More than $1.8 m for sexual assault partnership in Townsville

Published Tuesday, 28 July, 2020 at 02:00 PM

Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence
The Honourable Di Farmer

The trial of a specialist Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) in Townsville will become permanent with new funding of more than $1.8 million over five-years from the Palaszczuk Government for the North Queensland Combined Women’s Service.

Townsville’s SART is a multi-agency approach involving police, health, forensic services and sexual assault counsellors to connect victims with the services they need from the moment they report an offence, through to their court hearing.

Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women Di Farmer said an independent evaluation of the Townsville-based SART had been positive.

“The independent evaluation looked at the involvement of the North Queensland Combined Women’s Service with the SART which also includes Queensland Police, Health and forensic services,” Ms Farmer said.

“It found the inclusion of the Women’s Service over the two-year-trial to be a best practice model resulting in a better experience for victims and rapid response times.

“The $716,000 two-year Townsville trial was part of the Government’s response to sexual assault.

“Following the trial’s success, the Palaszczuk Government is investing more than $1.8 million over five-years to retain the expertise of the Women’s Service in Townsville’s SART.

“The funding will assist the Women’s Service to continue to provide sexual assault counsellors for 24/7 on-call and outreach support for victims in Townsville.

“We know the pressures of COVID-19 have created a perfect storm for many families and individuals with 75 sexual assaults reported in Townsville during March alone. 

“Townsville’s SART team and the Combined Women’s Service are a big part of the Palaszczuk Government’s commitment to ending sexual violence.

“Almost $11 million has been allocated to 31 services across the state this year, an increase of 80 per cent since 2015, and in addition to $7.5 million in COVID-19 top-up funding.”   

The two-year SART trial was evaluated by CQ University’s Queensland Centre for Domestic and Family Violence Research.     

Member for Mundingburra and Minister for Communities Coralee O’Rourke recognised the expertise of the North Queensland Combined Women’s Service.

“The Townsville Women’s Service is a key priority for the delivery of services for local women of all ages and backgrounds,” Ms O’Rourke said.

“I’m pleased to have delivered more than $4.5 million for a new Townsville Women’s Centre which is on track to be completed next month in a further boost for local jobs and services.”

Member for Townsville Scott Stewart said the focus of the SART model in Townsville was a wraparound response.

“The two-year trial has seen 274 victims of sexual assault receive a wraparound response from the team, ensuring they receive the services and protection when and where they need it,” Mr Stewart.

Member for Thuringowa Aaron Harper said Townsville’s SART response was highly regarded by most victims.

“There are absolutely no excuses for sexual assault. The review found what victims appreciated from their interaction with the SART was being fairly treated and having their voices heard and believed,” Mr Harper said. 

Minister for Police and Minister for Corrective Services Mark Ryan said Townsville’s SART was part of the Queensland Police Service’s commitment to supporting victims of sexual violence in the North.

“Victims are always the focus of police in sexual assault investigations and the SART takes this one step further,” Mr Ryan said.  

“Since the start of the trial’s integrated response, more victims have felt supported to progress their sexual assault complaints.

“The trial has shown that the direct and early involvement of sexual assault counsellors means there has been increased reporting to Queensland Police, fewer complaints withdrawn by victims and more offenders being brought to account.”

The trial's independent evaluation found: 

  • Consent to foresnic examinations increased by 300 per cent
  • Reports to police leading to a charge increased from 18 per cent to 21 per cent
  • Complaint withdrawals fell from 17 per cent to 15 percent 

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