Funding cut to Victim Support Services forces Port Augusta office to close

The transition of state funding from Victim Support Services to Relationships Australia South Australia has forced the closure of its Port Augusta offices.
The transition of state funding from Victim Support Services to Relationships Australia South Australia has forced the closure of its Port Augusta offices.

The state government has withdrawn funding from Victim Support Services (VSS), forcing the closure of its Port Augusta offices.

Last month, Attorney General Vickie Chapman announced Relationships Australia South Australia (RASA) has been appointed to provide therapeutic counselling services to South Australian victims of crime over the next three years

The transition of counselling service to RASA has resulted in the de-funding of other support services provided by VSS.

VSS Chief Executive Officer John Koerber said South Australia will no longer have a dedicated victim support service that provides assistance and advocacy for the complex needs of victims.

"We know the impact will be particularly hard felt in the regional communities where VSS has provided more than 21 years of continuous support and we regret to inform that we will be closing our regional offices in Port Lincoln, Port Augusta, Port Pirie, Whyalla, the Riverland, Murray Bridge and Mount Gambier by 30 June 2020 as a result of this decision," he said.

"As the first victims of crime service in Australia and the fourth in the world, VSS has advocated tirelessly for the rights of victims of crime and abuse throughout this period, playing a lead role in the first inquiry into victims of crime in the world, establishment of the first victims of crime compensation fund in Australia and the first United Nations Declaration of Victims' Rights.

"This is truly the end of an era for victims of crime and abuse in South Australia, and we wish to thank our partner agencies who have worked closely with us in supporting victims over the years, including the Commissioner for Victims' Rights, SA Police, the Witness Assistance Service, the South Australian government and all of our regional partners and specialist service providers."

Attorney-General Vickie Chapman said RASA would work with VSS to ensure clients transition to the new service with minimal disruption.

RASA currently has eight offices in Adelaide, Hindmarsh, Port Adelaide, Marion, Salisbury, Elizabeth, Ridgehaven and Berri.

"It also expects to open offices in Mount Gambier and Port Augusta by the end of the year, ensuring comprehensive coverage both in the city and the country - with additional outreach services available in other regional areas," Ms Chapman said.

"Peer support workers will also be available to provide an extra layer of support to victims of crime.

"The counselling and peer support service will work collaboratively with the Commissioner for Victims' Rights, to ensure victims are provided with a holistic response that best meets their needs."

Ms Chapman said RASA has extensive experience in supporting vulnerable South Australians, including specific expertise in trauma-informed counselling.

"Being a victim of crime is devastating and life changing, particularly for those who experience violent crime and trauma," the Attorney-General said.

"It can affect someone's life in many ways, for many years after the event.

"RASA is a highly-regarded South Australian service that has a rich depth of expertise in therapeutic counselling that spans over 70 years.

"It has a long history of working with some of the most traumatised and at-risk members of the community and I am certain they will deliver an outstanding service to victims of crime.

"Victims of crime deserve the best possible support, and this appointment will ensure they have access to high quality and comprehensive counselling services."

Counselling services will be available during all stages of the criminal justice process both in person, by telephone and online.