Last updated 11 April 2017     This chapter is currently under review.

Victims of an act of violence may apply for financial assistance to pay for goods and services needed to aid in their recovery from the psychological and physical effects of a violent crime. Assistance can be sought to pay for counselling, medical and travel expenses, loss of earnings, loss or damage to clothing that the victim was wearing during the crime and, in exceptional cases, other expenses such as relocation costs. Assistance can also be sought for costs associated with obtaining a report that forms part of the victim’s application for assistance. The expenses claimed must directly relate to the victim’s recovery from an injury sustained that is a direct result of the act of violence.

Applications for financial assistance are assessed by a government assessor under the Victims of Crime Assistance Act 2009 (Qld) (VOCA Act). The assessor determines, on the balance of probabilities, whether an act of violence has occurred, and if the applicant was injured as a direct result of the act of violence. Assessors rely on evidence from a variety of sources to make a determination on an applicant’s eligibility for an amount of assistance granted (e.g. police reports, medical records, receipts, invoices).

Approved guidelines for granting financial assistance are published by Victim Assist Queensland.

Act of violence

An act of violence is a crime or series of related crimes committed by one or more persons in Queensland that directly results in the death or injury to one or more persons (s 25(1) VOCA Act).

A series of crimes may be considered related if:

  • they are committed against the same person and
    • are committed at about the same time or
    • are committed over a period of time by the same person or group or
    • share another common factor
  • all contribute to the death of or injury to a person or
  • are related in some other way having regard to the circumstances of the crime (s 25(4) VOCA Act).

A series of related crimes is taken to be a single act of violence. Assistance can only be granted for the single act of violence (s 25(6) VOCA Act).

Victim type

The type and amount of financial assistance that can be paid to a victim is dependent on whether they are a primary, secondary or related victim.

A primary victim is a person who dies or is injured as a direct result of an act of violence. A maximum of up to $75 000 assistance with an additional $500 to pay for legal costs incurred in making the application for assistance is available (s 38(1) VOCA Act).

A parent secondary victim is a parent of a child (under the age of 18 years) who is injured as a direct result of becoming aware of an act of violence being committed against the child. A maximum pool for all parent secondary victims of up to $50 000 assistance is available (s 41(1) VOCA Act)

A witness secondary victim is a person who is injured as a direct result of witnessing an act of violence against another person. They may be a witness to either a more or less serious act of violence:

  • more serious—witnessing a murder, manslaughter or dangerous driving causing death. A maximum of up to $50 000 assistance is available (s 44(1)(a) VOCA Act)
  • less serious—witnessing any other act of violence. A maximum of up to $10 000 assistance is available (s 44(1)(b) VOCA Act).

A related victim is a person who is a close family member or dependant of a primary victim who has died as a direct result of the act of violence. A maximum pool for all close family members and dependants of up to $100 000, less the total amount of any funeral expense assistance granted in relation to the victim, is available (s 48(1) VOCA Act). A close family member of a primary victim must have a genuine personal relationship with the primary victim when they died (s 26(7) VOCA Act). Schedule 3 of the VOCA Act defines a close family member as a:

  • spouse
  • child
  • parent or step-parent
  • brother, sister, stepbrother or stepsister
  • person who, under Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island custom, is regarded as a person mentioned above.

Families of victims of homicide before 1 December 2009

Where a person died prior to the commencement of the VOCA Act in circumstances constituting murder or manslaughter, and two or more family members were wholly or partly financially dependent on the deceased at the date of death, if an amount was paid in compensation to a dependant under the Criminal Offence Victims Act 1995 (Qld) (Criminal Offence Victims Act) and another dependant applies for financial assistance under the VOCA Act, those dependants are only eligible for assistance of up to the unpaid funds remaining in the Criminal Offence Victims Act pool for the deceased’s death (s 175 VOCA Act).

Section 176 (VOCA Act) applies in the same way for non-dependent family members in circumstances where, in relation to a pre-VOCA Act death, an applicant has applied for compensation under the Criminal Offence Victims Act for ancillary payments or funeral expenses and another applicant has applied for financial assistance under the VOCA Act, the VOCA Act applicant is only entitled to assistance of up to the amount remaining in the Criminal Offence Victims Act pool. Non-dependent applicants are not able to access the Criminal Offence Victims Act dependency amount as part of the pool.

Types of financial assistance

Victim Assist Queensland published a number of documents outlining the various types of financial assistance available to a victim of crime.

Interim assistance

A victim may claim urgent expenses they have incurred as a result of the act of violence. Referred to as interim assistance (s 97–100 VOCA Act), a victim may claim up to $6000 of interim expenses prior to a final decision on the general application for assistance.

Where interim assistance is granted, the amount paid is deducted from the final grant of assistance payable to the victim. If the interim assistance exceeds the amount granted under the general application, or the application is refused, the victim must refund the amount granted.

Workers’ compensation

If an individual has been injured in an act of violence at work or while travelling to or from their place of employment, they may be entitled to workers’ compensation. The VOCA Act contains specific provisions for dealing with applications where an act of violence is work-related. A workers’ compensation application must be made and finalised before an application for financial assistance can be considered. The assessor is able to assess those expense components that are not available under workers’ compensation, namely:

  • damage to clothing
  • legal expenses incurred in applying for financial assistance
  • other agreed expenses required to recover from the act of violence (other expenses exceptional circumstances).

A lump sum workers’ compensation payment is a relevant payment and must be deducted from the amount of special assistance that would otherwise be granted to the victim.

Payments

Payments can be made to the victim, or to someone else for the benefit of the victim. Lump sum payments will be paid to the Public Trustee where the victim is a child and/or an administrator or attorney appointed under a power of attorney for adults with impaired capacity. Payments may also be made directly to a service provider on invoice or to another party who has paid expenses on a victim’s behalf, if receipts are provided which clearly show that the outlays have been incurred by the other party (ss 93–95 VOCA Act ).

Components of financial assistance

The components of assistance available under the VOCA Act differ according to victim type (see the Table below).

Table 1: Financial assistance components
Type of Assistance Primary Parent second Witness second (more serious) Witness second (less serious) Related
Legal expenses Y Y Y Y Y
Counselling expenses Y Y Y Y Y
Medical expenses Y Y Y Y Y
Incidental travelling expenses Y Y Y Y Y
Report expenses Y Y Y Y Y
Loss of earnings Y Y Y N N
Damage to clothing Y N N N N
Other expenses
exceptional circumstances
Y Y Y N Y
Special assistance Y N N N N
Distress payment N N N N Y
An amount of up to
$20 000 (Dependency)
N N N N Y

Funeral assistance of up to $6000 is available for a person who incurs funeral expenses for a primary victim who has died as a direct result of an act of violence.