Page 3366 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 14 November 2007

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The sexual assault reform program is a major interagency initiative which involves victim agencies, the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre, children’s advocates, the police, prosecution authorities, the courts and the broader legal profession. It follows on from my request earlier this year that my department convene a reference group to consider the recommendations of the report initiated by the government and provided to the government by ACT Policing and the Director of Public Prosecutions called Responding to sexual assault: the challenge of change. It identified the range of issues that need to be tackled to improve the support provided to victims of sexual assault in our community. That reference group comprised representatives from all key stakeholders. It agreed that a number of objectives needed to be pursued by the government. These included improving the processes and support for adult and child victims of sexual assault, reducing attrition in sexual assault matters within the criminal justice system and improving coordination and collaboration between agencies.

As a result of this, the government has provided $4 million in funding. It provides funding for three new positions to improve victim support and coordination—one each for the rape crisis centre, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Victims of Crime Coordinator’s Office, amounting to $1.2 million over four years. It also provides for a multimedia information package for victims that provides them with a one-stop point of reference around the investigation, prosecution and court processes and where they can obtain sources of support.

It provides for the establishment of an off-site remote witness facility, including the fit-out of two court rooms with state-of-the-art technology to enable victims and witnesses to give their best possible evidence without fear and intimidation. That is a very important reform; we have not had an off-site remote witness facility before; this will assist witness and their families and supporters considerably.

We will also be expanding resources for our police and prosecution, with additional staffing, with a total value of $1 million. And, importantly, the government is resourcing specialist capacity to develop a comprehensive law reform package to deal with legislative reform to improve the operation of the law and the procedures in the courts. Over $200,000 is dedicated to this law reform specialist capacity. Finally, there will be the development of accredited interagency training and the evaluation of this reform initiative to the value of over half a million dollars.

This is really the first stage of a long-term government commitment to improve support for victims of sexual assault. Sexual crimes in our communities are the most difficult to prosecute and they are the crimes least often reported and pursued through the courts. We want to change that situation. We want to send the clear message that sexual assault and sexual crime are unacceptable in our community. We will facilitate and resource our justice system, our police and our victims of crime coordinators to assist victims, to pursue the perpetrators and to achieve effective outcomes in the court. That is what this new funding will enable us to achieve a major advance on.

Mr Stanhope: I ask that all further questions be placed on the notice paper.

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