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Grace Tame praises ACT push to change name of ‘sexual relationship with a child’ crime | The Canberra Times


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Former Australian of the Year Grace Tame has praised the ACT for its proposed reform to change the name of the crime “sexual relationship with a child” to “persistent sexual abuse of a child”. In an address at the National Press Club on Wednesday, Ms Tame, a survivor of child sex abuse, highlighted the proposed legislation which Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury is set to introduce to the territory’s parliament on Thursday. Ms Tame revealed that the Grace Tame Foundation will start a campaign called “stop romanticising child abuse” to call for jurisdictions to adopt the same wording. “Perpetrators of abuse find safety in outdated, inconsistent legislation which both protects them and perpetuates social ignorance. For example, the man who abused me… was convicted of ‘maintaining a sexual relationship with a person under the age of 17’,” she said. “Whilst I commend the ACT on overhauling these laws, we need to ensure that every state and territory adopts the best-practice model of not only the charge itself but the complete wording of the legislation.” The #LetHerSpeak campaign, created by journalist Nina Funnell in partnership with Marque Lawyers and End Rape on Campus Australia, fought for the wording to be changed in Tasmania. Ms Tame’s case was the catalyst for the Tasmanian campaign. The ACT is one of four jurisdictions where the crime is called either “maintaining” or “engaging” in a sexual relationship. The other jurisdictions are South Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory. But Ms Tame said Western Australia and Victoria were the only two jurisdictions where the word “relationship” did not feature in the legislation. Mr Rattenbury told The Canberra Times on Tuesday that the change to the wording was prompted after Ms Tame addressed the national meeting of attorneys-general in November last year. The change is part of wider proposed reforms to family violence legislation. The Family Violence Legislation Amendment Bill would make family and domestic violence an aggravating offence. Under the proposed changes, the court would have to grant an adjournment for a reasonable period for the preparation of a victim impact statement, upon prosecution request. Cross-examination of victim impact statements would also be prohibited unless the court can be satisified it has “substantial probative value”. ACT victims of crime commissioner Heidi Yates said the reform would improve recognition of the serious harm caused by domestic and family violence. She said it would also strengthen victim rights and better hold perpetrators to account. “For too long, victim-survivors have been disillusioned and dissatisfied with the ACT’s current approach to sentencing domestic and family violence perpetrators which has not been in line with other jurisdictions or community’s expectations,” Ms Yates said. “There are many reasons why victim survivors may not come forward to report domestic abuse but research and Victim Support ACT’s experience indicates that victims often decide not to report because the sentencing regime is ineffective and inconsistent. “The improved sentencing regime in this bill sends a strong message that the ACT community will not condone family violence. The bill will help to ensure our criminal justice system recognises the grave harm caused by domestic and family violence and holds perpetrators to account.” Ms Yates said there was still more work to do, especially improving victim access to legal advice and representation. MORE A.C.T. POLITICS NEWS: Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee put forward an exposure draft bill last year which made family violence an aggravating offence. She said her bill was an attempt to fill significant gaps in the ACT’s legislation, which were highlighted in a damning independent review into the ACT’s family violence legislation. Ms Lee said the proposed bill meant the government had heeded her calls and calls from the community but she would still consider the bill on its merits. “It is vital that our laws and legal system are set up for the purpose of preventing and eliminating domestic and family violence,” Ms Lee said. “Unfortunately, our existing laws do not adequately recognise the evil that is family violence, and as such, there is a concerning disconnect between results from our court system and what the community expects when it comes to the seriousness in how family violence offences should be.” Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:

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