Minister issues directive to ensure compassionate care for sexual assault victims

Published Friday, 17 November, 2023 at 12:01 PM

Minister for Health, Mental Health and Ambulance Services and Minister for Women
The Honourable Shannon Fentiman

  • Health Minister Shannon Fentiman will issue a Ministerial Directive under the Hospital and Health Boards Act 2011.
  • 26 reporting hospitals will be obligated to ensure women presenting at Emergency Departments requiring forensic examinations for sexual assault are seen within 10 minutes, where possible.
  • It is the first time this power has been invoked.

Queensland’s Health Minister will issue a Ministerial Directive to all Hospital and Health Services to ensure victims of sexual assault are seen by medical professionals within 10 minutes of presenting to hospital.

The decision was made after the Minister was informed that multiple hospitals, across several Hospital and Health Services and the Forensic Medicine Queensland’s 24/7 hotline failed to provide a woman with timely care following an alleged sexual assault.

Previously, the Minister had communicated to all Hospital and Health Services the expectation that every victim of sexual assault receives a forensic examination in a timely and trauma-informed way, and that staff are appropriately trained, rostered and/or supported to guarantee this.

This was again reiterated to Hospital and Health Service executives last month, following media reports that a young woman in Rockhampton received inadequate care following an alleged rape.

The latest decision to issue a Ministerial Directive will mean that the 26 reporting hospitals are obligated to ensure that appropriately trained and/or supported staff are available to administer forensic tests in a timely manner, 24 hours a day. 

It will also mean that sexual assault victims who present at public hospital Emergency Departments are seen and cared for within 10 minutes, where possible.

Hospital and Health Services will also be obligated to outline what action has been taken to comply with the Ministerial Directive in their annual report.

It is the first time a Minister has issued a Ministerial Directive under the Hospital and Health Boards Act 2011 since the legislation was passed.

The Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce, established by Minister Fentiman in her role as Attorney-General, made several recommendations to improve forensic testing for sexual assault victims, including ensuring that every victim has access to timely and high-quality care through Emergency Departments, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

This was followed by numerous recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry into DNA Forensic Testing in Queensland.

Work has since been undertaken to overhaul the kits used in sexual assault forensic examinations and the collection of evidence in cases of alleged sexual assault to deliver on these recommendations.

Quotes attributable to Health Minister Shannon Fentiman:

“I have repeatedly made my expectation clear that victims of rape and sexual assault are treated in a timely and trauma-informed way.”

“Unfortunately, on too many occasions, this has failed to happen.”

“That is why I have taken this step of issuing a Ministerial Directive under the legislation to ensure that our public hospitals are appropriately caring for victims.”

“Every single woman who presents at a public hospital following a sexual assault expects and is entitled to be seen within 10 minutes.”

“Margaret McMurdo and the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce made clear that this is a societal problem with system-wide shortcomings.”

“My hope is that this will mean not a single additional victim-survivor is let down by our health system.”

“To every woman who has ever had to endure this trauma and who has not received the standard of care she is entitled to through our health system, I am sorry.”



This statement replaces the statement which was posted at 8:07am Friday 17th November 2023.