Queensland Homicide Victims’ Support Group (QHVSG) was founded on the 7th February 1995 in Northern Queensland, when five families united to address the desperate lack of assistance and support for all families who have experienced the loss of a loved one through murder. During this time, there were no specific government services or community groups available to neither assist families nor provide them with specific support and information. This lack of support at the time resulted in families being left isolated and alone during an extremely intense and incredibly painful period of their lives. Further to this was a yearning from families to meet with others who too had lost a loved one in such a brutal manner. To learn from and share their experiences with each other, rather than speaking to Counsellors who are often perceived as having limited personal or other experience within this specialized area.
Queensland Homicide Victims’ Support Group was formed to bridge this gap, offering families for the first time, support, strength and encouragement to continue on the difficult journey ahead. After consultation with victims and the community, a strong contribution was put forward for the development and endorsement of the Criminal Offence Victims Act (COVA) 1995. This became the first piece of legislation in Queensland to recognize family members of the deceased as also being victims within a homicide. This was a significant milestone for families whom previously had not been ascribed the right to respect and dignity in legislation. In 1997, QHVSG received its first round of government funding, allowing the organization to make significant inroads into its three current areas of service delivery: support; education; and reform. It was during this time that QHVSG perhaps best demonstrated its reputation for a strong voice for victims of homicide, when Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson accepted the role of Patron for QHVSG, a position he still holds today. Our partnership with all levels of the Queensland Police Service continues to this day, enabling QHVSG to work collaboratively with QPS to ensure victims of homicide are responded to in a timely, professional, yet compassionate manner state-wide.
QHVSG remains focused upon these three areas, however the size and scope of QHVSG’s services have broadened significantly. Since 2006 alone, the following achievements have been made:
- Full restructuring of the volunteer program including writing three volumes of course material relating to Court Support, Phone Support and an Induction Package.
- Additionally implemented quarterly staff newsletter to engage and retain staff and volunteers into QHVSG.
- Developed QHVSG Volunteer Training Program involving training, mentoring and professional ‘life coaching’ from accredited commercial provider. Volunteer initiatives have seen volunteer numbers increase from 50 to 120 in the last 2 years.
- Foundation member of State Government initiative, the Youth Violence Taskforce, chaired by the Police Commissioner and Police Minister. Strong platform from which to put forward group’s initiatives and allow victim input into the Government’s strategic direction on the topic. This has increased introduced exposure to vital new contacts and sources of potential funding, as well as created and strengthened relationships with stakeholders and network agencies.
- Further strong input into the judicial system’s review of Committal hearings, chaired by Justice Moynihan.
- Provided victim input into reform issues relating to the criminal justice system’s management of offenders under the Juvenile Justice Act (eg naming juvenile violent offenders)
- QHVSG was consulted as the leading organisation invited to provide input into sweeping physical changes to courtroom layouts to assist victims through the justice process throughout Australia.
- Design and implementation of QHVSG website
- Implementation of active sub-committees relating to reform, education, fund raising and other issues. Designed and wrote operational manuals for each separate committee, providing leadership and overall direction.
- Writing and implementing QHVSG’s first ever Strategic Plan 2009-2012, providing objectives, goals and the strategies to achieve them.
- Forming strategic partnerships with other organisations, enabling the creation, production and shortly the distribution of QHVSG’s youth violence DVD package, using the group’s One Punch Can Kill agenda.
- With the support of the LPITAF Fund administered through Department of Justice and Attorney General, complete rewriting and printing of a Membership Handbook designed to take victims through the journey that lies ahead of them.
- The purchase and installation of economical telephone and computer communications, allowing low cost interaction between the QHVSG regional offices.
- Successful partnership with the Daniel Morcombe Foundation which assists victims to access funding from the Kin Project, ‘Kids In Need’, ensuring the needs of children are normalised as much as possible through their traumatic experience.
- Increased stature of the Group and its members in the eyes of stakeholders, the media and the public. Forging of strong working relationships with the Attorney General, Commissioner of Police, Minister for Police, the Chief Justice and other members of the state’s Judiciary. Enhancement of awareness of the group through community and police engagement in training and education roles.