Chapter 16

Where people can go for support

Introduction

Victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in government schools often engage with several support services, rather than a single service, over the course of their lifetime.1 This is not surprising, given that child sexual abuse can have a range of impacts and those impacts can change over time.2

To understand the challenges victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in government schools face when trying to access or use supports, it is helpful to explore the range of services available to them.

The service landscape for victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in government schools is complex. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Royal Commission) noted that the service response to victim-survivors of child sexual abuse, including historical child sexual abuse, comprises ‘a tangle of participants, professionals, services, settings and governance arrangements across various government portfolios’.3 The Board of Inquiry heard from a variety of sources that this continues to be the case and that there is no one ‘front door’ that victim-survivors can use to access support.

This Chapter outlines the types of services and schemes that victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in government schools may engage with. This Chapter also outlines the supports available through the Department of Education (Department) for adults who were sexually abused in government schools.

Chapter 17, Support needs and challenges(opens in a new window), describes what the Board of Inquiry was told victim-survivors need from support services. It also considers the challenges that may prevent victim-survivors from having their needs met.

Support services accessed by victim-survivors

Under clause 3(e) of the Terms of Reference, the Board of Inquiry was asked to inquire into ‘whether there are effective support services for victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in government schools’, having regard to ‘other inquiries and reforms that have taken place since the historical child sexual abuse occurred’.4

Victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in government schools may seek different supports from a range of services over their life course. The victim-survivors who shared their experiences with the Board of Inquiry engaged with a wide range of different supports. For example, victim-survivors described engaging with GPs,5 psychologists,6 psychiatrists,7 lawyers,8 specialist sexual assault services,9 counsellors,10 alcohol and other drug treatment services,11 community organisations,12 and residential trauma and healing retreats.13

The Board of Inquiry has defined a ‘support service’ as a service that provides advocacy, support or therapeutic treatment to victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in government schools. Informed by the Royal Commission, the Board of Inquiry has defined ‘advocacy’, ‘support’ and ‘therapeutic treatment’ as follows:

  • advocacy — a wide range of activities to promote, protect and defend victim-survivors’ human rights and their rights to services and information. It may involve assisting victim-survivors to express their own needs, access information, understand their options and make informed decisions14
  • support — emotional and practical assistance to victim-survivors to reduce their feelings of isolation, and promote connections and trusted relationships to aid in healing and recovery15
  • therapeutic treatment — an overarching term covering a range of evidence-informed interventions that address the psychosocial impacts of child sexual abuse. Therapeutic treatments seek to improve victims’ physical, psychological and emotional wellbeing, and enhance quality of life.16

Support services can include:

  • services providing responses to individuals who have experienced or been affected by historical child sexual abuse (including parents, partners, siblings and other secondary victims)
  • services provided by government and non-government services (including publicly funded and private services)
  • victim-survivor-led and peer-led services.

The Board of Inquiry acknowledges that some victim-survivors may require financial support, legal advice and assistance, social services support (for example, housing or Centrelink supports) or community support designed for specific cohorts. The Board of Inquiry’s Terms of Reference limited its ability to inquire into these types of support services in detail. However, where relevant the Board of Inquiry has referred to these supports and the important role that they can play for victim-survivors throughout Part D(opens in a new window).

Types of services

In Victoria, there are multiple services that victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse may access to meet their various needs (whether the child sexual abuse occurred in government schools or not). These services include the following:

  • Mainstream services — These are universal services that are designed to be available to all Victorians. They include health services, mental health services, alcohol and other drug treatment services and welfare services.
  • Community and not-for-profit services — These are offered by a wide range of non-government organisations and include place-based services (in specific regions), telephone and online helplines, and services for particular groups of people (for example, Aboriginal people). Many community organisations receive government funding to deliver services.
  • Victim support services provided through the justice system — These services support victims of crime to access and move through legal processes, including criminal proceedings and seeking compensation through civil litigation.
  • Sexual assault and family violence support services — These services offer crisis and therapeutic support, advocacy, practical assistance, and information and advice for people who have experienced any form of sexual assault (including child sexual abuse) or family violence.

These services are governed by a range of complex funding, service-delivery and regulatory arrangements. Many services are funded by either or both the Victorian and Commonwealth governments, with specific departments then being responsible for administering them. The administration of services includes allocating funding, and developing and managing service-delivery arrangements with organisations. Legislation or regulatory requirements often dictate how organisations deliver their services and acquit their obligations under their service agreements.17

Each service will deliver different types of support to victim-survivors. These may include advocacy, practical assistance navigating complex processes (such as legal proceedings or eligibility for compensation) and therapeutic support designed to support healing. Not all services deliver all forms of support, and their level of specialisation and intensiveness differs.

Victim-survivors may be engaged with multiple services at one time to meet their various needs.18 People may not identify as victim-survivors of child sexual abuse when accessing these services, even when engaging with the services to manage the impacts of the child sexual abuse they experienced.19

In some instances, victim-survivors may choose to pay to access a private service.

Diagram 8 provides an overview of where victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse may go to seek support. More information on a number of specific services is provided immediately below. Financial assistance and redress schemes, and support offered by the Department, are discussed later in this Chapter.

Diagram 8 Overview of support available to victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse

Mainstream services

While mainstream services are not designed specifically to respond to victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse, many victim-survivors and secondary victims engage with these services throughout their lives for assistance relating to the impacts of child sexual abuse.

Descriptions of some key mainstream services are given below.

Health services (including GPs)

Health services provide medical care and can be delivered in a range of settings, such as public and private hospitals,20 and primary and community health services.21

GPs provide primary healthcare, which is often the first point of contact a person has with health services.22 GPs can treat a range of health issues and can also refer people to a broader range of supports, including mental health services. The main way GPs facilitate access to mental health services is through developing mental health treatment plans for people, which allow them to access subsidised mental health treatment. Several victim-survivors and secondary victim survivors told the Board of Inquiry that they had consulted GPs about their mental health.23

Mental health services

Mental health services are provided by trained professionals in a range of settings, including through hospitals; residential, community and health services; and private and non-government organisations.

At present, victim-survivors may access up to 10 individual and 10 group sessions with certain mental health professionals (such as psychologists), subsidised under Medicare, with a mental health treatment plan developed by a GP.24 Because psychologists can set their own fees, Medicare may cover only some of the cost.25

In Victoria, victim-survivors who require more intensive support or who have complex mental health needs may receive mental health support from state-funded specialist mental health services, which may provide support in hospital settings or through community support services.26

Victoria is also rolling out new Mental Health and Wellbeing Locals (Locals), which provide treatment, care and support for people aged 26 years and over who are experiencing mental health concerns, including those with co-occurring alcohol and other drug treatment needs.27 The Locals provide a range of services — including therapies, wellbeing supports, education, peer support and self-help information — close to where people live and free of charge. A referral from a GP or other health professional is not required.28

Many victim-survivors who spoke to the Board of Inquiry had seen a mental health professional at some stage of their life, including through private practice and in hospitals.29

Alcohol and other drug treatment services

The Victorian Government funds a range of organisations to deliver alcohol and other drug treatment services through ‘treatment streams’. These treatment streams are counselling, withdrawal services (non-residential and residential), therapeutic day rehabilitation, residential rehabilitation, care and recovery coordination and pharmacotherapy. There are also population-specific services.30 Access to Victoria’s state-funded alcohol and other drug treatment system is generally free, though some services have a small cost.31

The Commonwealth Government also funds a National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline that provides ‘confidential support for people struggling with addiction’.32

Further, victim-survivors can pay for private alcohol and other drug treatment services, or engage with peer groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.

Welfare services

‘Welfare services’ is an over-arching term referring to a wide range of services that ‘aim to encourage participation and independence and can help enhance a person’s wellbeing’.33 Welfare services are provided to people across a range of different ages and social and economic circumstances.

Examples of welfare services include:

  • employment services to help people secure and maintain stable employment
  • disability services to help people with disability and their carers participate in society
  • aged care services to help older people with their living arrangements
  • homelessness services to support people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness to access accommodation.34

Community and not-for-profit services

Community and not-for-profit organisations provide a range of services to the community. Some provide services in specific regions (place-based services), and some provide services to specific cohorts or communities, including children and families, Aboriginal people, LGBTIQA+ communities, and culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

The extent to which community organisations provide support that is suitable to meet the needs of victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse varies. Some provide broad wellbeing, counselling and information support that victim-survivors may access along with other members of the community. Others are funded by the Victorian or Commonwealth governments to provide services more tailored to victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse or victims of crime more broadly, such as support to make an application to the National Redress Scheme (discussed later in this Chapter).

Descriptions of some services provided by community and not-for-profit organisations are given below.

Telephone and online helplines

Victim-survivors can access a range of telephone and online helplines operated by not-for-profit organisations for advice and support.

While most of these are generalist mental health helplines, they can act as a gateway to other services and can offer advice about managing the mental health impacts of child sexual abuse. Telephone and online helplines include the following:

  • Lifeline — This is a national charity providing crisis support and suicide prevention services via phone or online.35 Lifeline receives funding from the Commonwealth and Victorian governments, as well as other state and territory governments.36
  • MensLine (delivered by Lifeline) — This is a free, nationwide service providing telephone and online counselling support for Australian men.37
  • Suicide Call Back Service (delivered by Lifeline) — This is a free, nationwide service providing telephone and online counselling to people affected by suicide.38
  • Beyond Blue — This is a not-for-profit organisation providing free telephone and online counselling.39 Beyond Blue receives funding from the Commonwealth and Victorian governments, as well as other state and territory governments.40

The above helplines all operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Services for Pre-1990 Care Leavers

Some community organisations are funded by the Commonwealth and Victorian governments to provide support to people who spent time in institutional or other forms of out-of-home care as children prior to 1990 — otherwise known as ‘Pre-1990 Care Leavers’ or ‘Forgotten Australians’.41 This includes services that provide advocacy, case management, referrals and counselling, as well as assistance to access people’s records and ward files.

For the purposes of the Board of Inquiry’s work, the definition of ‘government school’ in the Terms of Reference ‘excludes schools that were historically attached to orphanages or group homes’.42

Victim support services provided through the justice system

Victoria has several services for victims of crime and people engaging (or seeking to engage) in the justice system. Some of these services provide general support and referrals, while others are designed to support victims through specific processes, such as a criminal proceeding or seeking financial assistance.

Victims of Crime Helpline

The Department of Justice and Community Safety delivers a Victims of Crime Helpline, which is available between 8am and 11pm, seven days a week.43

The Victims of Crime Helpline offers free information, support and referrals for victims of reported and unreported crime.44 This can include information about victim entitlements, the criminal justice system and legal processes, and support to connect to other services.45 The Victims of Crime Helpline can also provide information and advice about reporting a crime, court processes and applying for financial assistance.46

The Victims of Crime Helpline also acts as a central intake point for the Victims Assistance Program (discussed below),referring eligible people who require more intensive support.47

The Department of Justice and Community Safety told the Board of Inquiry that the Victims of Crime Helpline receives:

  • referrals from Victoria Police on behalf of victims of crime, where the crime involved physical or mental harm to a person (often referred to as ‘crimes against the person’)
  • referrals from Victoria Police on behalf of male victim-survivors of family violence
  • referrals from community organisations
  • calls from victims of crime and the general public seeking information and support (self-referral).48

The Commonwealth Government provides funding to the Victims of Crime Helpline to provide family violence specialists as part of the service.49

Victims Assistance Program

The Department of Justice and Community Safety told the Board of Inquiry that the Victim Assistance Program (VAP), funded by the Victorian Government, provides flexible services that aim to meet the practical, emotional and psychological needs of victims of crime.50 The support that the VAP provides is tailored to the individual, and can include:

  • assistance with day-to-day needs
  • support to communicate with police
  • organising counselling, transport and medical services
  • assistance to get ready for court or prepare a Victim Impact Statement
  • support to apply for financial assistance.51

The VAP is available to primary, secondary and/or related victims of crimes against the person perpetrated in Victoria.52 Crimes against the person include sexual assault (including historical child sexual abuse), family violence, physical assault and homicide.53

The VAP is delivered by a network of six community organisations.54 VAP workers are also co-located in 39 police stations across the state, in both metropolitan and regional locations.55

The Board of Inquiry was told that, in order to determine client eligibility, organisations undertake an assessment process to reasonably establish that a victim-survivor has been a victim of crime against the person. There is no requirement for the victim-survivor to have reported the crime to police.56

The VAP receives most of its referrals through the Victims of Crime Helpline and from other justice agencies, such as the Office of Public Prosecutions, although victim-survivors can also self-refer.57

Victims Legal Service

The Victorian Government funds the Victims Legal Service, which is delivered by Victoria Legal Aid, community legal centres and Aboriginal legal services.

The Victims Legal Service provides free legal advice and support to victim-survivors who need help to seek financial assistance through the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal or compensation from the person who committed the crime.58 The Victims Legal Service Helpline, run by Victoria Legal Aid, is the primary entry point into the service.59

The Department of Justice and Community Safety told the Board of Inquiry that the Commonwealth Government has funded a pilot program that will expand the Victims Legal Service to support victim-survivors to prevent their confidential communications and health information from being used in criminal proceedings, and to support Aboriginal women to report sexual offences to police.60 The program will run over a period of three years, until 2025–26.61

Other criminal justice services

Other services available for victim-survivors who have been involved in criminal proceedings include the following:

  • Intermediary Program — This assists certain vulnerable witnesses to give evidence to the best of their ability through support from trained communication specialists, known as intermediaries.62 The program is available for eligible witnesses — children and young people aged under 18, and adults with a cognitive impairment — who are the complainants in sexual offence matters, or witnesses to homicide.63 The program is available in several court and police locations across Victoria.64
  • Victims and Witness Assistance Service — Operated by the Office of Public Prosecutions, this service provides adult victims and witnesses with information about court processes, and support them to give evidence.65
  • Victims Register — This provides information to eligible victims of crimes against the person (including sexual offences) about an offender’s sentence, including when the offender is due to be released from prison.66

Sexual assault and family violence support services

Sexual assault support services seek to address the impacts of sexual assault, including historical child sexual abuse, and provide a range of advocacy, support and therapeutic services.

Family violence services provide a range of supports for people experiencing family violence, including those who are in crisis and need immediate support.67 Previous research has demonstrated that women who have experienced child sexual abuse are more likely to experience family violence than other women,68 and thus may need support in this area.69

Specialist sexual assault services

Specialist sexual assault services are available across Victoria for people who have experienced recent or historical sexual assault (including historical child sexual abuse).70 These services are also available for non-offending family members and support people.71 Many of these services are called Centres Against Sexual Assault. Specialist sexual assault services are funded by the Victorian Government.72

Victoria’s specialist sexual assault services provide free and confidential services to people who have experienced sexual assault, including:

  • counselling and advocacy for victim-survivors and others affected by sexual assault. Approaches can include psychoeducation, cognitive behavioural therapy and group therapies.73 They can also include eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing74
  • assistance in managing the practical consequences of sexual assault (including support to access emergency housing or compensation), and support and information for non-offending family members and support people75
  • brokerage funding, which is flexible funding that can be used to meet a victim-survivor’s basic material needs (including clothing and food), or to pay for services such as legal fees, and transport or childcare costs.76

Specialist sexual assault services also provide:

  • immediate crisis response for people who have experienced a recent sexual assault, including crisis intervention, counselling, advocacy and liaison; for example, coordination of support and contact with child protection, police, and forensic and other medical personnel77
  • support and services for children and young people exhibiting harmful sexual behaviours.78

In addition, specialist sexual assault services offer prevention activities, including community education, advocacy, and training and support for other professionals.79

Victim-survivors can self-refer to a specialist sexual assault service or may be referred to the service through a number of different agencies, including police.80

Multidisciplinary centres

Some specialist sexual assault services are located within multidisciplinary centres. Multidisciplinary centres co-locate a range of agencies in one building to provide a victim-centred response to sexual assault and child sexual abuse.81 Staff at multidisciplinary centres can include police, child protection staff, community health nurses and forensic medical officers.82 Some multidisciplinary centres also provide a response to family violence.83

Aboriginal sexual assault support services

The Victorian Government also funds four Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations to deliver ‘culturally safe support to Aboriginal Victorians who are victim-survivors of sexual violence or harm’.84

The Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH), provided evidence to the Board of Inquiry that these ‘cultural models of support … focus on safety, healing and wellbeing of Aboriginal people’.85 The DFFH evidence also indicates that ‘Aboriginal people who have experienced sexual violence and harm’ can self-refer or may be directed to this support from other programs within the same Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation.86

Sexual Assault Crisis Line

The Sexual Assault Crisis Line is Victoria’s statewide, after-hours telephone line providing crisis counselling support, information, advocacy and referrals to anyone living in Victoria who has experienced past or recent sexual assault.87 The Sexual Assault Crisis Line is also the central after-hours coordination centre for all recent sexual assaults.88

The Sexual Assault Crisis Line operates between 5pm weeknights through to 9am the next day, and across weekends and public holidays. Calls outside of those hours are directed to the relevant specialist sexual assault service.89

The Sexual Assault Crisis Line is funded by the Victorian Government.

1800RESPECT

1800RESPECT is a national information, counselling and support service for people affected by domestic, family or sexual violence. 1800RESPECT is a confidential service, and operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.90

1800RESPECT can provide information on domestic, family and sexual violence, as well as phone counselling and referrals to other agencies.91

1800RESPECT is funded by the Commonwealth Government.92

Family violence support services

The Victorian Government also funds family violence support services, including the following:

  • Specialist family violence services — These services are available across Victoria and provide a range of supports for victim-survivors of family violence. These can include case management activities, family violence risk assessment and management processes, safety planning, counselling and advocacy. Victim-survivors can self-refer to these services or they can be referred from an intake point such as The Orange Door or Safe Steps.93
  • The Orange Door — The Orange Doors are located throughout Victoria and act as entry points into a range of services that victim-survivors may need.94 Services available at The Orange Doors are directed to victim-survivors of family violence and families needing extra support to care for children, and include risk and needs assessment, safety planning and crisis support.95
  • Safe Steps — Safe Steps is Victoria’s 24/7 family violence response centre.96 It is staffed by family violence crisis specialists and provides victim-survivors with a range of supports.97

Redress and financial assistance schemes

Victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse (and other forms of sexual assault) may be able to seek redress or access financial assistance. Two schemes that victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse may engage with are the:

  • National Redress Scheme
  • Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT).

Some of the services previously mentioned are involved in supporting victim-survivors engaging with these schemes.

National Redress Scheme

The National Redress Scheme was established by the Commonwealth Government in 2018 in response to recommendations made by the Royal Commission. The National Redress Scheme provides support to people who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse through three components:

  • a monetary payment of up to $150,000
  • a ‘Direct Personal Response’ (DPR) from the responsible institution or institutions under the DPR Program
  • therapeutic support through the Counselling and Psychological Care Service (CPC Service).98

Victim-survivors can receive support before or during the application process, or as an element of redress. Table 5 summarises the primary supports victim-survivors can receive through the National Redress Scheme.

Table 5 Support through the national redress scheme

Type of supportDescription
Redress Support Services

The Commonwealth Government funds Redress Support Services across the country.

Redress Support Services provide free, practical and emotional support to those making, or considering making, an application for redress.99 This can include referrals to knowmore for free legal advice and assistance, as well as to other community services.100

There are nine Redress Support Service providers in Victoria, and additional Redress Support Service providers that operate nationally.101

The Victorian Government also contributes funding to some of the Redress Support Services operating in Victoria, including the CPC Service and services for Pre-1990 Care Leavers.

Legal advice and assistanceThe Commonwealth Government funds knowmore, a national legal service that provides free legal support for people considering applying for redress under the National Redress Scheme. knowmore can provide advice on how accepting an offer of redress may affect any future claims a victim-survivor may make.102
Counselling and Psychological Care Service

Victim-survivors who receive an offer of redress are eligible to receive support through the CPC Service. The DFFH administers the CPC Service on behalf of all participating Victorian institutions.103

People who are family, extended family or close friends of, or have a family-like relationship with, a victim-survivor can also receive assistance under the CPC Service.104

The DFFH provides intake, assessment and navigation to services based on a person’s request.105

Counselling and psychological care provided under the CPC Service are delivered by practitioners in private and non-government organisations. Support that victim-survivors can access includes:

  • counselling support from a psychologist, specialist community service organisation or other mental health professional
  • supportive group work
  • alternative supports, such as therapeutic case management, animal assisted therapy,
    mind–body somatic therapy, and art, music and dance therapy
  • cultural healing for First Nations people.106
Direct Personal Response Program

The DFFH leads the Victorian Government’s DPR Program.

The DPR Program aims to provide recipients of redress with an opportunity to engage with the institution or institutions responsible for the child sexual abuse they experienced.

This engagement ‘can include sharing experiences of the abuse and its impacts, institutional acknowledgement, apology, and demonstration of accountability for the child sexual abuse, and an opportunity to hear what the institution is doing to prevent and improve responses to child sexual abuse’.107

A DPR can be delivered face-to-face, as a written response, or by any other agreed method.108

While the DPR Program is not a therapeutic service, it can support people’s healing.

Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal

Victims of violent crime, including sexual offences, may apply to VOCAT for financial assistance related to expenses actually incurred, or reasonably likely to be incurred, as a direct result of the crime. This includes financial assistance to access counselling and psychological treatment services.109

People eligible to apply to VOCAT are ‘primary victims’ (persons injured as a result of a violent crime), ‘secondary victims’ (persons injured as a result of being present at or witnessing the violent crime) and ‘related victims’ (family members, dependants or intimate partners of a primary victim who died as a result of the violent crime).110

The Victims Legal Service is available to assist victim-survivors seeking to make an application to VOCAT.

VOCAT is being replaced by a new Victims of Crime Financial Assistance Scheme, which is expected to commence in 2024.111

The Department

The Department does not provide services directly to victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in government schools. However, it does support victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse by:

  • providing reimbursement for counselling and psychological services through Counselling Assistance Payments (as discussed further below)112
  • providing information and advice to victim-survivors who have reported historical child sexual abuse to it (as discussed further below).113 It has recently established a Sexual Harm Response Unit that receives these reports114
  • being a ‘participating State institution’ under the National Redress Scheme. State institutions that participate in this Scheme will be liable for providing redress to a person eligible for redress.115

Counselling Assistance Payments

The Board of Inquiry heard evidence from the Department that current and former students who have been sexually abused at a Victorian government school are able to receive limited financial assistance from the Department for counselling through Counselling Assistance Payments.116 Counselling Assistance Payments were established in 2006, prior to the introduction of the National Redress Scheme in 2018.117

The Department’s evidence to the Board of Inquiry was that Counselling Assistance Payments enable victim-survivors to receive reimbursement or payment on invoice for sessions with private counselling or psychological services.118 Victim-survivors identify the services they wish to access; the Department does not make referrals or recommend services to victim-survivors.119

The Department’s evidence was that applicants are eligible for reimbursement for up to 10 sessions, and may then apply for further assistance.120

In order to access Counselling Assistance Payments, victim-survivors must meet certain minimum evidentiary requirements. Victim-survivors need to provide supporting material from a treating medical practitioner, and there needs to be ‘some form of credible evidence to indicate that the applicant was sexually abused while at a government school’.121

The Board of Inquiry was told that ‘credible evidence’ can include ‘a statement from the victim-survivor indicating that the abuse occurred, and evidence that the teacher taught at the victim-survivor’s school at the same time the victim-survivor attended the school’.122 The Department advised that it obtains this evidence through checking enrolment records to confirm that the person was enrolled at the relevant government school at the same time the alleged perpetrator was working there.123

Accepting a Counselling Assistance Payment offer does not prevent a victim-survivor from seeking compensation from or bringing a legal claim against the Department.124

At the Board of Inquiry’s public hearings, the Department noted that eligibility to access Counselling Assistance Payments had recently been expanded to include family members of victim-survivors as secondary victims.125 At the time of writing this report, the Department was still developing internal guidelines and eligibility criteria for these secondary victims.126

The Department described Counselling Assistance Payments as a ‘stopgap measure’ because of the strengthening of services available since the introduction of the National Redress Scheme.127 Since Counselling Assistance Payments were introduced in 2006, uptake has been low, with only 18 confirmed people accessing these payments.128 The Department believes this could be due to a range of factors, including lack of awareness of Counselling Assistance Payments, and low trust in, and willingness of victim-survivors to engage with, the Department.129

Sexual Harm Response Unit

The Department told the Board of Inquiry that in early 2023, it established the Sexual Harm Response Unit to support schools to respond to incidents of child sexual abuse.130

The primary role of the Sexual Harm Response Unit is to provide central oversight and coordination of existing functions within the Department involved in responding to allegations of recent child sexual abuse.131 However, the Department told the Board of Inquiry that the Sexual Harm Response Unit also receives and responds to reports from victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in government schools.132

Since 30 June 2023, contact information for the Sexual Harm Response Unit has been available on the Victorian Government website.133 As of 31 December 2023, 10 victim-survivors had contacted the Sexual Harm Response Unit to report historical child sexual abuse in a government school.134

In describing the Sexual Harm Response Unit’s response to reports from victim-survivors, the Department said that it takes ‘an individualised approach to each report’ and is guided by the victim-survivor’s needs.135

As part of its response to victim-survivors, the Sexual Harm Response Unit seeks to ensure the victim-survivor is aware of relevant support services.136 The Department gave evidence that, given the small number of reports the Sexual Harm Response Unit has received to date, the unit has not yet provided ‘warm’ referrals to other agencies on behalf of victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse, but that it has done so for cases of non-historical child sexual abuse.137 A warm referral involves contacting a service on behalf of, or with, a person, rather than providing the person with contact information so they can contact the service directly.

The Department’s evidence was that the Sexual Harm Response Unit works collaboratively with the victim-survivor on any engagement with police; although at the time the Department made its statement to the Board of Inquiry, the Sexual Harm Response Unit had only received one report, where a report that had not been previously made to police.138

The evidence of the Department was that the Sexual Harm Response Unit’s involvement with historical cases is currently quite limited,139 and the Sexual Harm Response Unit does not currently support victim-survivors who have lawyers representing them in civil claims or who are seeking redress under the National Redress Scheme.140

Chapter 16 Endnotes

  1. Transcript of Leah Bromfield, 24 October 2023, P-75 [38]–[44].
  2. Statement of Leah Bromfield, 23 October 2023, 16 [82].
  3. Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Final Report, December 2017) vol 9, 101.
  4. Order in Council (Vic), ‘Appointment of a Board of Inquiry into Historical Child Sexual Abuse in Beaumaris Primary School and Certain Other Government Schools’, Victorian Government Gazette, No S 339, 28 June 2023, cl 3(e).
  5. See e.g.: Private session 18.
  6. See e.g.: Private session 4.
  7. See e.g.: Private session 24.
  8. See e.g.: Private session 9.
  9. See e.g.: Lived Experience Perspectives Roundtable, Record of Proceedings, 1 December 2023, P-16 [18]–[45].
  10. See e.g.: Private session 23; Private session 14.
  11. See e.g.: Private session 23.
  12. See e.g.: Lived Experience Perspectives Roundtable, Record of Proceedings, 1 December 2023, P-23 [25]–[30].
  13. See e.g.: Lived Experience Perspectives Roundtable, Record of Proceedings, 1 December 2023, P-18 [18]–[41].
  14. Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Final Report, December 2017) vol 9, 22.
  15. Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Final Report, December 2017) vol 9, 24.
  16. Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Final Report, December 2017) vol 9, 24.
  17. These complexities were noted in Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System (Final Report, February 2021) vol 4, 65–7.
  18. Statement of Joe Tucci, 21 November 2023, 7 [34].
  19. Antonia Quadara et al, Pathways to Support Services for Victim/Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse and Their Families (Report, 2016) 30.
  20. ‘Hospitals & Health Services’, Department of Health (Web Page) <https://www.health.vic.gov.au/hospitals-health-services>(opens in a new window).
  21. ‘Primary & Community Health’, Department of Health (Web Page) <https://www.health.vic.gov.au/primary-community-health>(opens in a new window).
  22. ‘Primary Healthcare Explained’, Better Health Channel (Web Page) <https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/servicesandsupport/primary-healthcare-explained#primary-healthcare-providers>(opens in a new window).
  23. See e.g.: Private session 10; Private session 18; Private session 22; Private session 30.
  24. ‘Mental Health Treatment Plan’, Health Direct (Web Page) <https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/mental-health-treatment-plan>(opens in a new window).
  25. ‘Mental Health Treatment Plan’, Health Direct (Web Page) <https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/mental-health-treatment-plan>(opens in a new window).
  26. ‘Adult Specialist Mental Health Services’, Department of Health (Web Page) <https://www.health.vic.gov.au/mental-health-services/adult-specialist-mental-health-services>(opens in a new window).
  27. ‘Local Adult and Older Adult Mental Health and Wellbeing Services’, Department of Health (Web Page) <https://www.health.vic.gov.au/mental-health-reform/local-adult-and-older-adult-mental-health-and-wellbeing-services>(opens in a new window).
  28. ‘Mental Health and Wellbeing Locals & Mental Health and Wellbeing Hubs Factsheet’ (Fact Sheet, July 2023), Department of Health 2 <https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/2023-07/mental-health-and-wellbeing-locals-mental-health-and-wellbeing-hubs-factsheet.pdf>(opens in a new window).
  29. See e.g.: Private session 24; Private session 10; Private session 9.
  30. ‘Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services’, Department of Health (Web Page) <https://www.health.vic.gov.au/alcohol-and-drugs/alcohol-and-other-drug-treatment-services>(opens in a new window).
  31. ‘Overview of Victoria’s Alcohol and Drug Treatment System’, Department of Health (Web Page) <https://www.health.vic.gov.au/aod-treatment-services/overview-of-victorias-alcohol-and-drug-treatment-system>(opens in a new window).
  32. ‘National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline’, Department of Health and Aged Care (Web Page) <https://www.health.gov.au/contacts/national-alcohol-and-other-drug-hotline>(opens in a new window).
  33. ‘Understanding Welfare and Wellbeing’, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (Web Page) <https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-welfare/understanding-welfare-and-wellbeing>(opens in a new window).
  34. ‘Understanding Welfare and Wellbeing’, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (Web Page) <https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-welfare/understanding-welfare-and-wellbeing>(opens in a new window).
  35. ‘Who We Are’, Lifeline (Web Page) <https://www.lifeline.org.au/about/who-we-are>(opens in a new window).
  36. ‘Government Supporters’, Lifeline (Web Page) <https://www.lifeline.org.au/about/government-supporters>(opens in a new window).
  37. ‘MensLine Australia: Free Help, Referrals & Counselling for Men’, MensLine Australia (Web Page) <https://mensline.org.au>(opens in a new window).
  38. ‘Suicide Call Back Service: Mental Health Counselling’, Suicide Call Back Service (Web Page) <https://www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au>(opens in a new window).
  39. ‘Talk to a Counsellor’, Beyond Blue (Web Page) <https://www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support/talk-to-a-counsellor>(opens in a new window).
  40. ‘Our Funding’, Beyond Blue (Web Page) <https://www.beyondblue.org.au/about-us/who-we-are-and-what-we-do/our-funding>(opens in a new window).
  41. Statement of Jane Sweeney, 10 November 2023, 7 [28], 8 [31].
  42. Order in Council (Vic), ‘Appointment of a Board of Inquiry into Historical Child Sexual Abuse in Beaumaris Primary School and Certain Other Government Schools’, Victorian Government Gazette, No S 339, 28 June 2023, cl 3.3.
  43. Document prepared by the Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety in response to a Notice to Produce, ‘Support Services for Victim-survivors of Historical Child Sexual Abuse’, 4 October 2023, 18 [120].
  44. Document prepared by the Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety in response to a Notice to Produce, ‘Support Services for Victim-survivors of Historical Child Sexual Abuse’, 4 October 2023, 18 [120].
  45. State Government of Victoria, ‘Get Help’, Victims of Crime (Web Page) <https://www.victimsofcrime.vic.gov.au/get-help>(opens in a new window).
  46. State Government of Victoria, ‘Contact Victims of Crime’, Victims of Crime (Web Page) <https://www.victimsofcrime.vic.gov.au/contact-victims-crime>(opens in a new window).
  47. Document prepared by the Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety in response to a Notice to Produce, ‘Support Services for Victim-survivors of Historical Child Sexual Abuse’, 4 October 2023, 19 [134], [135(b)].
  48. Document prepared by the Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety in response to a Notice to Produce, ‘Support Services for Victim-survivors of Historical Child Sexual Abuse’, 4 October 2023, 18 [120].
  49. Document prepared by the Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety in response to a Notice to Produce, ‘Support Services for Victim-survivors of Historical Child Sexual Abuse’, 4 October 2023, 19 [126].
  50. Document prepared by the Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety in response to a Notice to Produce, ‘Support Services for Victim-survivors of Historical Child Sexual Abuse’, 4 October 2023, 4 [5].
  51. State Government of Victoria, ‘Get Help’, Victims of Crime (Web Page) <https://www.victimsofcrime.vic.gov.au/get-help>(opens in a new window).
  52. Document prepared by the Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety in response to a Notice to Produce, ‘Support Services for Victim-survivors of Historical Child Sexual Abuse’, 4 October 2023, 5 [13].
  53. Document prepared by the Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety in response to a Notice to Produce, ‘Support Services for Victim-survivors of Historical Child Sexual Abuse’, 4 October 2023, 5 [13].
  54. Document prepared by the Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety in response to a Notice to Produce, ‘Support services for Victim-survivors of Historical Child Sexual Abuse’, 4 October 2023, 4 [8].
  55. Document prepared by the Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety in response to a Notice to Produce, ‘Support Services for Victim-survivors of Historical Child Sexual Abuse’, 4 October 2023, 7 [34].
  56. Document prepared by the Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety in response to a Notice to Produce, ‘Support Services for Victim-survivors of Historical Child Sexual Abuse’, 4 October 2023, 5 [14].
  57. Document prepared by the Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety in response to a Notice to Produce, ‘Support Services for Victim-survivors of Historical Child Sexual Abuse’, 4 October 2023, 6 [25].
  58. State Government of Victoria, ‘Victims Legal Service’, Victims of Crime (Web Page, 27 November 2023) <https://www.victimsofcrime.vic.gov.au/victims-legal-service>(opens in a new window).
  59. Document prepared by the Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety in response to a Notice to Produce, ‘Support Services for Victim-survivors of Historical Child Sexual Abuse’, 4 October 2023, 95 [15].
  60. Document prepared by the Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety in response to a Notice to Produce, ‘Support services for Victim-survivors of Historical Child Sexual Abuse’, 4 October 2023, 15 [100]–[101].
  61. Document prepared by the Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety in response to a Notice to Produce, ‘Support services for Victim-survivors of Historical Child Sexual Abuse’, 4 October 2023, 15 [100]–[101].
  62. Document prepared by the Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety in response to a Notice to Produce, ‘Support Services for Victim-survivors of Historical Child Sexual Abuse’, 4 October 2023, 11 [63]–[68].
  63. Document prepared by the Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety in response to a Notice to Produce, ‘Support Services for Victim-survivors of Historical Child Sexual Abuse’, 4 October 2023, 11 [64].
  64. Document prepared by the Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety in response to a Notice to Produce, ‘Support Services for Victim-survivors of Historical Child Sexual Abuse’, 4 October 2023, 11 [65].
  65. ‘How We Can Support You’, Office of Public Prosecutions (Web Page) <https://www.opp.vic.gov.au/victims-witnesses/how-we-can-support-you(opens in a new window)>.
  66. Document prepared by the Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety in response to a Notice to Produce, ‘Support Services for Victim-survivors of Historical Child Sexual Abuse’, 4 October 2023, 8 [40].
  67. ‘Family Violence Statewide Support Services’, VIC.GOV.AU (Web Page) <https://www.vic.gov.au/family-violence-statewide-support-services>(opens in a new window).
  68. Peta Cox, ‘Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence in the Context of Co-occurrence and Re-victimisations: State of Knowledge Paper(opens in a new window)’ (ANROWS, October 2015) 24–5.
  69. Submission 46, In Good Faith Foundation, 9.
  70. Submission 40, Sexual Assault Services Victoria, 1–2.
  71. Sexual Assault Support Services — 38016(opens in a new window)’, 1 (Fact Sheet, December 2020), Department of Families, Fairness and Housing <https://providers.dffh.vic.gov.au/sexual-assault-support-services-38016>(opens in a new window).
  72. Statement of Kelly Stanton, 3 November 2023, 5 [15].
  73. Statement of Kelly Stanton, 3 November 2023, 4–5 [13].
  74. Submission 40, Sexual Assault Services Victoria, 1, 3.
  75. Statement of Kelly Stanton, 3 November 2023, 4–5 [13].
  76. Family Safety Victoria, ‘Sexual Assault Support Brokerage Program Guidelines’ (December 2021); Statement of Kelly Stanton, 3 November 2023, 4–5 [13].
  77. Statement of Kelly Stanton, 3 November 2023, 4–5 [13], 14 [50]; Submission 40, Sexual Assault Services Victoria, 1.
  78. Submission 40, Sexual Assault Services Victoria, 1.
  79. Submission 40, Sexual Assault Services Victoria, 1.
  80. Statement of Kelly Stanton, 3 November 2023, 15–16 [52].
  81. Statement of Kelly Stanton, 3 November 2023, 6–7 [23]–[25].
  82. ‘Reporting in Person at Multidisciplinary Centres’, Victoria Police (Web Page) <https://www.police.vic.gov.au/options-guide-victim-survivors-victoria-police-perpetrated-family-violence-or-sexual-offences/reporting-in-person-at-mdcs>(opens in a new window).
  83. ‘Reporting in Person at Multidisciplinary Centres’, Victoria Police (Web Page) <https://www.police.vic.gov.au/options-guide-victim-survivors-victoria-police-perpetrated-family-violence-or-sexual-offences/reporting-in-person-at-mdcs>(opens in a new window).
  84. Statement of Kelly Stanton, 9 November 2023, 7 [27].
  85. Statement of Kelly Stanton, 9 November 2023, 7 [28].
  86. Statement of Kelly Stanton, 9 November 2023, 16 [54].
  87. Statement of Kelly Stanton, 9 November 2023, 6 [19], [21]; ‘Sexual Assault Crisis Line’, Sexual Assault Crisis Line (Web Page) <https://www.sacl.com.au>(opens in a new window).
  88. Statement of Kelly Stanton, 9 November 2023, 6 [20].
  89. ‘Welcome to Sexual Assault Services Victoria’, Sexual Assault Services Victoria (Web Page) <https://www.sasvic.org.au>(opens in a new window).
  90. ‘About Us’, 1800Respect (Web Page) <https://www.1800respect.org.au/about-us(opens in a new window)>.
  91. ‘About Us’, 1800Respect (Web Page) <https://www.1800respect.org.au/about-us(opens in a new window)>.
  92. ‘About Us’, 1800Respect (Web Page) <https://www.1800respect.org.au/about-us(opens in a new window)>.
  93. ‘Specialist Family Violence Services’, Safe and Equal (Web Page) <https://safeandequal.org.au/working-in-family-violence/service-responses/specialist-family-violence-services>(opens in a new window).
  94. State Government of Victoria, ‘What is the Orange Door?’, The Orange Door (Web Page) <https://www.orangedoor.vic.gov.au/what-is-the-orange-door>(opens in a new window); State Government of Victoria, ‘The Orange Door and Family Services’, Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (Web Page) <https://services.dffh.vic.gov.au/orange-door-and-family-services#:~:text=The%20Orange%20Door%20is%20the,to%20be%20safe%20and%20supported>.
  95. ‘About the Orange Door’, VIC.GOV.AU (Web Page) <https://www.vic.gov.au/about-the-orange-door>(opens in a new window).
  96. ‘Family Violence Statewide Support Services’, VIC.GOV.AU (Web Page) <https://www.vic.gov.au/family-violence-statewide-support-services>(opens in a new window).
  97. ‘24/7 Family and Domestic Violence Response Services’, Safe Steps (Web Page) <https://www.safesteps.org.au/our-services/24-7-family-and-domestic-violence-response-services>(opens in a new window).
  98. Statement of Jane Sweeney, 11 November 2023, 4 [10].
  99. See e.g.: Submission 46, In Good Faith Foundation, 2–3.
  100. ‘Victoria Redress Support Services’, National Redress Scheme (Web Page) <https://www.nationalredress.gov.au/support/explore/vic-redress-support-services>.
  101. ‘Victoria Redress Support Services’, National Redress Scheme (Web Page) <https://www.nationalredress.gov.au/support/explore/vic-redress-support-services>(opens in a new window).
  102. ‘knowmore Legal Support’, National Redress Scheme (Web Page) <https://www.nationalredress.gov.au/support/knowmore-legal-support>(opens in a new window).
  103. Statement of Jane Sweeney, 11 November 2023, 4 [11].
  104. ‘National Redress Counselling and Psychological Care Service — Victoria’, VIC.GOV.AU (Web Page) <https://www.vic.gov.au/national-redress-counselling-psychological-care>(opens in a new window).
  105. Statement of Jane Sweeney, 11 November 2023, 5 [14].
  106. ‘National Redress Counselling and Psychological Care Service — Victoria’, VIC.GOV.AU (Web Page) <https://www.vic.gov.au/national-redress-counselling-psychological-care>(opens in a new window).
  107. Statement of Jane Sweeney, 10 November 2023, 5 [15].
  108. Statement of Jane Sweeney, 10 November 2023, 5 [16].
  109. Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996 (Vic) ss 8(2)(a), 8(2)(b).
  110. Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996 (Vic) ss 7, 9, 11.
  111. ‘Victims of Crime Financial Assistance Scheme’, VIC.GOV.AU (Web Page) <https://www.vic.gov.au/victims-crime-financial-assistance-scheme>(opens in a new window).
  112. Statement of Kate Rattigan, 3 November 2023, 3 [7].
  113. Transcript of Government Panel (Kate Rattigan), 23 November 2023, P-248 [12]–[37].
  114. Statement of Kate Rattigan, 3 November 2023, 8 [22].
  115. Statement of Kate Rattigan, 3 November 2023, 3–4 [8].
  116. Statement of Kate Rattigan, 3 November 2023, 3 [7].
  117. Transcript of Government Panel (Kate Rattigan), 23 November 2023, P-243 [19].
  118. Statement of Kate Rattigan, 3 November 2023, 3 [7]; Transcript of Government Panel (Kate Rattigan), 23 November 2023, P-243 [25].
  119. Statement of Kate Rattigan, 3 November 2023, 3 [7].
  120. Statement of Kate Rattigan, 3 November 2023, 6 [16(c)].
  121. Statement of Kate Rattigan, 3 November 2023, 6 [16(a)].
  122. Statement of Kate Rattigan, 3 November 2023, 6 [16(a)].
  123. Transcript of Government Panel (Kate Rattigan), 23 November 2023, P-244 [20].
  124. Statement of Kate Rattigan, 3 November 2023, 3 [7].
  125. Transcript of Government Panel (Kate Rattigan), 23 November 2023, P-246 [38]–[45].
  126. Statement of Kate Rattigan, 3 November 2023, 6 [16(b)].
  127. Transcript of Government Panel (Kate Rattigan), 23 November 2023, P-243 [19]–[26].
  128. Transcript of Government Panel (Kate Rattigan), 23 November 2023, P-246 [11]; Email letter from State of Victoria to the Board of Inquiry, 8 February 2024.
  129. Transcript of Government Panel (Kate Rattigan), 23 November 2023, P-245 [1]–[8]; Statement of Kate Rattigan, 3 November 2023, 6 [16].
  130. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 2 [8].
  131. Transcript of Government Panel (Kate Rattigan), 23 November 2023, P-247 [10]–[21].
  132. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 2–3 [8].
  133. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 6 [20].
  134. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 7 [23]; Email from State of Victoria to the Board of Inquiry, 29 January 2024.
  135. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 7 [23].
  136. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 7 [23].
  137. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 18 [60].
  138. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 17 [58].
  139. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 3 [8].
  140. Statement of Kate Rattigan, 3 November 2023, 8 [23].

Updated