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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 12 Hansard (25 November) . . Page.. 3725 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

I have to say to that, "Hear, hear!". I could almost accuse Mr Stewart of plagiarism, so close are his words to my own on this subject. I have no doubt that, if Mr Stanhope became the ACT Attorney-General, he would quickly look at the ACT budget position of this scheme and come to the same conclusion - a conclusion, I might say, that my predecessor, Mr Connolly, also had some sympathy with.

Statistics provided by the Territory's courts show that the number of applications lodged each year in the ACT is continuing to grow, despite a relatively stable crime rate and population size. It may be that the recent increase in the take-up rate has been caused by a growing awareness in the comparatively centralised and well-educated ACT community of the existence of the scheme, coupled with the more effective marketing of legal services in recent years following changes to advertising practices by law firms.

Another factor which may explain the high and increasing take-up rate is the relative ease with which applications can be lodged and determined. The courts have no capacity to award costs against unsuccessful applications, which means that applicants have little to lose and much to gain by lodging applications.

Submissions on the ACT's discussion paper from the Victims of Crime Coordinator and community-based victim support groups emphasised the need for a more comprehensive review of the way in which government assists victims of crime, with a view to developing a scheme that addressed a wider range of victim needs. In response to the concerns raised during the consultation process, an independent victims support working party was convened by the Victims of Crime Coordinator in October 1997.

The primary function of the working party was to examine the options for comprehensive reform of government assistance to victims. The working party included representatives from community-based victim support groups, such as the Victims of Crime Assistance League, VOCAL, the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre, the National Association for Loss and Grief and the Domestic Violence Crisis Service as well as representatives from government agencies and departments. The working party was convened to examine whether existing government measures for victim support do, in fact, address victims' needs effectively and involved consideration and discussion as to what those needs are and how they could best be met.

The Government welcomed the underlying philosophy of the working party's report of moving away from purely financial assistance to a more comprehensive response to victims' needs. This underlying philosophy is stated correctly and succinctly at page 27 of that report as follows:

It is the view of the Working Party that the current allocation of Government and community resources to crime victims is seriously distorted and overly focused on individualised financial packages with little or no regard to whether the emotional trauma of criminal victimisation is actually alleviated. The fundamental argument of this report is that the vast majority of crime victims in the ACT are receiving no or an inadequate response to their victimisation.

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