Mark Dreyfus, Katy Gallagher announce ALRC inquiry into sexual violence justice responses

Victims and survivors of sexual violence will soon be better protected from re-traumatisation with a stronger justice system, as part of a plan to improve experiences for those who come forward.

The Albanese government has asked the Australian Law Reform Commission to begin a year-long inquiry into justice response to sexual violence, with the goal of reforming the system to better respond to allegations without causing more harm to victims.

An estimated one in five women will experience sexual violence over the age of 15, but only a small percentage of those will come forward to police.

The inquiry’s terms of reference has been built off the back of a national roundtable, convened last year, that brought together victims and survivors, advocates including Grace Tame and Chanel Contos, and state and commonwealth ministers.

Women’s Minister Katy Gallagher said launching the inquiry was an important step in making sure seeking justice “shouldn’t add to the trauma” for victims.

“This inquiry will look at ways to not only strengthen sexual assault laws, but to improve the outcomes and experiences for victims and survivors,” she said.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said Australia’s justice system needed to do better.

“All too often, seeking justice adds to the trauma experienced by victims and survivors. This inquiry will look at how we can improve victims’ and survivors’ experiences in the justice system by examining relevant laws and legal frameworks, justice sector practices, supports for victims and survivors, and transformative approaches to justice,” he said.

Labor say launching the inquiry is not the only form of action they’re taking, pointing towards a broader policy and reform agenda to better protect women and children from abuse.

Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth said the government had committed $2.3bn in working to end family, domestic and sexual violence.

“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 processes and systems in place they access when seeking justice,” she said.

“We must keep victims and survivors at the centre of all our responses in this space and I’m pleased this inquiry will help to improve outcomes and experiences when interacting with the justice system.”

Marcia Neave AO and Judge Liesl Kudelka of the District Court of South Australia have been appointed part-time commissioners to lead the inquiry, and have been asked to report back by January 22, 2025.

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