a group of teenagers sitting in a circle during group therapy for bullying victims

Growing awareness of the ACT Human Rights Commission has resulted in an increase of people accessing their services, according to the Commission’s 2018-19 annual report.

According to the report, the Victims of Crime Commissioner and Victim Support ACT assisted almost 1,700 people affected by crime, including: a 30% increase in the number of new clients assisted under the Victim Services Scheme (up from 404 in 2017-18 to 524 in 2018-19); and their court support volunteer program provided over 250 hours of court support to almost 100 clients.

The Victim Services Scheme provides a range of clinical and non-clinical services to individuals who have experienced crime in the ACT.

Victims of Crime Commissioner Heidi Yates, who has been in the role for 18 months, said her focus has been on trying to improve access to frontline services, “recognising that there are a whole lot of people who might find it challenging to access our service”.

Ms Yates said they successfully advocated to employ two full-time, permanent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander victim liaison officers, as well as reallocating resources for a dedicated cultural liaison.

“We are aware that there is a whole range of people in the community that tend not to access mainstream services,” she said. “A large number of people are coming through the door but we stopped to ask who isn’t coming through the door … or are we not offering a service that’s accessible to them.”

Ms Yates said other initiatives to raise awareness include driving stronger engagement with frontline workers in the disability sector as well as strengthening connections with LGBTIQ+ organisations.

The annual report also highlighted a 16% increase in applications to the Financial Assistance Scheme, and payments totalling $2.56 million made to over 350 victims injured by violent crime.

Ms Yates said crime can have a long-term impact on a person’s health, ability to maintain employment and family relationships; the scheme is designed to “help with immediate need and covering cost of economic loss”.

She said there has been a significant increase for the financial assistance scheme, which is funded by the ACT Government, since it was overhauled three years ago.

According to the report, in 2018-19 community members lodged 453 new financial assistance scheme applications, a 16% increase in applications compared to the total number received in 2017-18 (392 applications) and a 319% increase compared to 2016-17 (108 applications), the scheme’s first year of operation.

The report highlights an increase in payments across all three categories of support: immediate need payments, economic loss payments, and recognition payments.

If someone has been a victim of crime, Ms Yates encouraged them to get in touch “if you would like information or help” in understanding what your options are.

The ACT Human Rights Commission annual report is available on the Commission’s website; hrc.act.gov.au

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