29 May New partnership delivering support to victims of crime
A new Victims Legal Service has been established to assist victims of crime in receiving financial assistance.
The service is a collaboration between Victoria Legal Aid, community legal centres and Aboriginal legal services.
Victims of crime have unique, diverse and complex legal needs. Access to compensation options can be complicated, deprioritised or delayed, so more immediate support can help victims of crime to progress in their recovery.
Federation of Community Legal Centres CEO Louisa Gibbs says that too often, victims of crime struggle to access supports to assist in their recovery.
‘The Victims Legal Service aims to streamline and widen access to the relevant advice, information and referral services to ensure that all Victorians are appropriately supported during times of distress,’ said Louisa.
The legal assistance sector has been working together for many years to advocate for a specialist legal service for victims of crime.
Women’s Legal Service Victoria Legal Director Lisa Fowler says the Victims Legal Service is the result of this collaboration.
‘Together we’re improving support for the people who need it the most – that’s what we are all about,’ said Lisa.
The new service has been funded by the state government as part of a commitment to improving the experience of victims in the justice system. It provides free legal advice and support to people who have suffered injury or loss because of a violent crime.
The service can assist them in receiving financial assistance through the current Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT) and through the Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS) when it starts. A small part of the service will assist with Restitution and Compensation Order (RACO) applications, to obtain compensation from the person who committed the crime.
Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS) CEO Nerita Waight says VALS is proud to be a part of the delivery of the new Victims Legal Service.
‘The service will minimise trauma and improve the process of seeking compensation by addressing each individual’s unique needs in a culturally safe way,’ said Nerita.
The service model takes a ‘no wrong door approach’ so that victims of crime can access the service through the organisation they are in touch with. This could be a community legal centre, an Aboriginal legal service or Victoria Legal Aid.
This approach also means that a range of services can make direct referrals, including:
- victim support services
- family violence and sexual assault providers
- Aboriginal community-controlled organisations
- other community organisations.
Djirra CEO Antoinette Braybrook says they see the impact and trauma that retelling, and reliving, experiences of violence has on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.
‘The ‘no wrong door’ approach of the Victims Legal Service will ensure that our women are connected with culturally safe services, of their choosing, at first point of contact, and remove the burden of retelling their story,’ said Antoinette.
‘Djirra is a vital part of the Victims Legal Service because we deliver a culturally safe and holistic service that ensures the best possible outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children.’
Collaboration was key in developing the service, with people coming together from across the legal help sector to share their expertise. People with lived experience also contributed to the design of the service.
Victoria Legal Aid Director Civil Justice, Lucy Adams, says this helped better understand the opportunities, issues and solutions the service can offer.
‘Together, we worked through the service design planning process. This included how the phone line and referral to legal services would work, prioritisation, cultural safety and the ongoing legal assistance available to victims,’ said Lucy.
If you or someone you are supporting needs help, you can contact the Victims Legal Service Helpline on 1800 531 566, between 9 am – 5 pm, Monday to Friday.