A national Charter for Victims’ Rights in Australia was approved in 1996 as a method to assist violent crime victims in order to help them to recover from the ordeals that they faced as part of the incident. Depending on specific jurisdictions there are different rights and access to information and services available to victims.
In light of this fact, a push was made to ensure that regardless of the territory or state victims have access to consistent services. A framework was developed in order to create a national approach to assisting violent crime victims with their recovering and also to allow jurisdictions to collaborate to help victims as well as identify continuing issues with the system that need to be addressed.
The Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power which was adopted in 1985 by the United Nations addresses the following with regard to the following:
- obtaining justice;
- obtaining restitution;
- obtaining compensation;
- assistance with medical treatment.
For the Commonwealth countries, the Commonwealth Guidelines on Treatment of Victims of Crime was drafted so that victims would have a number of rights including the right to receive assistance, obtain justice, privacy, protection from further mistreatment and prosecution of the offender.
The national framework will be implemented in order to achieve these outcomes and the Standing Council on Law and Justice (SCLJ) Victims of Crime Working Group will be responsible for overseeing the process. As part of overseeing this process, the Standing Council will host regular meetings as well as evaluate the framework again after three years has passed in 2015.
In NSW, Victims Services assists violent crime victims and provides them with access to services including providing information and allowing access to counsellors.
In the Northern Territory a victims services system does not exist and is instead handled by three organizations: Crime Victims Services Unit, Witness Assistance Service, and Victims of Crime NT. These organizations work together to help victims get access to financial assistance and counselling.
In Queensland, a single organization, Victim Assist Queensland is the organization responsible for helping victims with access to information, counselling and financial assistance.
In South Australia, the Commissioner for Victims’ Rights is responsible for assisting victims with assistance with court proceedings. The Victim Support Service provides victims with assistance to counselling and information. There are also three additional agencies delegated to handling victims of specific types of crimes only. These three organizations are the Rape and Sexual Assault Services, the Road Trauma Support Team and the Homicide Victims Support Group.
In Tasmania, Victims Support Services oversees the following four services: Victims Assistance Unit, Court Support and Liaison Services and Victims of Crime Service. Victims Assistance Unit and Court Support and Liaison Services (Adults and Children) both help victims with court proceedings and information. The Victims of Crime Service assists with obtaining access to counselling services for victims.
In Victoria, there is the Victims of Crime Compensation and Counselling Service located on Victoria Parade in Melbourne as well as government organizations such as the VSA.
In Western Australia, Victim Support Services assists victims with all matters including court proceedings, access to information, counselling services and safety issues. A second organization known as the Child Witness Service assists child victims and families with these same matters but with regard to assisting a child victim.
The framework also addresses legislation that has been passed across all territories in order to facilitate the implementation of the framework. These items include various acts passed from 1983-2009 for all territories that are assistance acts for victims of crime.
Across all territories there are some significant differences in the details of the legislation that is relevant to the framework with regard to the following issues:
- Basic principles of the legislation relevant to the framework;
- The specific guidelines as to what defines a victim;
- The requirements of eligibility for obtaining these services;
- What proof must be provided either by the assessor for the services or by the courts; regarding the offender in order for the victim to be considered eligible;
- What are the time limitations on applying for access to the services;
- What should occur in the event that the victim is in part responsible for becoming a victim of the violent crime;
- What procedures are involved for the victim to apply for compensation for the crime;
- What items a victim may receive compensation for when applying for compensation;
- The minimum monetary requirement that compensation requests must meet in order to be considered;
- The maximum monetary value of compensation that may be obtained;
- If the victim may receive an award while the compensation case is still pending in the form of partial or emergency payments;
- If the victim may obtain legal assistance with applying for victims services and compensation;
- The length of time required to process a filed claim;
- The method of funding for victim’s assistance and compensation;
- The maximum on fees that may be paid to solicitor’s that become involved in the claim as a result of the victim seeking legal assistance to apply for victims’ services;
- What documents are required for the application process and following of a claim;
- If victims are still eligible to receive compensation if the victimization occurred as a part of their employment;
- Who is responsible for paying the costs of obtaining medical reports created by an outside medical professional;
- If victims of arson are eligible to make a claim for compensation;
- If family members of the victim, witnesses or secondary victims are eligible to make a claim for compensation along with the victim.
The framework notes all of these issues and separates them out by territory revealing possible overlaps that may occur as well as significant gaps in the procedures undertaken by the organizations responsible for rendering services in each territory.