March 24, 2022
Tania Maxwell has recognised victim-survivors’ strength and bravery for putting changes to Victoria’s criminal justice system in an eight-month parliamentary inquiry initiated by the Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party MP.
The Member for Northern Victoria – welcoming today’s release of the inquiry report by the Legislative Council Legal and Social Issues Committee – said its recommendations were influenced by victim-survivors’ submissions.
“I stand here today to say I hear you, and this report is for you,” Ms Maxwell told victim-survivors seated in the Legislative Council gallery.
“I hope the recommendations in relation to victims of crime support will be accepted and implemented by the government as soon as possible.
“Some of the these are not new to this Parliament and focus on the recurring theme that prevention and early intervention is essential for fair, just, safe communities.
“Some will require further debate, and while I made a deliberate decision not to submit a minority report, I will put on record my strong opposition to any watering down of practices or laws that protect our community from high-risk, violent offenders.
“We must make sure that any reforms brought about by this inquiry reduce risk, support community safety and balance the rights of victims over those of offenders.
“Otherwise, we may simply reduce statistics without actually reducing crime or the harm that accompanies it.”
Ms Maxwell said victim-survivors’ decisions to share their experiences with the committee revealed deep and enduring suffering that usually flows from the impact of crime.
“When I brought my referral motion to Parliament in June 2020, I noted that significantly driving down crime has to be a goal that we all share,” she said.
“With more than 50 per cent of people incarcerated in Victoria going on to re-offend, I wanted the committee to investigate the drivers of recidivism, how we safeguard our community against violent offenders, and also ensure our corrections system is sufficiently ‘corrective’ in its action and outcomes.
“This required considering the justice system across all stages and in its totality, from supporting at-risk and vulnerable children before they’re born, to crime prevention, policing, corrections and courts.
“We examined the opportunities for reform to break what is often a downward spiral of offending for those caught up in crime, and ultimately how we can limit the lifetime of suffering for those who are victims and survivors.
“I look forward to the government’s careful consideration of the 100 recommendations in this report and I will continue to advocate for their implementation, especially the 31 directed at better supporting victims of crime.”
Ms Maxwell also drew attention to apparent consensus in submissions by legal services and other stakeholders advancing an increase in the age of criminal responsibility to the committee.
“While this is something that may be considered by the government, I would emphasise that without the implementation of evidence-based early interventions and primary prevention frameworks, this would not be a sensible or practical initiative at this time,” she said.
“The report discussed diversion programs and other alternatives to incarceration for young people and I hope that those opportunities will be strongly considered by this government.”
The Legislative Council on June 3, 2020, supported the referral of Tania Maxwell’s motion for an inquiry in Victoria’s criminal justice system to the Council’s Legal and Social Issues Committee to examine:
- Factors influencing Victoria’s growing remand and prison populations
- Ways to reduce rates of repeat offending (recidivism)
- How to ensure judges and magistrates have appropriate knowledge and expertise when sentencing and dealing with offenders, including an understanding of recidivism and the causes of crime; and
- Appointment processes for judges in other jurisdictions, especially reviewing skill sets required for judges and magistrates overseeing specialist courts.
Visit Legal and Social Issues (parliament.vic.gov.au) for the inquiry’s specific terms of reference.
The first of the inquiry’s public hearings was held in Wangaratta on June 30, 2021.
Image: Victim-survivors Cathie Oddie (centre), Di McDonald (back left), Tracie Oldham (obscured), Lee Little and Thomas Wain, and inquiry chair Fiona Patten MP at a media conference following the inquiry report’s release at Parliament on March 24, 2022.