If you have been the victim of a violent crime that occurred in Victoria, you may be eligible for financial assistance from the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT). VOCAT provides assistance to victims of crime who have experienced pain and suffering or financial losses as the result of a violent crime or series of violent crimes. Victims of crime assistance is governed by the Victims of Crime Assistance Act.
Who can get assistance from VOCAT?
You can make a claim through the victims of crime assistance scheme if you are:
- A primary victim, meaning you were injured as a direct result of a violent crime;
- A secondary victim, meaning you were present at the scene of a crime and suffered an injury as a result of witnessing it, or if you are the parent or guardian of a child who is the victim of a crime and you suffered an injury upon becoming aware of the crime;
- A related victim, meaning you are a close family member of a person who died as the direct result of a crime;
- If you fit none of the above criteria but have incurred funeral expenses as the result of a death that was the direct result of a violent crime, you can make a claim for funeral expenses only.
Who cannot get assistance from VOCAT?
You are not eligible for assistance if:
- At the time the violent act occurred you were yourself committing an offence;
- The offence occurred outside of Victoria. However, you may be eligible for assistance in the state or territory where the act occurred.
- You did not report the crime to police within a reasonable time. However, if you reported the crime to police, but the offender was not charged or was not found guilty, you are still eligible to apply.
How long do I have to make a claim?
Claims should be lodged within two years of the violent crime. If more than two years have passed since the violent crime, VOCAT may still be willing to assess your claim. However, you will need to explain to the tribunal why you are lodging your claim late. The two-year time limit does NOT apply if you were under the age of 18 when the violent crime occurred.
What can I claim?
Expenses that VOCAT will consider awarding assistance for include reasonable medical and counseling expenses that resulted from the violent crime; funeral expenses where the primary victim dies as the result of the violent crime; and damage to clothing during the commission of the violent crime.
VOCAT will also consider awarding assistance for safety-related expenses, where an applicant can demonstrate a particular thing is needed to assist in their recovery from the violent crime. An example of this would be where a person was assaulted in their home and requires a security system to be installed in order to feel safe at home in the future.
VOCAT can also award assistance to make up for loss of earnings resulting from missing work while recovering from injuries. In some circumstances, where a victim has been particularly impacted by a violent crime, VOCAT will award ‘special financial assistance’.
VOCAT does not award assistance for expenses incurred through damage to property (with the exception of clothing that was being worn at the time of the act of violence).
How do I make an application?
If you are claiming assistance for physical injuries, you will need to obtain medical evidence, such as hospital records or a letter from your doctor, outlining the extent of your injuries and what treatment you received. If you are claiming loss of earnings, you will need to provide proof of the amount lost such as payslips and a letter from your employer. If you are claiming psychological or psychiatric injuries you will need to undergo an assessment by a psychologist or psychiatrist.
VOCAT will collect evidence such as police records and make a decision as to whether you are eligible for assistance and how much assistance you are entitled to. This process can take up to two years.
What if I need help urgently?
If you need financial assistance urgently, you can apply for an interim award from VOCAT. You will need to outline how much money you need urgently and what you need it for. You will need to provide receipts or quotes for your expenses.
Other types of compensation
Depending on the circumstances of the violent crime, you may be entitled to other types of compensation such as Workers Compensation (if you were at work or traveling to or from work when it happened) or a payout from an insurance policy. Receiving one type of compensation payout sometimes makes you ineligible for other compensation schemes, so make sure you thoroughly investigate what your entitlements are before you make any applications to ensure you get the best possible outcome for your situation.