Reforms for victims of crime in Victoria:

Introduction of the new Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS)

Since 1996, the body primarily responsible for providing financial assistance to victims of violent crimes taking place in Victoria has been and for the present time remains the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT). It continues to operate under the Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996 (Vic).

 

In April 2022, the Victims of Crime (Financial Assistance Scheme) Bill 2022 (Vic) was introduced in the State Parliament of Victoria to replace the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal with a non-judicial model of assistance called the Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS) ("the new Scheme")

 

The Bill was then passed as the Victims of Crime (Financial Assistance Scheme) Act 2002 (Vic), with the new scheme expecting to come into operation from the second half of 2023.
 

                  Why is the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal being replaced?

In 2016, a review was conducted by the Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC), which identified inter alia that the existing scheme suffered from a number of weaknesses (e.g. processing delays) that could be addressed by replacing the current judicial scheme (in which applications are made to magistrates sitting as Tribunal Members) with a more simplified administrative scheme that makes the application process easier and less onerous. 
 

                How does the Financial Assistance Scheme differ from the Tribunal?
 

A review of the new Act reveals that there are a number of differences in the way the Financial Assistance Scheme will operate. These include but are not limited to:

Extending the standard timeframe in which an application can be made to the Tribunal to 3 years (a departure from 2 years): s 23

Requiring the decision maker in an application to provide reasons for a decision to grant or refuse an application for assistance: s 35

 

Removing the ability for oral hearings to be held before a Tribunal Member (often a sitting magistrate): s 30

 

Extending the time frame to file supporting documentation or provide information

before an application lapses to 6 months (a departure from the previous 3 months): s 27

 

Introducing an ability for the victim to have their experience recognised at a victim recognition meeting (the previous equivalent of which was the holding of an oral hearing): s 41

 

Requiring the decision maker to provide a statement to the victim to acknowledge on behalf of the State of Victoria, the effects of the crime and to express the State's condolences: s 40

Notwithstanding the above, there are also many aspects of the new Scheme that operate in much the same way as the scheme administered by the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal.

For example, in both schemes, an application for assistance must still be refused in circumstances where the decision maker concludes that an applicant did not provide reasonable assistance to police or any other body tasked with investigating the act of violence, or if the act of violence was not reported to police within a reasonable time: s 31

 

However, the new Act also expands on some of the common aspects of both schemes. For example, there are now a number of specified considerations which the decision maker may take into account, in determining whether or not an act of violence was reported to police within a reasonable time: s 32. In contrast, the current scheme administered by the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal is not guided by any of these considerations.

 

When can I start to make applications under the new Scheme? What happens to existing applications?

 

The current indication is that the new Scheme will begin accepting appliations in the second half of 2023, while applications lodged before then will be processed under the existing scheme administered by the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal.

This above is intended as a guide only and is not intended to constitute legal advice.

As the introduction of the Scheme is a very recent development, this page will be updated as more is known about how the Scheme will operate.

18 July 2022