The department’s 2021-22 Annual Report highlights the department’s many achievements and progress towards our vision.
Significant reforms to the justice system were implemented throughout 2021-22, while the department also maintained a strong focus on service delivery and improvement. This included the Adult Custodial Corrections System review, rehabilitation and crime prevention initiatives, as well as improvements to better protect and support vulnerable people.
On 17 February 2022, Victoria’s first Aboriginal Youth Justice Strategy, Wirkara Kulpa , was launched. Aboriginal self-determination is the foundational principle that has shaped the Strategy. The Aboriginal Justice Caucus led this work under the umbrella of the Aboriginal Justice Agreement , and it is a key initiative of Burra Lotjpa Dunguludja (AJA4), and the Youth Justice Strategic Plan 2020-2030.
Developed in parallel and building on evidence and data collected by the Commission for Children and Young People’s Our Youth Our Way inquiry and the Koori Youth Justice Taskforce, Wirkara Kulpa addresses 56 of the 75 recommendations made in the combined Taskforce and Inquiry report.
An independent Cultural Review into the Adult Custodial Corrections System commenced in 2021. The Review’s findings will help to strengthen the safety, wellbeing and culture of the adult custodial system for staff and people in custody. The Review will also improve how systems and processes address the complex needs of vulnerable people in custody, and will make specific recommendations to strengthen the cultural safety of Aboriginal people in custody.
Rehabilitation and reintegration programs are critical to enhancing community safety and reducing reoffending. As part of a focus on improving women’s outcomes through support services and programs, a housing and case management support program is being provided to women on remand and serving sentences of three months or less. The department has also implemented Family Engagement Workers in Victoria’s two women’s prisons to assist women to heal fractured and problematic relationships and to work on strategies to assist in their return from prison.
Corrections Victoria has created new job pathways for people leaving prison through partnerships established with textile and food wholesaling businesses. Vocational training and education inside prisons equips prisoners with skills and provides job-ready workers for commercial partners.
Initiatives under the new Crime Prevention Strategy are underway, including the Building Safer Communities program, with all projects funded from two rounds of grants in progress in 2022. The Community Safety Infrastructure Grants program is nearing completion and other key initiatives aligned with the Strategy are continuing.
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. Dedicated staff supported the SCC to operate 24-hours, 7 days a week, making positive and effective contributions to managing emergencies and providing continuous support to the Emergency Management Commissioner and the broader emergency management sector.
The department continues to progress implementing the Fines Reform Advisory Board’s recommendations. These changes will enable better support for vulnerable fine recipients, improve departmental processes relating to fines service delivery and will create a more efficient and effective fines system.
The department implemented several key pieces of legislative reform across the state, including the Victims of Crime (Financial Assistance Scheme) Act 2022 , which passed in June 2022 and establishes the Financial Assistance Scheme. The Scheme aims to protect victims from further trauma, intimidation or distress, and ensure that the needs, safety and wellbeing of victims are paramount. Victims will have up to three years to apply (10 years for family violence or sexual offences) compared to the two-years currently provided by the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT). Additionally, the amount of Special Financial Assistance available will be doubled. Victims will also be able to request victim recognition statements and victim recognition meetings.
The Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996 has been amended to protect the safety and wellbeing of victims by prohibiting the notification of perpetrators (or alleged perpetrators) about a VOCAT hearing in matters involving family violence or sexual offences. Alleged offenders will also be prohibited from attending VOCAT hearings and victims will no longer face the perpetrator in these hearings.
The Terrorism (Community Protection) Amendments Act 2021 , passed in November 2021, creates a civil Support and Engagement Order and establishes a multi-agency panel to coordinate therapeutic-based intervention and an information sharing scheme. The government is progressing the implementation of the Act, including operationalising the intervention and information sharing scheme in preparation for commencement on 2 September 2022.
The Justice Legislation Amendment Act 2022 , which passed in May 2022, included changes to information sharing and allowing new birth certificates to include the details of pre- and post-adoptive parents. This supports the implementation of recommendations resulting from the Inquiry into Responses to Historical Forced Adoptions in Victoria, with a variety of areas in scope for change, relating to redress, centralisation of functions, records management, data publication, and community support.
The Casino and Gambling Legislation Amendment Act 2021 passed in December 2021, establishing the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission that came into effect on 1 January 2022. The Act strengthened the Commission’s powers to hold the casino operator to account and increased the maximum fine for disciplinary action from $1 million to $100 million. Amendments to the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998 passed in October 2021 include provisions for a definition of harm that factors in social issues such as family violence. Further work will continue with stakeholders to embed a focus on family violence within liquor licensing policy.
The Sex Work Decriminalisation Act 2022 passed in February 2022 and supports sex workers’ safety and human rights, aiming to ensure that sex work is safe work.
A range of sex work decriminalisation reforms will be implemented over two years. The first stage commenced 10 May and included criminal penalties no longer applying in many circumstances for people participating in sex work.
The department thanks our staff, agencies, community organisations and volunteers for their hard work and commitment to implementing reforms that will help improve outcomes for the Victorian community. We also recognise the resilience and dedication of everyone who has continued to deliver essential services as Victoria recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.