The ACT Government has agreed - or agreed in principle - to a majority of the 24 recommendations in the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program Steering Committee’s final report entitled ‘Listen. Take action to prevent, believe and heal.’
The report was commissioned to acknowledge the seriousness of sexual violence, drawing on feedback from a wide range of stakeholders including those working on the front line of sexual assault in our community and, most importantly, victim survivors.
“The report made for hard reading. It highlighted the current system was not meeting the needs of victim survivors, often causing further harm,” said Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence Yvette Berry.
“As I noted upon the report’s release in December, responding to these complex issues will not be a quick fix, but we will not be deterred from doing what needs to be done.”
The reforms recommended in the report were wide ranging and extensive. They seek to tackle the underlying drivers of sexual violence and to greatly improve supports to victim survivors.
“Funding commitments to be outlined in the 2022-23 Budget will help respond to a foundational set of strategic recommendations to commence the reform process.
“As recommended in the report, all recommendations will be implemented with the involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to ensure that responses are culturally safe and culturally informed. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are best placed to develop the responses necessary to address the issues that impact upon their communities as they understand the legacy of dispossession and colonisation and the importance of stopping violence.
“Government is also committed to ensuring that the implementation of this foundational set of strategic recommendations addresses the needs of vulnerable and diverse groups. The needs of people from diverse backgrounds will require a range of different service supports and responses. Government will continue to consult with members of these communities.
“These commitments will build on initial work already underway, including the recent changes to the law in relation to consent and the review to identify systemic issues within the justice system,” said Minister Berry.
Among the upcoming commitments in the 2022-23 Budget are:
- $1.4m over four years to establish a structured Victim Survivor Consultation Program to ensure the voices and experiences of victim survivors remain central to the reforms (Recommendation 1)
- $933,000 over four years to design and implement a 10 year strategy for the prevention of sexual violence that seeks to change attitudes and behaviours that perpetuate sexual violence (Recommendation 19)
- $1.5m over four years to appoint and establish the role of Independent Sexual Violence Advisers in the ACT. These Advisers will expertly navigate the system and coordinate services to provide a victim survivor-centred, trauma informed response, tailored to the individual’s needs (Recommendation 3)
- $4.4m over four years to design and pilot a Multidisciplinary Centre in the ACT to co-locate specialist sexual violence responses and services. The Centre will create a single access point for victim survivors to reduce trauma, stress and provide a holistic service response (Recommendation 3)
- $585,000 over two years to undertake a Specialist Services Review to understand where operational changes are needed to address victim survivors’ needs; operating practices; performance measures and standards; coordination systems; and current funding arrangements (Recommendation 4)
The ACT Government will monitor the implementation of the recommendations on an ongoing basis - to ensure they deliver long-lasting change.
To support the implementation of the recommendations and oversee the reforms, the ACT Government will also appoint a Coordinator-General for the Prevention of Sexual Violence in accordance with recommendation 24. This role will not only work across government but also consult broadly with stakeholders to inform priorities in the phased implementation of the recommendations to improve how the ACT Government responds to sexual violence.
“The ACT Government is committed to improving the system. I would like to take this opportunity to again thank victim-survivors and stakeholder experts alike, who generously shared their knowledge and lived experience of the system. We have heard you and there are many more steps to come. I would also like to acknowledge my Assembly colleagues and the ongoing cross-party support for this important work,” said Minister Berry.
Quotes attributable to Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury:
“This process has provided us with a series of important law reform recommendations, which highlight the need for us to continually adapt our laws to provide a trauma-informed environment for victim-survivors, and ensure perpetrators are held to account.
“We must also acknowledge the voices of advocates and victim-survivors in telling us that law reform is not the whole picture. Getting justice looks different to everyone, but for the survivors who decide a criminal law response is the right choice for them, we need to what we can to overhaul and improve that process.
“We are committed to ongoing consultation as we work on developing these reforms. We are working on bringing legislation this year to get started, including such reforms as:
- ensuring that evidence of previous family violence is admissible in sexual assault cases
- introducing a presumption that the courtroom is closed when a victim is giving evidence about sexual assault
- providing that self-induced intoxication cannot be considered in determining whether the accused had knowledge or recklessness about consent.”