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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Greater say for victims of crime

QUEENSLAND victims of crime will have a greater say on sentencing issues, now that a person with lived experience of violent crime and the Interim Victims’ Commissioner have been appointed to the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council (QSAC). 

For the first time, a position is being explicitly reserved for a victim of crime to sit on the QSAC, alongside legal experts and community advocates experienced in criminal law, domestic and family violence, youth justice and First Nations justice issues.

The four new members are:

Mr Jon Rouse APM – Queensland’s Interim Victims’ Commissioner.

Mr Rouse previously served with the Queensland Police Service for 39 years, notably leading Taskforce Argos, and continues to be an ambassador for victim-survivors, with a particular focus on child exploitation and sexual abuse. 

Mr Jakub Lodziak – Acting Public Defender, Legal Aid Queensland (LAQ).

Mr Lodziak is a qualified barrister, working in a range of roles at LAQ since 2005.

Ms Thelma Schwartz – Principal Legal Officer, Queensland Indigenous Family Violence Legal Service (QIFVLS).

Ms Schwartz is currently a member of QSAC’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Panel and is of Torres Strait Islander heritage.

She was a member of the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce, is a member of the Queensland Human Rights Commission and the Queensland Police Service’s Advisory Panel supporting a review into diversity and inclusion in the police service, and is co-chair of the Queensland Justice Police Partnership Cross Agency Working Group.

Ms Sherrie Meyer – Chair of Board of Management, Queensland Homicide Victims’ Support Group (QHVSG). 

Ms Meyer became a founding member of QHVSG following her son’s murder in 1993.

An accredited mental health social worker specialising in child trauma counselling, Ms Meyer has also been a victim support case manager, child safety support officer, and domestic and family violence support worker.   

New laws to expand the council’s membership, increase payments for victims and boost victim support services were passed in December 2023.

The new appointments fill two additional places and two current vacancies, with the council’s membership increasing from 12 to 14 independent members.

Members are appointed for three years. Mr Rouse has been appointed until a permanent Victims’ Commissioner is appointed.

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence Yvette D’Ath said the government was committed to listening to and supporting victims of crime.

“That’s why we passed laws to ensure victims of crime with lived experience were represented on our Sentencing Advisory Council,” she said.

“We’re serious about ensuring our communities are safe, and vulnerable victims of crime get the emotional, financial and community support and assistance they need.

“We’re currently in the process of appointing a permanent Victims’ Commissioner to continue the important work that’s already been done by Interim Commissioner John Rouse, to raise awareness of the rights of victims of crime. 

“We’ve committed more than $45 million to provide a targeted victim’s support package to help people through what can be a traumatic and distressing time.”

In 2023 a $200 million boost to victim support services was announced. This included:

  • increasing financial assistance to victims, including increasing the maximum financial assistance from $75,000 to $120,000
  • increasing resources in Victims Assist Queensland to provide greater assistance to victims and improve processing times
  • establishing the Victims Commissioner’s office

Keep up with the latest news in Cairns and the Far North, and check out some of our top stories this week: Budget falls short on domestic violence and Elite Executive celebrates milestone 12 years.

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