Open letter to NSW A-G on Victims Compensation

September 25, 2012

On 25 September 2012, 80 leading legal, human rights, health, community and women?s organisations wrote to the NSW Attorney General calling on him to retain and strengthen the NSW compensation scheme for victims of violent crime.

ALHR is proud to have added its name to the list of signatories.

The full text of the letter is below. We would also encourage our NSW members to email their MP, just follow this link:

Victims Compensation: Vital for Victims

25 September 2012

The Hon Greg Smith MP
Attorney General and Minister for Justice
Level 31 Governor Macquarie Tower
1 Farrer Place

Dear Attorney General,

We refer to the current review of the Victims Compensation Scheme in NSW, as part of which the Government has commissioned a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

We, the undersigned legal, health, human rights and/or community organisations are concerned that the review may result in decreased access to victims compensation by victims of violence.

We believe that victims compensation is crucial to achieving justice for victims of violence.  Additionally, reparations for the violation of human rights is a right enshrined in human rights law.  We outline our key concerns below.

1. Retaining and strengthening victims compensation
Victims compensation plays a key role in the support and rehabilitation of victims of violent crimes and must be retained and strengthened. We believe the Victims Compensation Scheme must be adequately funded to enable timely compensation payments.

Notably, over 50% of NSW victims? compensation payments are made to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.   Predominantly, crimes of domestic violence and sexual assault are perpetrated against women and children.  The impact of these crimes is significant and long lasting. Victims compensation should be retained with the Scheme prioritising victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse.

Compensation is a powerful symbolic acknowledgement of pain and suffering and that a wrong has been done. We believe public recognition and state accountability through a Victims Compensation Scheme play a role in reducing violence against women and children. Compensation also has practical benefits and empowers victims, by providing them with choice over how to use their compensation money, which is important in the healing process.

2. Culturally appropriate and voluntary counselling
Culturally appropriate counselling should be available to all victims of violence who would like to access it, including Aboriginal and culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) people. There is also a need for specialised counselling services for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse. For some victims of crime, counselling can be distressing. We believe counselling for victims should be voluntary.

3. Access to justice
Victims compensation is an important way of ensuring access to justice for victims of violence. In our experience, victims of crime who have been traumatised by acts of violence typically struggle to exercise their right to apply for victims compensation. Access to legal advice and representation must be increased under the Scheme so that those who are most vulnerable as a result of acts of violence are sufficiently supported to claim for the injuries they have suffered.

The current waiting time for the determination of a victims compensation claim is 25 months. We believe an applicant should not be adversely affected by any changes to the law that are made while they are waiting for their claim to be determined. Any changes to the NSW Victims Compensation Scheme must not apply retrospectively.

4. Importance of transparent and adequate consultations
We believe the consultation process to date has been inadequate and we are concerned that changes could have a detrimental impact on victims of violence. We note that a report by PwC was due to Government by 30 June 2012. We call for the PricewaterhouseCoopers report to be made public.

If the Government is proposing changes to the current Victims Compensation Scheme, extensive public consultation is required before any legislative changes occur. We propose a Discussion Paper detailing potential changes and a comprehensive plan for public consultations or meetings. These meetings should occur in rural, regional and remote areas and include consultations with a range of organisation that work with victims of crime. If legislative changes are drafted following a Discussion Paper and public consultation process, stakeholders should be given the opportunity to review and comment on an Exposure Draft Bill, with a commitment from Government to consider submissions.

Yours sincerely,


Mark Grierson, CEO, Advocacy Law Alliance Inc (Multiprogram Agency – Disability Advocacy NSW and Mid North Coast Community Legal Centre)
Julie Oberin, CEO, Annie North Inc
Gaby Marcus, Director, Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse
Anthony Kerin, National President, Australian Lawyers Alliance
Stephen Keim, President, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights
Julie Oberin, Chair, Australian Women Against Violence Alliance (AWAVA)
Tiffany Beggs, Reconnect Coordinator, Bega Valley Community Programs ? Auswide Projects
Suzie van Opdorp, Manager, Blue Mountains Women’s Health and Resource Centre
Bondi Beach Cottage
Leon Apostle, Principal Solicitor, Broken Hill Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention Legal Service
Bronwyn Ambrogetti, Principal Solicitor, Central Coast Community Legal Centre
Kaye Spicer, Service Manager, Central Coast Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service Inc.
Trevor Richardson, Secretary, Coalition for Men Supporting Non-Violence
Alastair McEwin, Director, Community Legal Centres NSW
Karen Hooper, Case Manager, Eastern Sydney Staying Home Leaving Violence
Kasey Pearce, Chairperson, Elizabeth Evatt Community Legal Centre
Vivi Germanos-Koutsounadis OAM, Executive Director, Ethnic Child Care Family and Community Services Coop
Karuna Fielden, Program Manager, Family Support Network, Casino
Mariette R. Curcuruto, Principal Solicitor, Far West Community Legal Centre
Gabrielle Craig, Acting Principal Solicitor, Hawkesbury Nepean Community Legal Centre
Catherine Dynan, Family Program Co-ordinator, Holdsworth Community Centre
Karen Keegan, Principal Lawyer and Program Manager, Hume Riverina Community Legal Service
Nathan Kennedy, Chair, Human Rights Committee, NSW Young Lawyers
Liz Pinnock, Principal Solicitor, Hunter Community Legal Centre
Truda Gray, Coordinator, Illawarra Legal Centre
Daniel Stubbs, Director, Inner City Legal Centre
Charmaine Jones, Executive Officer, Inner Sydney Regional Council for Social Development (ISRC)
Janene Cootes, Executive Officer, Intellectual Disability Rights Service
Jane Corpuz-Brock, Executive Officer, Immigrant Women?s Speakout Association NSW
Ariel Marguin, Chair, Justice for Children Australia
Anna Cody, Director, Kingsford Legal Centre
Moo Baulch, on behalf of the LGBTIQ Domestic Violence Interagency
Ana Vastag, Migrant Support Worker, Lightning Ridge and RegionTranscultural Community Council Inc. (TCC) – Migrant Information and Referral Service
Gerri Greenfield, Chair, Liverpool Women’s Health Centre
Prue Gregory, Principal Solicitor, Macarthur Legal Centre
Sarah Hart, Macquarie Legal Centre
Michael Walton, Principal Solicitor, Marrickville Legal Centre
Anna Kowalski, Chairperson, Mid Coast Women?s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Incorporated
Julie Jasprizza-Laus, Team Leader Families NSW, Mission Australia
Julia Hall, Executive Director, National Association of Community Legal Centres Inc (NACLC)
Terese Edwards, Chief Executive Officer, National Council of Single Mothers and their Children
Tricia Graham, President, National Council of Women of New South Wales Inc.
Ken Beilby, Principal Solicitor, Northern Rivers Community Legal Centre
Deborah Clarke, North & North West Community Legal Service
Betty Green, Chair, NSW Domestic Violence Committee Coalition
Karen Willis OAM, Executive Officer, NSW Rape Crisis Centre
Tracy Howe, CEO, NSW Women?s Refuge Movement Inc
Sandra Katbay, Operation Courage, Orange/Cabonne Domestic Violence Service, NSW
Matthew Bowden, Executive Director, People with Disability Australia (PWDA)
Nikki Well, CEO, Project Kidsafe Foundation Ltd
Edward Santow, CEO, Public Interest Advocacy Centre
Katrina Ironside, Principal Solicitor, Public Interest Law Clearing House (PILCH) NSW
Leonie Sinclair, President, Shoalcoast Legal Centre
Jane Sanders, Principal Solicitor, The Shopfront Youth Legal Centre
Beverley Dobie, Manager, Domestic Violence Team, South Coast Women?s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service
Ann Grealis, General Counselling, St Vincent’s Community Health, St Vincent’s Darlinghurst
Diane Manns, Acting Manager, Sutherland Shire Family Services
Charmaine Jones, Chair, Tenants Union of NSW
Russell Westacott, CEO, The Aged-care Rights Service (TARS)
Vicki Johnston, Manager, The Deli Women & Children’s Centre
Sharon Payne, Manager, The Women?s Cottage
Nicki Petrou, Managing Solicitor, Top End Women?s Legal Service Inc
Mark Lennon, Secretary, Unions NSW
Shaun McCarthy, Director, University of Newcastle Legal Centre (UNLC)
Julie Stubbs, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of NSW
Jan Breckenridge, Director of the Centre, Gender Related Violence Studies, University of NSW
Dr Lesley Laing, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Education and Social Work, University of Sydney
Dr Raie Goodwach, President, Victorian Medical Women?s Society
Robyn Cotterell-Jones, Executive Director, Committee Victims of Crime Assistance League Inc NSW
Leigh Rowell, Director, Wagga Wagga Family Support Services
Rachael Martin, Principal Solicitor, Wirringa Baiya Aboriginal Women’s Legal Centre
Patrick O?Callaghan, Principal Solicitor, Western NSW Community Legal Centre
Cheryl Alexander, Coordinator, Western Sydney Women?s Domestic Violence Court Assistance Scheme
Marie Hume, Secretary, Women Everywhere Advocating Violence Elimination (WEAVE)
Kat Armstrong, Director, Women in Prison Advocacy Network
Catherine White, Manager, Women?s Activities and Self Help (WASH) House Inc
Julie Hourigan Ruse, Executive Officer, Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service NSW Inc.
Rhonda Payget, Principal Solicitor, Women?s Legal Centre (ACT & Region)
Angela Lynch, Law Reform Coordinator, Women?s Legal Services Australia
Janet Loughman, Principal Solicitor, Women’s Legal Services NSW