Legislative Council: Thursday, December 01, 2022


Victims' Rights

The Hon. I. PNEVMATIKOS (14:40): My question is to the Attorney-General. Will the minister, who sits in this chamber, update the chamber about the government's election commitments in the area of victims' rights?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:40): I thank the honourable member for her question. She is quite right, that this area under my portfolio responsibilities as Attorney-General sits with me, so it is appropriate that I inform and update the chamber on what we are doing in the space of victims' rights as a South Australian government. The government was elected with a significant policy of justice for victims and we are committed to delivering on it. I will take just a couple of minutes to outline where we are in delivering on those commitments.

Earlier in the year, while in Mount Gambier, I was pleased to make the announcement that the government would be providing the Victim Support Services of the South-East with an additional $250,000 over the next four years to better support those victims of crime who find themselves in contact with the criminal justice system. The volunteer-run independent service will use these new funds to expand on such programs as court companions, which coordinate volunteers to provide support to victims in court when they give their evidence.

It is safe to say that in the recent times, during the pandemic, greater isolation for many has led to higher rates of anxiety and other mental health conditions, so this support expansion was some small measure to assist people during a very stressful time of their lives and to maintain as best we can adequate and even access to justice in this state. The Safer Spaces initiative in the South-East was also boosted by these additional funds, which assist people to disclose, report and navigate the legal system. I look forward to seeing how these government initiatives improve people's experience with the justice system in the South-East of our state.

The Commissioner for Victims' Rights regularly keeps me informed of the desires of many victims in this state who she represents and for whom she advocates. One issue she brought to my attention was the recommendation to make changes to the Sentencing Act to include that victim impact statements not be able to be unduly edited and that it should be left to a judge or magistrate to exercise their discretion.

I have agreed in principle to that recommendation to make changes to the Sentencing Act that victim impact statements not be edited and be left to the discretion of the court. I was pleased to be able to make the announcement recently, at a Victims' Day event, that the government supports the commissioner's recommendation in principle. I look forward to more announcements in terms of victims' rights in support of victims who find themselves in some of the most difficult and often tragic circumstances that they face in their life.