States are accountable to act with due diligence to prevent, investigate and punish acts of violence and victims of violence have a right to reparations for the violation of their human rights. Violence against women is one of the most widespread human rights abuses in Australia.
Compensation for victims of violence is a powerful symbolic acknowledgment of pain and suffering and that a wrong has been done. Public recognition and state accountability through a Victims Compensation Scheme play an important role in reducing violence against women. Compensation also has practical benefits and empowers victims by providing them with choice about how to use their compensation money, which is important in the healing process.
At June 2011, the average waiting time for the determination of a victims compensation claim was 25 months. At the time of writing, many community legal centres in NSW are unable to have clients’ matters listed despite being ready to proceed. Given delays are out of the hands of victims, the NSW government must make a commitment that if any changes to the NSW Victims Compensation Scheme are made that are detrimental to the client, they do not apply retrospectively. Compensation payments should not be decreased. The government also needs to commit to undertaking transparent and adequate consultations, including providing an opportunity to review and comment on any exposure draft Bill.
LIZ SNELL is Law Reform and Policy Co-ordinator at Women’s Legal Services NSW, EDWINA MacDONALD is Law Reform and Policy Solicitor at Kingsford Legal Centre, and RACHAEL MARTIN is Principal Solicitor at Wirringa Baiya Aboriginal Women’s Legal Centre.