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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 6 Hansard (17 June) . . Page.. 1915 ..



The government gave a commitment to make the financial assistance scheme fairer and accessible, while retaining the best aspects of the scheme. To this end the government has decided, in light of Dr Dare's findings, to amend the Victims of Crime (Financial Assistance) Act to remove awards for pain and suffering for police officers, ambulance officers, and firefighters.

While the community highly values the service provided by our police and emergency service officers, it is not fair to give these occupational classes preferential treatment. An ordinary person who is physically assaulted is likely to have the same level of pain and suffering as a police officer in similar circumstances. The question has to be asked: why should a police officer be awarded money for pain and suffering which other victims with the same level of injury cannot? The current legislation is blatantly unfair. The government will move to place all victims on an equal footing.

Consistent with our policy of non-discrimination between different categories of victims, the government will remove the entitlements of victims of sexual offences to awards for pain and suffering. The government sympathises with the survivors of sexual crimes and acknowledges their ongoing pain. Nevertheless, it's not equitable to provide pain and suffering claims for some victims and not others.

For the same reason, we don't propose to make pain and suffering awards available to other selected categories of victims. We will ensure that the legislation does not discriminate between victims purely on the basis of a characteristic that is not related to the severity of the actual injury sustained.

The government will not relax the definition of extremely serious injury to cover less seriously injured victims. Such an amendment is not justifiable, nor does it make good economic sense. The special assistance provision is intended to help those victims who are left with permanent injuries that greatly reduce the quality of their lives, who have little prospect of significant rehabilitation and recovery.

There's no credible research evidence to justify making cash payments to victims who can achieve effective rehabilitation in other ways. The legislation already provides a very high level of rehabilitative support. This support is both financial (in the form of financial assistance to reimburse victims for medical and other expenses) and therapeutic (in the form of rehabilitative services provided directly to victims of crime through the victims services scheme).

The mandatory reporting provisions will be repealed. The act makes it mandatory for a person to have reported the relevant crime to the police as a prerequisite to receiving financial assistance. I firmly believe that this places many victims, particularly sexual offence victims, at a disadvantage. A victim's reluctance to report a crime may arise from a fear or retribution, embarrassment, shame, discomfort, social or cultural reasons.

While I strongly urge all victims to report crimes to the police, I believe that people should have a choice whether or not they make such a report. Access to financial assistance should not be denied because the victim chooses, for whatever reason, not to report the crime.

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