Federation and South-East Monash Legal Services speak at Public Hearing for the Inquiry into Current and Proposed Sexual Consent Laws

July 26, 2023 |

On 26 July, Louisa Gibbs, CEO at the Federation, joined Ashleigh Newnham, Director of Advocacy and Development at South-East Monash Legal Service to speak at the Public Hearing for the Inquiry into Current and Proposed Sexual Consent Laws in Australia.

Sexual violence is a widespread and gendered issue that has devastating and long-term impacts on those who experience it. Yet many victim-survivors choose not to report sexual violence for fear that they will not be believed, or that they will be forced to go through the criminal process.  

Earlier this year the Federation provided feedback to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee on current and proposed sexual consent laws in Australia, in a joint submission with South-East Monash Legal Service.

The Federation advocates for strong and consistent legislation to protect and support victim-survivors of sexual violence, and to ensure that perpetrators are held to account.

At the hearing, Louisa and Ashleigh outlined some key points from the submission, including:

  • Support for national harmonisation of consent laws based on an affirmative consent model. The Federation believes that the Commonwealth should work with State and Territory Governments to achieve this.
  • Solidarity with Women’s Legal Service Australia in calling on the Commonwealth to work with State and Territories to ensure consent laws effectively respond to sexual violence that occurs within the context of family violence.
  • The need for a wide-spread and evidence-based public education campaign underpinned by best practice and developed with subject-matter experts to prevent sexual violence and engender cultural change.
  • The need for mandatory consent education programs in all schools across Australia, with a greater emphasis on consent laws during consent education in schools. Partnering schools with community legal centres is an effective model for increasing access to legal expertise when developing educational content within a legal framework.

Louisa and Ashleigh also highlighted the need for corresponding reforms in the criminal legal system to improve responses to victim-survivors. The Federation and South-East Monash Legal Service recommend greater access to independent legal representation, stronger therapeutic and practical supports, and options for restorative justice as ways to ensure that victim-survivors are supported to navigate the criminal legal process. For those working in the criminal legal system, Ashleigh spoke about the need for specialist training in responding to sexual offences in a trauma-informed and culturally safe way.

We hope that the Committee will consider the arguments presented at the hearing in their report.

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