In this section:

NSW Sexual Assault Strategy 2018–2021

Responsible government

  • New South Wales

Fourth Action Plan actions

  • Respond to sexual violence and sexual harassment
    • 13 Prevent sexual violence and sexual harassment before it happens through national and targeted initiatives that promote informed consent, bodily autonomy and respectful relationships.
    • 14 Deliver client-centred, trauma-informed, specialised and consistent support to victims and survivors of sexual violence.

What are we doing?

The NSW Sexual Assault Strategy 2018-2021 (the Strategy) is a whole-of-government framework to improve prevention and response to sexual assault in NSW. The Strategy includes 26 activities under five key priority areas:

  • Prevention and early intervention
  • Education
  • Supporting victims and survivors
  • Holding perpetrators to account
  • Reshaping the service system.

What have we achieved so far?

In May 2018, the NSW Government referred a review into sexual consent in section 61HE (formerly section 61HA) of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) to the NSW Law Reform Commission (NSWLRC). The review examined the practical application of the law, sexual assault research and expert opinion, community views, experiences of sexual assault survivors, and developments in law, policy and practice in Australia and internationally. The Commission’s final report, with recommendations, was tabled in Parliament on 18 November 2020.

In May 2021, the NSW Government announced that it supports, or supports in principle, all 44 recommendations made by the NSWLRC and will introduce a Bill to Parliament later this year that will go further than the recommendations, by providing that any belief in consent that an accused person had (or may have) at the time of sexual activity will not be reasonable in the circumstances if the accused did not say or do anything to ascertain consent. This is consistent with an affirmative consent model. A research project has also been established by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR), to better understand the experiences of complainants of sexual offences within the criminal justice system.

The Strategy noted that the NSW Government would “consider the evaluation of the Child Sexual Offence Evidence Pilot” (CSOEP). The CSOEP operates at Newcastle District Court and Sydney Downing Centre District Courts. It also operates at Central Metropolitan, South West Metropolitan and Hunter Child Abuse Units – Joint Child Protection Response Program sites. In 2018, the (then) Department of Justice completed a review of the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Victims) Act 2018. As a result, further protections were introduced that give victims an entitlement to have a support person while they give evidence, give evidence in a court closed to the public, give evidence by playing previously recorded evidence and give a Victim Impact Statement (VIS) at sentencing in a closed court.

In December 2018, the NSW Government launched phase one of the #makenodoubt social media campaign, with the aim of raising awareness of the importance of seeking sexual consent. The campaign reached more than 286,000 people and included outdoor promotional posters with the campaign slogan “YES? + YES! = YES” and the distribution of campaign material to universities and TAFE campuses across NSW. The second phase of the #makenodoubt campaign launched in November 2019. It used outdoor advertising to extend the initial campaign approach of simple and positive language to reinforce the message that sexual consent must be clearly communicated. Following on from the success of the #makenodoubt campaign, a refresh of the campaign is being prepared for circulation in the coming months.

The Strategy has supported the expansion of NSW Health’s therapeutic services for children and young people who have engaged in harmful sexual behaviours. New Street Services for children and young people aged 10-17 years with harmful sexual behaviours has been rolled out across the state and are now available in all Local Health Districts. The services include a network of full services, hub and spoke models and outreach to meet the local geographic and population needs.

The Strategy is also supporting adult survivors of child sexual abuse, where eligible, to access social housing. A new priority housing category for adult survivors of child sexual abuse on the State’s social housing waiting list went live in September 2019. Applicants need to demonstrate that they are eligible for social housing and provide evidence that they have had a successful application to the National Redress Scheme (or similar successful redress claims to institutions not currently participating in the National Redress Scheme).

The Education Centre against Violence (ECAV) has developed and launched the Adult Survivors of Sexual Assault Pilot Online Training Strategy to build capacity in the workforce to recognise, respond and support adult survivors of sexual assault. ECAV has developed four x 3-hour interactive webinars, which were piloted from February to June 2021, across NSW.

An eLearning package to build the capacity of frontline workers to provide best practice, inclusive support for people from LGBTQ+ communities who have experienced sexual assault has been developed by ACON. The eLearning package is now available to all workers across the NSW service system.

Maari Ma Health Aboriginal Corporation has received funding for two years (until 30 June 2022) to develop, pilot and evaluate a sexual assault program to be delivered within their existing Kalypi Paaka Mirika: Clear River Ahead Healing Program. This pilot program will provide culturally appropriate support services to Aboriginal people who have experienced sexual assault and is being piloted in the communities of Broken Hill, Menindee and Wilcannia.

The challenges presented by COVID-19 have impacted the progress of some activities. The tertiary education sector has experienced significant disruption and delivery of related activities has been revised to mid-2021. Frontline service delivery and delivery of training, behaviour change and victim-survivor support programs have also been impacted. In some instances service delivery models have been adapted, however, in other instances delivery timeframes have been revised to mid to late-2021.

What is next?

The NSW Government is currently conducting a final review of implementation of the Strategy, which will be completed in late 2021. The Review is assessing progress, outputs and early outcomes resulting from the delivery of activities under the Strategy.

The NSW Government continues to deliver a range of initiatives under the Strategy, including the following:

  • Following on from the success of #makenodoubt, an expanded sexual consent campaign that will target a younger age cohort – young people aged 16-24 years old – is currently under development. The new campaign will focus on educating young people to recognise and seek consent, promote healthy, respectful attitudes and behaviours in relation to sexual activity, and support key changes to sexual consent laws in relation to the NSWLRC Consent Review.
  • Specialist community engagement and research to build on successful existing community-based interventions in the LGBTQ+ community that align to the Strategy and the NSW Domestic and Family Violence Blueprint for Reform:
    • ACON is working with the NSW Government on a number of initiatives including a research project on the prevalence of sexual assault in LGBTQ+ communities; development of a sexual assault educational toolkit; delivery of a domestic violence perpetrator behaviour change program; and delivery of two support groups for victim-survivors of sexual assault.
  • ECAV is developing a suite of resources for people with intellectual disability who have experienced sexual violence, their families, support people and service providers. These resources will improve access to appropriate and inclusive support and increase service providers’ ability to respond to their needs.
  • The NSW Education and Standards Authority (NESA) has completed the NSW Curriculum Review, with the final report released in June 2020. Input was provided to the review highlighting the need to provide early, age appropriate education on the continuum of sexual violence and strengthening content on respectful relationships. The new NSW curriculum is expected to be implemented by 2024. The Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority commenced its review of the Foundation to Year 10 Australian Curriculum in April 2021, and NESA is contributing feedback to the review to ensure alignment with the NSW curriculum reform program.

What difference will we make?

The Strategy aims to improve the service system for adults and children who experience sexual assault, while also holding perpetrators to account. The Strategy also seeks to raise community awareness of sexual violence and improve prevention and education measures in families and the wider community.

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