the criminal justice system. This was introduced in the ACT just over a year ago, in January 2020, to assist vulnerable children and adults to communicate their most clear and comprehensive evidence to police and lawyers and at court.
As at March this year, 248 referrals have been received from police, lawyers and courts requesting this assistance so that vulnerable child and adult witnesses can communicate evidence of sexual assaults, family violence and homicides. Every request for an intermediary has been met, often within the hour, which is particularly important—as I think we would acknowledge—in urgent policing matters. Over 40 per cent of requests for intermediaries occur out of the standard business hours. Intermediary services are provided 24/7, including public holidays and weekends, and at various locations across the ACT, including police stations, schools, nursing homes, care facilities, hospitals and in courtrooms.
In speaking today and in shining a bit of a light on Victim Support ACT, I commend all of the work that is done through Victim Support. What we are collectively talking about here today highlights just how incredibly important this is. I commend the amendments to the motion, but I particularly want to thank Mrs Jones for bringing this important issue to the attention of the Assembly and the broader community.
DR PATERSON (Murrumbidgee) (3.33): I would also like to thank Mrs Jones for bringing this motion to the Assembly, and I thank Minister Stephen-Smith and Minister Cheyne for also talking about these challenging issues. As highlighted yesterday, it is imperative that we continue to keep a focus on gender-based violence in the ACT to ensure that we address this very significant problem in our community. Enough is enough. A holistic, evidence-based approach is needed to ensure that we have meaningful and effective responses to sexual assault reform. I commend the Minister for Women, Yvette Berry, for yesterday establishing a sexual assault prevention and response working group that will go some way to a coordinated approach to this multifaceted problem. As I said yesterday, I will be a strong advocate for victims and survivors and I am personally committed to talking to the community broadly about this issue. Culture change will come from education and from having these hard conversations.