The Andrews Labor Government has tabled the Victorian Law Reform Commission’s review of how state-funded financial assistance is provided to victims of crime under the Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996 (Vic).
In December 2016, the government asked the Commission, in particular, to consider specific matters about the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT) and the Victims Assistance Program, which were raised by recommendation 106 of the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence.
In July 2017, the government provided the Commission with supplementary terms of reference, expanding the reference to consider the effectiveness of the Victims Of Crime Assistance Act and VOCAT for all victims, including family violence victims.
The terms of reference were broad and included consideration of eligibility and accessibility, as well as whether there are models that would more effectively deliver assistance, such as an administrative model.
The Commission’s focus was on achieving outcomes for victims that are fair, equitable and timely, consistent and predictable and that minimise trauma for victims and maximise the therapeutic effect for victims.
The review is the first comprehensive review conducted of VOCAT in 20 years.
The report concludes that the existing VOCAT scheme prioritises procedural process over victims’ needs and does not effectively deliver assistance to victims, especially in terms of timeliness and minimising trauma. The Commission also concluded that the current system is difficult to understand and that most victims would find it difficult to navigate the system without a lawyer.
The Review contains 100 detailed recommendations and proposes significant change to the way government provides financial assistance to victims of crime.
The Commission has recommended that a new state-funded financial assistance scheme be established, led by an independent and dedicated decision maker whose powers and functions are prescribed in legislation.
Further, the Commission recommends that the functions of Victoria’s Victims of Crime Commissioner be expanded to include the functions and powers necessary to administer the new scheme.
These recommendations will require extensive consultation with the Magistrates Court and the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal, the Victims of Crime Commissioner and a range of victims representatives and advocates, if they are to be properly and appropriately implemented.
The Government accepts all of the Commission’s recommendations in principle and, if re-elected, will undertake significant work to progress these reforms in the next term of government.
Quotes attributable to Attorney-General Martin Pakula
“I acknowledge the work of the Victorian Law Reform Commission in completing what has been a significant reference, and thank The Hon. Philip Cummins AM for his report.”
“This is an important next step in making sure that victims of crime can access state-funded assistance in a way that is fast, fair and equitable.”
Reviewed 19 August 2020