Statement on amendments to the Victims of Crime Assistance Act
Friday, 4 March 2022
Victims of Crime Commissioner Fiona McCormack said:
"I welcome the proposed changes to the Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996 (Vic) (VOCAA) in the Workplace Safety Legislation and Other Matters Amendment Bill 2021 which put Victoria a step closer to providing victims with a trauma-informed avenue for state-funded financial assistance.
"The proposed changes will prohibit the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT) from notifying perpetrators (or alleged perpetrators) about a VOCAT hearing in matters involving family violence or sexual offences. The changes will also prohibit an alleged offender from attending a VOCAT hearing in these cases.
"These are long-awaited changes and will make an enormous difference to the safety and wellbeing of victims of sexual assault and family violence when applying for financial assistance. There is a long history of victims saying they do not seek desperately needed financial assistance due to fears of escalated violence or intimidation by perpetrators.
"I have been calling for the urgent removal of these damaging provisions, most recently in my submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Victoria’s criminal justice system, because I’ve heard directly from victims of crime about their distress when learning that the perpetrator was notified of their application to VOCAT.
"While the removal of these damaging provisions in cases of sexual assault and family violence is welcomed—and vital—they should be seen as the first step to addressing the issue raised in the Victorian Law Reform Commission’s (VLRC) 2018 report on VOCAT.
"The VLRC said that ‘alleged perpetrator notification and appearance provisions are counter-productive to a victim’s recovery process’ regardless of crime type.
"No victim should be afraid to seek state-funded financial assistance.
"The prohibition on notifying offenders (or alleged offenders)—and allowing them to attend VOCAT hearings—should be extended to all victims of crime, as recommended by the VLRC."