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Strengthening witness protections for victims and survivors of sexual abuse

The Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP
Media Release

The Albanese Government has introduced legislation to improve the experience of victims and survivors of sexual violence in our justice system.

Sexual assault can have devastating, cumulative and long-lasting effects on the lives of victims and survivors, their families and communities. The Crimes Amendment (Strengthening the Criminal Justice Response to Sexual Violence) Bill 2024 builds on the extensive work of the Albanese Government to strengthen criminal justice responses to sexual assault.  

The Bill will:

  • expand the circumstances in which vulnerable people who are involved in court proceedings as complainants or witnesses are afforded enhanced protections;
  • make evidence about sexual reputation inadmissible for all victims and survivors of child sexual abuse, and place greater restrictions on evidence relating to a person’s sexual experience;
  • address barriers that may deter vulnerable people from giving evidence by introducing evidence recording hearings, and allowing for that recording to be used in subsequent trials and retrials; and,
  • ensure that victims and survivors can speak out about their experiences should they wish to do so, by clarifying that they may publish self-identifying information, or give their informed consent to a third party, such as a media organisation, to publish that information.

The Bill implements a number of outstanding recommendations from the 2017 Final Report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and supports the National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Child Sexual Abuse (2021-2030).

These reforms support victims and survivors engaged in the Commonwealth criminal justice system, while maintaining due process protections and ensuring that defendants continue to be tried fairly and impartially.

The reforms were developed in consultation with stakeholders, including victims and survivors and their advocates. I thank them for sharing their experience and expertise.

The Albanese Government is deeply committed to improving criminal justice responses to sexual assault. Last month, the Government announced details of the Australian Law Reform Commission inquiry into justice responses to sexual violence to strengthen the way the criminal justice system responds to sexual assault.

If you or someone you know is impacted by family, domestic or sexual violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au.

If you are concerned about your behaviour or use of violence, you can contact the Men’s Referral Service on 1300 766 491.