Legislation continues to short-change victims of domestic violence

In a submission to the statutory review of the Victims Rights and Support Act 2013 (NSW) PIAC has highlighted a range of issues that collectively contribute to women escaping domestic violence receiving inadequate compensation for the crimes committed against them.

The legislation, which drastically cut payments to victims of crime, has been widely criticised since its introduction in 2013, with Community Legal Centres NSW filing an urgent appeal to the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, seeking intervention against the legislation.

The Act included retrospective changes that significantly reduced the amounts available to victims of crime who had already lodged their application forms. While transitional arrangements were subsequently passed, these will cease on 31 August 2016. 

Drawing on the casework of our Homeless Persons’ Legal Service, PIAC has identified that victims of domestic violence are disadvantaged by the way that the Act defines ‘acts of violence’. 

Under the Act an individual, who has endured a number of violent acts from their partner over a period of time will receive approximately the same recognition payment as an individual who endured one act of violence. In PIAC’s experience, this is usually $1,500. 

In short, twenty years of violence is not treated substantially differently to one act of violence. 

PIAC therefore recommends that:

  • the amounts available for recognition payments should be increased;
  • additional discretionary amounts should be available in special circumstances;  
  • all acts of violence, whether multiple or not, should be recognised, and that provisions regarding ‘related acts’ be removed;
  • the review should consider how any requirement for ‘documentary evidence’ in proving a claim, could more appropriately support and reflect the lived experience of victims of domestic violence;  
  • the proposals put forward by the Australian Law Reform Commission in relation to victims’ compensation in its 2010 report Family Violence – Improving Legal Frameworks, should be implemented by the current review;
  • decision-makers should be given discretionary powers to consider applications that are out of time.

Read PIAC’s submission.

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