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Giving Crime Victims a Stronger Voice: Queensland Independent Advisory Group’s Efforts

The Palaszczuk Government would establish an Independent Advisory Group (IAG) to support crime prevention amidst Queensland’s crime victim escalation, the state government announced on Sept. 6.

The IAG would provide crime victims with another voice and a government advisory avenue to improve how the Queensland government receives and deals with victims’ feedback.

The Palaszczuk government acknowledged the anger, fear, and trauma experienced by victims of crime across the state. Queensland Acting Premier Steven Miles said the government was listening and working with crime victims; however, victims wanted a stronger voice in government.

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“Having spent time with victims of crime after those crimes have been perpetrated, I’ve seen firsthand how they can sometimes feel lost, how the system can seem overwhelming, and how alone they can feel,” Mr. Miles said.

Police Minister Mark Ryan was on board and said the government would “never relent” when dealing with crime offenders and that “the voices of crime victims must be front and centre.”

The IGA comes after the Queensland government’s crucial reform journey to deal with complex causes of offending, resulting in victims affected in various cases. Queensland’s Interim Victims’ Commissioner, Jon Rouse APM, was recently appointed, and crime victims were serviced through the Victims Assist program, providing information about support services, victims’ rights, and financial assistance.

Further, the IGA builds on the work of advocates, advocacy groups, and inquiry commissions across the state, including the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce (WSJT).

WSJT Called for Government Action

In July 2023, WSJT called on the Queensland Government to introduce sweeping reforms across criminal justice, policing, and correction systems to support experiences and justice outcomes for the state’s women and girls who are sexual assault victim survivors and accused offenders.

In a report titled “Hear her voice: Report two” (pdf)WSJT made 188 recommendations to the Queensland Government, of which 92 aimed at improving the experience of women and girls as victim-survivors of sexual assault while taking care not to compromise accused persons’ right to a fair trial.

WSJT Chair Margaret McMurdo AC said WSJT heard, listened to, and acted on the voices of victim-survivors of sexual assault. Across 16 months, WSJT received 252 submissions from victim-survivors of sexual assault and 19 from offenders.

WSJT met with women and girls who had experienced sexual violence in supported group meetings and held 79 consultation forums and engagements with stakeholders, including the judiciary, legislators, police, policymakers, academics, and service providers.

‘They (victim-survivors) told us (WSJT) that rape myths made them feel blamed and shamed, and that this added to their trauma’, Ms. McMurdo said.

Additionally, Ms. McMurdo said, “overwhelmingly, victim-survivors wanted the stigma attached to acknowledging and confronting sexual assault removed.”

“Knowing that they will be supported—not shunned, is the first step towards victim-survivors feeling safe enough to report sexual assault.”

Following an alleged sexual assault, WSJT heard a sexual assault victim-survivor confirm they were allegedly questioned in a cold, accusing manner about the alleged incident, “in a way that made me feel I was being questioned as a perpetrator rather than a victim,” the victim-survivor said. “At no point was I treated with respect, dignity, compassion or kindness.”

As a result, WSJT recommended a broad community awareness and education campaign about sexual consent to dispel rape myths, with targeted messages for particular communities. Further, changes within the Queensland Police Service (QPS) to encourage victims to report sexual violence, including in family and domestic incidents and reduce the number of reports withdrawn. An Independent Commission of Inquiry into QPS built on WSJT recommendations.

Inquiry into QPS Supported WSJT Government Recommendations

The Independent Commission of Inquiry into QPS responded to domestic and family violence with a report (pdf) calling for the Queensland government to change the culture within QPS.

Judge Deborah Richards said the report recommendations should assist QPS with its response to domestic and family violence in a way that provides consistency and sympathy for all those impacted.

The Commission’s highest-priority recommendations include those that sought to build the capacity of the QPS to measure and respond to demand for domestic and family violence while strengthening the understanding and skills of QPS members through robust and regular training.

However, the report noted concerns about QPS facing various organisational pressures and shifting priorities. Furthermore, the report said the QPS must be able to move beyond symbolic gestures and withstand its propensity to be reactive to internal and external pressures for genuine change to occur.

“It (QPS) must be able to engage meaningfully with its members to respond to

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