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How to apply to VOCAT

How to apply to Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT).

Reporting to the police

In almost all circumstances victims of a violent crime must report the incident to the police for it to be considered at the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT).

It is not necessary that anyone be charged, or convicted for financial assistance to be granted. VOCAT can make its own investigation into the matter and make a decision based on the balance of probabilities (instead of the criminal standard of proof, 'beyond reasonable doubt').

See Victims of crime(opens in a new window).

Exceptions

VOCAT may take ‘special circumstances’ into account when considering an application. If the matter was not reported to the police, the victim must complete a statutory declaration setting out the reasons why it was not reported. This helps VOCAT decide whether ‘special circumstances’ exist.

How to apply

Applications for financial assistance need to be made in writing by completing and lodging an ‘Application for assistance’ form. These forms are available from the VOCAT website, and form all venues of the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria.

See Forms.

Where to apply

Applications should usually be lodged at the venue of the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria which is closest to the victim’s place of residence. However, applications should be lodged at VOCAT’s principal registry at Melbourne in the following circumstances:

  • the applicant is a related victim
  • the applicant is a primary or secondary victim who is aware of the existence of a related victim
  • the applicant resides outside Victoria Legal Aid
  • the applicant identifies as an Aboriginal and/or Torres Straight Islander and should be managed within VOCAT’s Koori List.

For contact details see Victims of crime(opens in a new window).

Time limits

An application for financial assistance must be made within 2 years after the violent crime was committed, or in the case of a related victim, or a claim for funeral expenses, within 2 years of the death of the primary victim.

Note: This does not apply to a person who was the victim of a violent or sexual assault that happened before the person turned 18.

See s. 29—Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Extensions

VOCAT can accept ‘out-of-time’ applications under certain circumstances. The Tribunal can consider a range of factors including:

  • age
  • intellectual disability
  • mental health
  • whether the person who committed the violent crime was in a position of power, influence or trust in relation to the victim
  • whether the victim was threatened or intimidated by the person who committed the violent crime
  • nature of the injury
  • other circumstance it considers relevant.

If an application for financial assistance is lodged more than 2 years after the crime has been committed, or death of the primary victim, the applicant will be sent an ‘Application for extension of time’ form. This form requires that the reasons for the delay in applying for assistance are set out for VOCAT to consider.

See Forms.

Urgent financial assistance

A victim can apply for interim financial assistance at any time before a final decision has been made on their application for financial assistance. Applications must be in writing and set out the reasons for the urgency. They must include documentation of expenses incurred, or reasonably likely to be incurred.

Urgent financial assistance is usually granted for expenses such as counselling. Urgent assistance can also be granted for expenses that need to be paid before the application is finalised, for example: urgent medical, relocation or safety-related expenses.

Note: An ‘Application for assistance’ form must have been lodged before an application for interim assistance can be considered by VOCAT.

See Forms.

Supporting documentation

Once VOCAT have received an application for financial assistance they will write to the applicant, providing a receipt and any instructions on what to do next. Generally, all supporting documentation and a completed ‘Statement of claim’ should be filed with 4 months of the date of VOCAT’s receipt letter.

The applicant must notify VOCAT that they are ready to proceed with the application or request an extension to prepare the supporting documentation within those 4 months, or the application may be struck out.

How much does it cost?

There are no fees for filing an application to VOCAT, and a lawyer cannot charge an applicant any costs without VOCAT’s approval. The costs of all proceedings are at the discretion of VOCAT.

If an application is successful, the reasonable legal costs of the applicant will be paid directly to the applicant’s lawyer. This does not come out of the amount that is granted to the victim. Lawyers must not recover money from the applicant unless permitted by VOCAT.

See s. 48(4)—Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

More information

Legislation

Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996 (Vic)

  • s. 26—form of application
  • s. 27—what the application must set out
  • s. 28—where the application must be sent
  • s. 29—time for making application
  • s. 48—costs

See Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Victims of Crime Assistance Rules 2020 (Vic)

  • r. 6—applications for assistance
  • r. 7—lodgement of applications for assistance

See Victims of Crime Assistance Rules 2020 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

References

Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT)

The VOCAT website has the following information about assistance available to victims of crime:

  • Lodging an application
  • Application for assistance form
  • Urgent financial assistance
  • Supporting documentation required
  • Where to apply
  • VOCAT locations
  • Time to apply
  • Legal costs and advice

See VOCAT—How to apply(opens in a new window).

Victims of Crime

The Department of Justice interactive website has the following information about assistance available to victims of crime:

  • 'Reasons to report a crime'
  • 'How to report a crime'

See Victims of crime—The crime(opens in a new window).

See also Victims of crime—Police investigation(opens in a new window).

Or link to the home page of the interactive site Victims of crime(opens in a new window).

Fitzroy Legal Service

Fitzroy Legal Service’s Law Handbook has the following information about assistance available to victims of crime:

  • the application form
  • time limits
  • lawyers’ fees.

See Assistance for victims of crime(opens in a new window).

Updated