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Supporting victims and survivors of sexual violence - piloting new legal services models

The Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP
Media Release

Minister for Social Services
The Hon Amanda Rishworth MP

Cabinet Secretary
The Hon Mark Dreyfus QC MP

Joint media release

The Albanese Labor Government will fund three new pilot programs aimed at improving our justice system for sexual violence victims and survivors.

In the October 2022-23 Budget, $8.4 million was allocated over three years from 2023-24 to explore new ways to provide legal services for sexual violence victims and survivors that do not add to their trauma.

Rates of reporting of sexual violence are low, and conviction rates are even lower. We must do better to ensure our legal systems respond to the unique experiences of victims and survivors of sexual assault, and boost confidence that they will be treated appropriately should they choose to come forward and report what happened to them.

The pilot programs - in Victoria, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory - were selected following a competitive, merit-based assessment process, and informed by consultations with people who have lived experience of sexual violence, and the advocates and services that support them.

As outlined in the National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022-2032, it is essential that we listen to those who have experienced violence, and their advocates, to inform policies and solutions.

The pilot program will complement other work that is being done across Government, including through a dedicated Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence Commissioner, the Standing Council of Attorneys General Work Plan to Strengthen Criminal Justice Responses to Sexual Assault 2022-2027 and an Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) inquiry into justice responses to sexual violence, commencing in late 2023.

The Australian Government is thankful for the ongoing advocacy of victim-survivors, and the organisations supporting them and advocating for them, who continue to share their experiences in an effort to seek better outcomes for all Australians.

The chosen pilot programs include:

Victoria Legal Aid, Djirra, and Women’s Legal Service Victoria

These services will expand Victoria’s state-wide Victims Legal Service (VLS) to provide legal information for victims and survivors of sexual assault through the existing VLS Helpline, and targeted advice and case work for victims and survivors seeking to protect confidential communications. This model will also provide tailored support for Aboriginal victims and survivors to report sexual assault to police.

Women’s Legal Service WA, Aboriginal Family Legal Services, and Ruah Legal Services

These services will provide state-wide, integrated, specialised and trauma informed legal services for victims and survivors, delivering services at known points of victim and survivor disengagement and withdrawal from the legal process.

Women’s Legal Centre ACT and Victim Support ACT

These services will establish the ACT Sexual Assault Legal Service and provide legal assistance (including legal representation) to support victims and survivors to engage with the criminal justice system and related legal issues by providing integrated, wrap-around services for victims and survivors, including financial assistance, counselling, and specialist support.

Further information about our response to sexual violence and support services can be found on the Attorney-General’s Department’s website.

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