Media release: Outcome of the royal commission community based support services funding

The 15 Centres Against Sexual Assault (CASAs), who comprise the CASA Forum Peak Body, provide a comprehensive service across Victoria for victims/survivors of sexual assault. The CASAs have been completely passed over by the Federal Government in the funding for the provision of services to survivors of sexual assault who wish to engage with the Royal Commission.

In mid July 2013, the Federal Government allocated $45 million to support survivors of sexual assault and chose to overlook the specialist services in Victoria that currently provide the most comprehensive and extensive range of services to this group around the State. A substantial body of evidence informs the practice of the Victorian CASAs which enables them to offer a range of support services to female and male adult and child victim/survivors of sexual assault. This includes trauma counselling, advocacy across a range of quite challenging arenas and situations and liaison with police at both local and state level in relation to both recent and past sexual assault. Many sexual assault survivors have had multiple instances of sexual assault and experience issues that require this ongoing advocacy work. It is not appropriate to refer people to agencies that do not specialise in this area.

Sexual assault trauma requires specialist skills in terms of both the services provided and the range of awareness and care needed to support both victim survivors and also counsellors.

The agencies which have been allocated funding in Victoria, whilst excellent in their fields of relationship counselling and provision of support services to children and their families, do not have specialist skill, infrastructure and resources in dealing with the provision of support services to victim/survivors of sexual assault.

It is of concern that the Federal Government views sexual assault by clergy and other people in positions of power as a relationship issue when it is a crime. Failing to fund Centres Against Sexual Assault demonstrates a concerning ignorance for the expertise that has been built up over three decades. The CASAs are funded, supported and monitored by the Victorian Government. This is another example of the Federal and State Governments not consulting adequately or working together.

A final concern is that, following on from the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the handling of abuse by religious and other organisations and the announcement of the Royal Commission, the CASAs have experienced a surge in referrals from 10-25 per cent across the State. This has led to waiting times moving out to levels which are having a direct impact on victim/survivors of sexual assault.

Without additional funding, Victorian CASAs are left to struggle with increased demand on their services and escalating waiting times.

Without additional funding to Victorian CASAs, victim survivors, including survivors of institutional abuse, who choose to seek specialised sexual assault support services from their local CASA, will be penalised by increased waiting times for counselling and other support services.

Contact - Carolyn Worth, Spokesperson, CASA Forum

Saturday 20th July 2013

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