An attempt to fix a law which silenced survivors of sexual abuse may end up preventing families from speaking out about deceased relatives who also suffered abuse.
While the draft bill will mean survivors will no longer need a court order to tell their own stories under their own names, activist group Let Us Speak said other changes will mean the families of deceased victims will now need a court order - the group's Nina Funnell said this would make it more difficult for family members to speak out in cases like the murder of Jill Meagher, for example.
In Ballarat, where the descendents and families of clerical sexual abuse survivors have carried on the fight for recognition, Ms Funnell said the bill as it stands could have dramatic consequences.
"The really disappointing, distressing news, that out of nowhere, and without consultation on this issue, the government has decided it will become an instantaneous crime to name deceased sexual assault victims, and that if grieving relatives, friends, or other loved ones want to be able to continue naming that person, they'll now need to go through that process of having to apply for a court order, which again, for some people, will be protracted, costly, and re-traumatising," she said.
"With every single court order we've applied for, for a living survivor, including Phil Nagle, the process has been complex, convoluted, costly, and unnecessarily long, and that's where the person's wishes are known and clear.
"Introduce a scenario where the person's wishes are not known, the family members may be at war with each other - these are traumatic events, people process trauma and grieve differently -the only people who benefit are the lawyers."
State attorney-general Jill Hennessy said in a statement the proposed laws "will not stop the naming of deceased victims by the media or more importantly, by the families of people who have died", but Ms Funnell said they would still require a court order under the current legislation.
Ms Hennessy said the advice from experts and advocates "has been clear".
"Reforms addressing the ability to speak on behalf of deceased victims are complex and we need to take time to get it right and that any reforms take account of any wishes victims expressed before they died," she said.
READ MORE: Phil Nagle, the man they will never silence
"We have taken immediate action to ensure victim-survivors of sexual abuse have a stronger voice by introducing legislation to empower victim-survivors to tell their stories without having to seek court permission."
Ms Funnell said the latter was a win for survivors, their families, and advocates and supporters, but more work needed to be done before the legislation was passed by state parliament.
"With all the trauma, hardship, and darkness in Balarat, there has also been so much courage and moral leadership from the survivor community, and it's through the voices of survivors and their advocates, and all those who support them, that the wider Australian public has been forced to deal with this issue of sexual abuse," she said.
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"To erect any roadblocks or to silence any portion of that survivor community is a step backwards.
"The reality is, this bill is divisive to the survivor community, because it means hope and the ability to speak for some, while continuing to silence and gag an equally traumatised portion of that survivor community.
"Those brave individuals who have continued the fight and the legacy for change, should be upheld and supported by the community, and listened to, not silenced and forced through a litigious process."
The bill will return to the upper house for debate this week.
Affected by this story? There is help available.
You can phone the Ballarat Centre Against Sexual Assault, in Sebastopol, on 5320 3933, or free-call the crisis care line 24 hours on 1800 806 292.
Or phone Lifeline on 13 11 14, the Blue Knot Foundation on 1300 657 380, or Relationships Australia on 1300 364 277.
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