The court process can be incredibly daunting for a witness, and much more so for children – particularly for victims of sexual or violent crimes. Our goal is to ensure every child is supported through the stressful process of giving evidence, empowered throughout their justice journey!

Can you remember yourself as a child?

Imagine how your child self would feel if, as a victim, you were also faced with the terrifying prospect of having to give evidence in court. Imagine if you were forced to tell strangers – official-looking, adult strangers – every detail of the embarrassing, traumatic and wrong things that had happened to you, through no fault of your own.

Think about the length of time your child self would have to endure your journey for justice. Six months if you are unusually lucky, much longer for most. Months and months of worry about who you will see in court, if your abuser will be there, what will happen when you finally give evidence. How much you will have to tell about what happened to you, what you saw, felt or heard, and who will watch you tell it.

What if you’re not believed? You’re only a child, after all. And afterward, after you tell the truth, will you be safe?

The court process can be incredibly daunting for a witness, and much more so for children – particularly for victims of sexual or violent crimes.

It’s for these children PACT – Protect All Children Today – exists. A non-profit with more than 35 years’ experience, PACT provides impartial, empathetic and court approved support for child victims and witnesses who have to give evidence.

The entire process from arrest to trial can take six months to more than two years and along the way, there will often be unexpected, frustrating delays. PACT plays a crucial role in supporting children and young people step-by-step through the entire court process. Our goal is to ensure every child is supported through the stressful process of giving evidence, empowered throughout their justice journey!

As a non-profit that believes in harnessing the power of community, PACT relies on an incredibly dedicated team of volunteers to deliver our frontline services, that of supporting child victims one-on-one through every step of the court process.

PACT Support Volunteers play a vital role in helping child victims and their families find support at a time when they need it most by providing three key services:

1) Education on the legal process

The legal world and its terminology can be confusing, even for educated adults! If child witnesses and their families are prepared for and understand the purpose and process of the trial, they are less fearful about what will happen and able to give a better quality of evidence.

PACT focusses on providing education and information on the legal process, demystifying it in ways children and their families can comprehend, reducing the fear and anxiety of the unknown.

2) In-person support

At every key step of the court process, PACT Support Volunteers are by the child’s side, including when the child watches their initial police statement, meets the prosecutor and later when they give pre-recorded evidence.

Volunteers build rapport with the child from the beginning so when they are in the stressful stages of giving evidence, the volunteer can help the child stay calm, attentive and focussed. A less distressed child who feels safe and supported is more likely to remember their evidence and speak their truth.

3) Empowering children by building confidence and self-belief

PACT Support Volunteers help child victims find their strength and resilience, giving them the courage to tell the truth and supporting their right to be heard without fear in court. They also help the child to be aware of their rights and understand what support and compensation is available to them.

Each year PACT receives up to 2,000 referrals for support. PACT services are more in demand than ever, so new volunteers are needed throughout the State. If you’re looking for a meaningful retirement where you will draw on your professional skills and life experience in a unique and challenging role, consider becoming a PACT Support Volunteer.

PACT volunteers come from all backgrounds. This role is particularly suited to former educators and childcare professionals, counsellors, social workers, allied health workers and retired professionals in the fields of child protection, law enforcement and legal, although we welcome all volunteers with the right skills, traits and availability. No legal experience is necessary as we offer comprehensive training.

Due to its challenging and confronting nature, volunteering with PACT is not for everyone. However, for those who want to challenge themselves and create a tangible and long-lasting impact for some of the most vulnerable members of our community, while also learning new things and joining an interesting and engaged community of volunteers, this may be your perfect opportunity.

How do you quantify the sense of emotional relief a child feels when the complex legal journey is demystified in a way they can understand? Or put a value on the reassurance a child feels when their trusted PACT volunteer is right there alongside them in court for moral support?

Can you imagine the long-term effects on a child when stress evolves into anxiety, aggression, withdrawal, anger, depression, sleeplessness and nightmares? What if these could be replaced by feelings of being cared for, listened to, less burdened, less alone, and important enough to have their very own PACT Support Volunteer by their side? This is our imPACT!

Get involved by visiting www.pact.org.au, phone (07) 3738 7827 or email pact@pact.org.au.

By Alicia Brown, BA, MFA – Marketing and Fundraising Manager for PACT