Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996: Report (html)

20. Conclusion

20.1 For many victims, the Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996 (Vic) (VOCAA) is the only avenue of financial assistance available to them in the aftermath of a criminal act. However, and as this report has discussed, victims often face barriers in accessing the scheme and delays in receiving assistance. The process of making an application can also be traumatic for victims, particularly if a hearing is required or the perpetrator is notified.

20.2 In undertaking this review, the Commission was asked to consider the operation and effectiveness of the VOCAA and the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal for all crime victims, including victims of family violence. In doing so, the Commission was also asked to consider whether there are other models that would more effectively deliver assistance.

20.3 Victoria is one of the few remaining jurisdictions with applications for assistance being determined by judicial decision makers. The Commission considers that the current model is not victim-centred or beneficial in its approach because of its prioritisation of procedural and evidentiary processes over victims’ needs and because of the delays experienced by victims in accessing financial assistance through a court-based model.

20.4 In the Commission’s view, the existing judicial model no longer reflects a contemporary approach to state-funded financial assistance and does not effectively deliver assistance to victims, especially in terms of timeliness, minimising trauma and reducing reliance on legal representation. The Commission also considers that the existing model is no longer the most efficient or sustainable model of state-funded financial assistance.

20.5 In the Commission’s view, the most effective model to meet the reference objectives and to deliver Victoria’s state-funded financial assistance scheme is a new administrative model prioritising victims’ recovery from a criminal act, separate from Victoria’s criminal court system and the potential for any perpetrator involvement.

20.6 The Commission’s proposal for a new model of state-funded financial assistance represents a significant departure from the current model. In recommending this significant change, the Commission has strived to ensure victim needs are at the centre of its reform proposals. The proposed scheme places victims’ needs at the centre by providing for a beneficial approach that meets not only financial and practical needs, but prioritises victims’ safety and wellbeing and provides a forum for acknowledgement and recognition. Most significantly, the proposed scheme removes financial assistance from Victoria’s court system, thereby removing any need for victims to attend court, be called to give evidence and cross-examined, or be required to face an alleged perpetrator at a hearing.

20.7 Research, and the Commission’s findings, demonstrate that a victim-centred justice process is one that takes into account victims’ emotional needs, their information needs, victims’ need for practical supports including safety and security, financial assistance needs and the need to be treated with dignity and respect throughout the justice process. The Commission’s recommendations aim to fulfil each of these needs.

20.8 The Commission also recognises that for some victims of crime, financial assistance may represent more than monetary assistance—it can serve to recognise their victimisation and validate their experiences, including the often significant impacts of crime victimisation that may be ongoing. Accordingly, the Commission’s recommendations aim to ensure that a victim-centred financial assistance scheme does more than simply provide financial assistance to victims. The Commission makes recommendations to ensure the proposed scheme meets victims’ emotional needs, information needs, victims’ needs for practical and financial support and most importantly, victims’ need for acknowledgement.

20.9 In this report, the Commission sought and listened to the voices of victims.

20.10 The Commission expresses its appreciation of the contributions to this report made by victims, victim support and advocacy organisations, family violence support and advocacy organisations, the judiciary, legal services and government departments, academics and others.

20.11 The Commission is pleased to have had the opportunity to contribute to the modernisation and reform of this significant area of law.

20.12 The Commission commends this report to you.