Make a submission to the review of the Victims of Crime Assistance Act - family violence victims

The Commission is seeking the community’s views on the provision of state-funded financial assistance to victims of family violence under the Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996. Your input will help us to develop recommendations for reform.

Before you respond, we encourage you to read the consultation paper, which sets out information and options about the issues being discussed. 

You do not have to answer all questions - you can answer as many or as few as you like. You can make a submission using the form below, alternatively you can email or post your submission to us.

Your submission will be published on our website unless you ask us to keep it confidential. You can choose your preferred confidentiality option below.

We will not place on our website, or make available to the public, submissions that contain offensive or defamatory comments or which are outside the scope of the reference.

The Commission will consider all responses in developing recommendations, and may use or refer to responses in the final report. The report will be provided to the Government and published on the Commission’s website.

Supplementary terms of reference

Please note that the Attorney-General, the Hon. Martin Pakula MP has provided the Commission with supplementary terms of reference expanding the Commission’s review of the operation and effectiveness of the Victims of Crime Assistance Act for family violence victims. The extended inquiry relates to the operation and effectiveness of the Act and the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal for all victims of crime, including victims of family violence. 

The Commission has therefore also released a supplementary consultation paper with separate consultation questions. 

If you wish to make a submission relating only to family violence, you can still use the form below and your responses will be considered by the Commission. In addition, you can make a submission in response to the supplementary consultation paper (questions relating to all victims of crime).

The deadline for all submissions is 31 October 2017. 

Queries? Comments? Email us.

 

How would you like us to treat your submission? Choose one of the following and enter it in the box below:

(a) Publish my submission and my name on the VLRC website

(b) Publish my submission but not my name

(c) Keep my submission confidential (do not publish it)

Eligibility for assistance

Eligibility test generally

1.How do the eligibility requirements of the Act impact on family violence victims?

2.Should the eligibility criteria be broadened to take into account the unique dynamics and characteristics of family violence? If so, how should this be done?

3. How should the Act deal with patterns of non-criminal behaviour that result in injury?

Expanding the definition of an ‘act of violence’

4.Should the definition of an ‘act of violence’ be amended to include family violence? If so, how should this be done?

5. Should other offences not currently covered by the definition of an ‘act of violence’ also be included in the definition of ‘act of violence’? If so, what offences should be included?

6.Alternatively, should there be separate eligibility criteria for victims of family violence? If so, what criteria should there be?

Expanding the definition of ‘injury’

7. Should the definition of ‘injury’ be expanded to include the non-physical and/or psychological injuries often experienced by victims of family violence? If so, what injuries should be included?

8. Should the definition of ‘injury’ be amended to better reflect the cumulative impact of family violence over time? If so, how should this be done?

Other barriers to accessibility

9.What non-legislative barriers exist for family violence victims in accessing the Act?

10.How should non-legislative barriers to access be addressed?

Assistance available

13.Alternatively, should family violence be excluded from the operation of the 'related criminal acts' provision? If so, how should this be reflected in the Act?

14. Should the Act be amended to give victims of family violence an opportunity to object if claims are to be treated as 'related'?

16.Should the special financial assistance categories be amended to better take into account the cumulative harm of family violence? If so, how should this be done?

17.Alternatively, should the maximum award for special financial assistance be available to all victims of family violence so that the amount they receive is not based on categories of offences but instead on the discretion of VOCAT?

18.Should special financial assistance be available to all child victims, including those who hear, witness or are otherwise exposed to family violence?

19. Should the special financial assistance categories be amended to better take into account the experiences of child victims of family violence? If so, how should this be done?

Form and timing of applications

Form of application

20.Does the VOCAT application form present difficulties for victims of family violence? If so, how should these difficulties be addressed?

Timing of application

21.Should different time limits apply to family violence applications in recognition of the dynamics of family violence? If yes, what time limits (if any) should apply?

22.Should family violence be included as a factor the Tribunal must have regard to in determining whether to hear and determine an application made out of time?

VOCAT hearings - notification, appearance and open court provisions

The notification provision

23.Is the notification provision a deterrent for family violence victims in making applications under the Act?

24.Should the notification provision be amended to recognise the safety concerns of family violence victims, including those of child victims? If yes, what changes should be made?

Protection of victims of family violence

25.Should the Act be amended to include increased protections for family violence victims, including child victims, during VOCAT hearings? If yes, what procedural and evidentiary protections should be provided?

Making an award

Mandatory refusal

26.Should the requirement to report incidents to police be explicitly excluded for victims of family violence?

27.Alternatively, should the police reporting requirement be amended to recognise reports made by victims of family violence to other persons? If so, what other reporting should be recognised?

28.Should the requirement to provide reasonable assistance to police and prosecution be explicitly excluded for victims of family violence?

29.If the police reporting requirement is to be retained for family violence victims, should family violence also be specified as a matter the Tribunal may consider in determining whether a report was made to police within a reasonable time? If so, how should this be reflected in the Act?

30.If the reasonable assistance requirement is to be retained for family violence victims, should family violence also be specified as a matter the Tribunal may consider? If so, how should this be reflected in the Act?

Is family violence a ‘special circumstance’?

31.Should family violence be expressly considered 'special circumstances' for the purpose of the mandatory refusal provisions? If so, how should family violence be treated?

Section 54 considerations

32.What are the effects of the section 54 considerations for victims of family violence? Do these factors result in awards to family violence victims not being made or being reduced disproportionately compared to other victims of crime?

33.Should some, or all, of the section 54 considerations be excluded for victims of family violence? If so, what considerations should be excluded?

34.Alternatively, should family violence be specified as a factor that VOCAT must have regard to in exercising its discretion under section 54 to make an award? If so, how should this be reflected in the Act?

35.How do the contributory conduct provisions under section 54 of the Act currently affect victims of family violence as compared to other victims of crime?

36.How do the perpetrator benefit provisions under section 54 of the Act currently affect victims of family violence as compared to other victims of crime?

VOCAT procedures and time frames for the making of awards

37.What are the effects of the current time frames and procedures for the making of awards for victims of family violence?

38.How could the time frames and procedures for the making of awards to victims of family violence be changed to better meet their needs?

39.Do section 32(3) and section 41 require legislative change to better accommodate family violence victims’ need for speedy determinations? Or could a Practice Direction provide sufficient guidance?

40.What benefits could be achieved for victims of family violence by initiatives such as specialisation or a separate VOCAT family violence list?

41.What benefits might be achieved by enabling all magistrates to make interim VOCAT awards at the same time as hearing other matters? How would this work in practice?

Review, variation and refund of awards

42.In what circumstances are VOCAT applications refunded? What are the experiences of victims of family violence?

43.How often are VOCAT awards for family violence victims varied? What are the reasons for variation?

44.How could the variation process be improved or streamlined to make it more accessible and timely for family violence victims? 

45.Should some categories of awards, such as counselling, be awarded differently to other categories, such as Special Financial Assistance, to make access easier and quicker for victims?

46.When might victims of family violence seek review of a VOCAT award?

Awareness of VOCAT and accessibility for family violence victims

47.How do family violence victims learn about the availability of VOCAT? What is the best way to inform victims of their potential eligibility under the Act?

48.How should information about VOCAT be made more accessible for victims of family violence, including those speaking languages other than English?

49.Is the VOCAT system easy to navigate without legal representation? If not, why? How should the system be improved to make it more accessible for victims of family violence without legal representation?

50.Do victims of family violence find it difficult to secure legal representation? If yes, why? How should this be remedied?

51.Should the provision of State-funded financial assistance under the Act be better integrated with victim support services or specialist family violence support? If so, how should this be done?

52.What learnings from the VOCAT Koori List might be able to be applied to improving accessibility and knowledge of the scheme for victims of family violence? Could similar benefits be realised in the family violence space?

53.What aspects of other jurisdictions' models should be replicated in Victoria to assist victims of family violence to access VOCAT?

VOCAT – beyond financial assistance for victims of family violence?

54.To what extent is VOCAT a therapeutic process for victims of family violence, including for child victims?

55.If VOCAT, or aspects of it, is not therapeutic for family violence victims, including child victims, what legislative or other changes should be made so that it is?

56.How would a trauma-informed VOCAT process help improve family violence victims' experience of VOCAT, including for child victims?

57.Are there other approaches that should be considered to improve the VOCAT process or access to it for victims of family violence, including child victims?

58.What factors currently impact on consistency in practice, procedure and the making of awards to family violence victims, including to child victims? How should this variability best be addressed? 

59.How might transparency in process and determination of awards be improved? 

60.How do the rights of perpetrators—to be notified or to appear— fit with the purpose of the Act, which is to provide assistance to victims of crime? What changes, if any, should be made to the Act to appropriately balance the rights of perpetrators and the rights of victims of family violence?

Fulfilment of the purpose and objectives of the Act

61.The purpose of the Act is to 'provide assistance to victims of crime'. Is this purpose realised for victims of family violence, including child victims? If not, why not? 

62.If the purpose of the Act is not being realised for victims of family violence, including for child victims, how should this be done?

63.Should the purpose and objectives of the Act be amended to expressly recognise family violence? If yes, how should this be done?

64.The Act states that 'certain victims of crime' should be awarded financial assistance as a symbolic expression by the State. Are family violence victims, including child victims, adequately covered by the current Special Financial Assistance provisions? If not, how should this be done? 

65.The Act aims to complement other services provided by government to victims of crime. Is this achieved for family violence victims? If not, how should this be done?

66.In assessing any proposals for change, what criteria and considerations should the Commission have regard to?  How should the experience of family violence victims, including child victims, be taken into account?

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