Victim support

There is strong evidence that victim support provided at the time of an incident to which the police are called, at court, and at other key times during the legal process is an important measure that can improve the ability of victims to navigate through the system. Victim support workers also can, and do, routinely navigate through the legal, social and health systems on behalf of victims.

In the Commissions’ view, one of the most practical methods of improving the interaction in practice of legal frameworks is through strengthening and supporting existing victim support services. This would be immediately beneficial and is proven to have significant impact on victims’ experiences. Although extra resourcing would be required, it is likely that this would ultimately be one of the most cost-effective measures for improving victim satisfaction and safety.

There is much to be said for the delivery of victim support at the time the police are called out to an incident. It is notable that a number of ‘fax-back protocols’ have been initiated in some areas. This may be a practice that should be encouraged by Australian state and territory governments.

Victim support is also crucial at court. The Commissions note that, while victim support workers are a feature of specialised courts, they need not be tied to such courts. Indeed, this is one element which the Commissions believe can be productively mainstreamed across courts. The NSW Domestic Violence Court Assistance Schemes are useful precedents, and the Family Law court support schemes in NSW, Victoria and South Australia should be extended nationally across the family court system.

Proposal 19–2 State and territory governments should, to the extent feasible, make victim support workers and lawyers available at family violence-related court proceedings, and ensure access to victim support workers at the time the police are called out to family violence incidents.

Proposal 19–3 The Australian Government should ensure that court support services for victims of family violence are available nationally in federal family courts.