Proposed NSW victim compensation changes would be ‘a tragedy’

Date: May 23, 2013

Proposed changes to victim compensation in New South Wales would be “a tragedy” for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, according to Gerard Malouf of GMP compensation lawyers.

The Victims Rights and Support Bill 2013, introduced into the Legislative Assembly on behalf of state attorney general Greg Smith on May 7 and which had its first reading in the Legislative Council yesterday (May 22), proposes significant changes to the state’s victim compensation scheme.

These include the imposition of ten-year time limits for claims made by victims of domestic violence, child abuse and sexual assault.

In the case of child victims, the Bill proposes a time limitation of ten years after the victim turns 18.

Mr Malouf says that this means many victims could miss out on retrospective compensation for serious abuse.

“The average time for most to come forward is around 15 years, because they feel an unwarranted sense of guilt,” he explained.

Claims for financial assistance for other crimes will need to be made within two years of the incident, or within two years of child victims turning 18.

The legislation also proposes changes that would mean victims are only eligible for compensation if they have already reported the crime to the police or a government agency and a reduction on the maximum lump sum payment available to victims from $50,000 to $15,000.

Attorney general Greg Smith said that the new legislation would mean victims of violent crime get faster and more effective help.

However, the Bill has generated considerable opposition from those concerned that it violates core human rights and non-discrimination principles.

Last week, a group of 30 community, health, human rights, legal and women’s organisations filed an urgent complaint about the proposed changes to the United Nations.

In a May 20 statement released by co-signatory Community Legal Services NSW (CLCNSW), chairperson Anna Cody said the Bill would infringe on the human rights of victims already in the system and those yet to come forward about crimes in the past.

“It will be even harder for women who are victims of crimes to claim in the future,” Ms Cody said.

Convenor of the CLCNSW Victims Compensation Committee Rachael Martin said the message for victims caught out by the new time limits for claiming compensation would be “that their traumatic experiences aren’t worth compensating”.

Ms Cody called on the letter’s intended recipient, UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women Rashida Manjoo, to inform the state parliament about the human rights violations in the proposed legislation.

“This Bill should not pass in its current form.”

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