Welcome to the Department of Justice and Community Safety’s Annual Report for 2020–21. Despite ongoing challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the department continued to deliver on its vision for a justice and community safety system that works together to build a safer, fairer and stronger Victoria.
The professionalism, resilience and responsiveness of our staff and volunteers continued in 2020–21 and enabled the department to implement several significant legislative reforms and adapt to new ways of working to better serve our community.
During 2020-21, the department and its Secretary were responsible to the ministers* who covered the following portfolios:
- Jaclyn Symes MP, Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services
- The Hon. Lisa Neville, Minister for Police
- The Hon. Natalie Hutchins MP, Minister for Crime Prevention, Minister for Corrections, Minister for Youth Justice, Minister for Victim Support
- The Hon. Melissa Horne MP, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation
- Ingrid Stitt MP, Minister for Workplace Safety.
In December 2020, COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria (CQV) was formed, following the transition of the Victorian Government’s COVID-19 accommodation program from the Department of Health and Human Services. Since its establishment, CQV has had 38,690 people stay in hotel quarantine.
Measures were put in place to protect the health and wellbeing of prisoners and staff and reduce the risk of COVID-19 in Victoria’s correctional facilities, and protect the health and wellbeing of prisoners. A total of 2,406 adult prisoners were tested and isolated for displaying COVID-19 symptoms or related risks during 2020–21. All newly admitted prisoners were tested for COVID-19 on arrival and on day 11. During 2020–21, Corrections Victoria (CV) managed 24 Victorian prisoners who tested positive for COVID-19, without any known prisoner-to-prisoner transmission.
The State Control Centre (SCC) continued its work as Victoria’s primary control centre for the management of emergencies, including bushfires, floods, storms, and emergency coordination of COVID-19. The SCC is also the hub of a network of regional and incident control centres across the state. To support operating 24/7 and provide continuous service to the Emergency Management Commissioner and the broader emergency management sector, the SCC added 48 dedicated personnel to existing shift worker teams.
Fines Victoria provided additional support to Victorians during the pandemic by suspending or delaying payments and extending payment arrangements. Fines Victoria also implemented changes to make it easier for victim survivors of family violence to access the Family Violence Scheme during the pandemic.
The new Victims of Crime Financial Assistance Scheme is a major systems reform that will replace the current judicial model administered by the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal. Features of the scheme include providing victim survivors with prompter decision making, a simpler, streamlined application process, and more assistance to reduce trauma.
Changes to adoption services provide stronger oversight of vulnerable children, better mechanisms of ensuring that all people who want to adopt are treated fairly, and greater transparency of the quality of services funded by government.
The department also implemented several key pieces of legislative reform across the state, including emergency rental measures to protect Victorian tenants, landlords and the rental market from the worst impacts of the pandemic. The measures, administrated by Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV), included temporary law changes to reduce the financial burden for those adversely impacted by the pandemic and ensured the most vulnerable Victorians would not be left homeless.
Once the temporary emergency rental protections ceased, CAV administered the introduction of more than 130 reforms to Victoria’s rental laws that expanded the rights and responsibilities of Victorian renters and landlords to create a fairer and safer rental system.
In November 2020, reforms were made to the Judicial Proceedings Reports Act 1958, making it easier for victim survivors of sexual offences to tell their stories if they wish. Importantly, the law continues to protect the privacy of victim survivors who do not wish to be identified.
The Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Act 2021 was passed by the Victorian Parliament in February 2021 and fulfils a government commitment to denounce and prohibit change or suppression practises and introduce new criminal offences relating to these practices. The law recognises that no Victorian should be subjected to harmful practices that seek to change or suppress their sexual orientation or gender identity, which can cause life-long harm and trauma.
The Summary Offences Amendment (Decriminalisation of Public Drunkenness) Act 2021 was also passed in February 2021 to decriminalise public drunkenness and provide people who are drunk in public with health support and help. The laws are consistent with the recommendations of the Deputy State Coroner from the Inquest into the death of Tanya Day and of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. This is a testament to decades of work and activism by the Aboriginal community.
Passed in March 2021, the Spent Convictions Act 2021 will remove the unfair barriers faced by Victorians who previously committed an offence but have since demonstrated their ability to rehabilitate. This supports reintegration and rehabilitation, helping support cohorts who are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system and face discrimination due to criminal records for minor offences, including Aboriginal people.
As part of the Communities in Custody model, which is the least restrictive environment for young people in custody, a 32-bed unit at the Malmsbury Youth Justice Precinct opened in mid–2020. The model is designed to respond to the risks and needs of young people classified as low security with a focus on mentoring and coaching rather than close supervision and control.
The new Crime Prevention Strategy was released on 21 June 2021. A key initiative under the strategy is the Building Safer Communities, which sets out a clear, long-term approach for how government will work with Victorian communities, businesses, and key organisations to intervene early and prevent crime.