In June 2013, a new scheme for victims of acts of violence in NSW took effect under the Victims Rights and Support Act 2013 (VRSA). This scheme replaced the previous victim’s compensation scheme. Any applications for compensation filed under the previous scheme will now be decided under the VRSA.
A victim of domestic violence may be eligible for a range of different types of support from Victims Services. The ‘package of care’ could include: information, support and referral; counselling; financial assistance for immediate needs; financial assistance for economic loss and a recognition payment.
An act of violence is defined as an act committed by one or more persons apparently in the commission of an offence and which involved violent conduct and which resulted in injury or death. An act of violence specifically includes sexual assault and domestic violence.
Applications for support are made directly through Victims Services. The VRSA does not provide for solicitor’s costs to be paid by Victims Services. Victims Services will make support co-ordinators available to applicants to provide assistance with the preparation of the claim and evidence.
There is no time limit on making an application for counselling. The application form seeks brief information about the act of violence but does not need evidence such as a report to police. Applicants will be given an initial 10 hours of counselling and up to a further 12 hours if required.
Financial assistance for immediate needs
Applications under this category must be made within two years of the incident or within two years of turning 18 for children. An application must have police and/or medical evidence which establishes act of violence and injury as well as evidence of expenses claimed. Expenses could include costs associated with moving to a safer location, changing of locks and emergency medical and dental treatment. Expenses are capped at $5000 in total.
Financial assistance for economic loss
Applications under this category must be made within two years of the incident or within two years of turning 18 for children (except for victims of child sexual abuse where there is no time limit on making claims for justice related expenses or out of pocket expenses under this category). An application must have a report to police or other government agency and evidence of injury in the form of medical or dental evidence or a counselling/psychological report and details and evidence of the financial losses claimed. Claims for economic loss could include loss of actual earnings (up to $20,000), cost of living expenses (up to $5000), justice related expenses (up to $5000), medical and dental expenses and damage to clothing or personal effects (up to $1500). Claims under this category are capped at $30,000 in total.
Generally applications for a recognition payment must be made within two years of the incident or within two years of turning 18 for children. However, for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, applications must be made within 10 years of the last act of violence. There is no time limit for victims of child sexual abuse to make an application. An application must have a report to police or other government agency and evidence of injury in the form of medical or dental evidence or a counselling / psychological report. There are four categories of recognition payments:
A $15,000 payment to a family member who was financially dependent upon a homicide victim and $7500 to each parent, step-parent or guardian of a homicide victim.
A $10,000 payment to a victim of:
- a sexual assault resulting in serious bodily injury or which involved an offensive weapon or was carried out by two or more persons, or
- a sexual assault, indecent assault or attempted sexual assault which was one of a series of related acts.
A $5000 payment to a victim of:
- a sexual assault other than one which falls within those in Category B
- an attempted sexual assault resulting in serious bodily injury
- an assault resulting in grievous bodily harm, or
- physical assault of a child that is one of a series of related acts.
A $1500 payment to a victim of:
- an indecent assault
- an attempted sexual assault involving violence other than in Category B and C, or
- a robbery involving violence; or an assault (not involving grievous bodily harm).
Personal injury claim
A victim of domestic violence may have a claim against the defendant for personal injury caused as a result of the assault. A personal injury claim must usually be made within three years of the date of the injury. This type of claim can involve long and costly legal proceedings, and there is a risk of a costs order being made against the person making the claim if the claim is unsuccessful. Advice from a lawyer who is experienced in this area of law should be obtained before commencing a personal injury claim. See Hot Topics 78: You & Your Lawyer for more information.