In the 2022-23 Federal Budget, the Government provided $8.4 million over three years (from 2023-24 to 2025-26) to pilot a legal services model (or models), in three locations across Australia, with the aim to provide victims and survivors of sexual violence with greater access to specialised and trauma-informed legal services to support their recovery and safe participation in the criminal justice system.
Women’s Legal Services Australia (WLSA) welcomes this commitment from Government, as well as the Attorney-General’s Department’s aim to select pilot service models that are trauma-informed, victim and survivor-centric, culturally safe, and integrated with existing services.
Women’s Legal Services provide specialist legal assistance services for women that are trauma-informed, client centric, culturally safe, and integrated and holistic to ensure that a range of needs can be met alongside legal need. Most of our clients have experienced gendered violence and abuse, and we have specialist expertise in responding to family and domestic violence, and sexual violence that often occurs within this context. Women’s Legal Services are uniquely placed to respond to sexual assault, as gender specialists leveraging our experience and expertise in responding to domestic, family and sexual violence.
Given that Women’s Legal Services have specialist expertise in providing legal assistance to victim-survivors of gendered violence and abuse, our services are well placed to assist victims to navigate the criminal justice system, to pursue their rights and entitlements, to identify and pursue alternative avenues such as civil litigation, financial compensation, or restorative justice, and to address their intersecting legal problems. Women’s Legal Services in most jurisdictions are already providing services to victim-survivors of sexual assault, particularly in relation to accessing financial compensation, however there is very limited funding to provide the services that are needed to properly support victim-survivors to uphold their rights and access their entitlements.