Labor launches review into how justice system deals with sexual violence cases | Law (Australia)

A review into how the criminal justice system approaches sexual violence cases will take place over the next year as the federal government looks for ways to limit further trauma for victim-survivors.

The attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, has appointed the former Victorian supreme court judge Marcia Neave and the South Australian district court judge Liesl Kudelka to lead the 12-month review to be undertaken by the Australia Law Reform Commission.

Dreyfus said the inquiry will examine how the experiences of victim-survivors in the justice system can be improved, such as through extra supports for victims.

“All too often, seeking justice adds to the trauma experienced by victims and survivors,” he said.

The review will look at training and development options for judges, police and legal practitioners to enable trauma-informed and culturally safe justice responses.

It is due to report back to the attorney general by 22 January 2025.

Supporting the new review is an expert advisory group made up of victims and survivors of sexual violence, as well as their advocates.

The social services minister, Amanda Rishworth, said it was critical victims and survivors were kept at the centre of the government’s response.

“We know one in five women in Australia has experienced sexual violence since the age of 15. We want to ensure they are not re-traumatised by [the] processes and systems in place they access when seeking justice,” Rishworth said.

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At the weekend the federal government launched its new consent framework in an effort to offer more consistent messaging for young Australians.

The framework is underpinned by five key concepts, including that consent is voluntary and free, specific and informed, affirmative and communicated, ongoing and mutual, and reflects the capacity of individuals involved.

One in five women and one in 16 men have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15, with one in two women in their 20s having experienced sexual violence, according to the 2021-22 personal safety survey.

The review’s launch and the consent framework are part of the Albanese government’s national plan to end violence against women and children, which aims to end violence within one generation.

More than 60 women were violently killed in Australia last year, many at the hands of intimate partners.

There were 2,102 intimate partner homicides between 1989 and 2021, according to the Australian Institute of Criminology’s latest homicide in Australia report.

Three in four (1,589) of the victims were female.

  • In Australia, support is available at 1800Respect (1800 737 732). In the UK, Rape Crisis offers support on 0808 500 2222. In the US, Rainn offers support on 800-656-4673

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