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Charity marks 30-year milestone

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Victims of Crime Assistance League (VOCAL) is celebrating its 30th year of validating, honouring and empowering victims of crime.

The organisation started out in 1989 when Dawn and Barry Gilbert rallied more than 600 people who were outraged by their daughter Tracey’s murder and the inadequacies that existed within the criminal justice system in supporting victims of crime.

“I was 16 when I lost my sister; I was doing my HSC, I had just started Year 11, and my mum was determined to – out of losing Tracey – help people,” daughter Lynda Gilbert said.

“There was nothing, there was nobody, you just had to go through it all on your own.

“Mum didn’t want other families to have to go through that, it was too much.”

So, in the dining room of their house, VOCAL began.

The organisation understands that crime impacts people in different ways, and it exists to support and empower victims of any crime, from murder right down to schoolyard bullying.

“When [victims have] the right support, they feel empowered and they can move forward and do great things despite what they have experienced,” VOCAL chief executive Kerrie Thompson said.

VOCAL also lobbies the government for change, they can show the government how legislation and legal procedures impact upon victims.

“We feel very privileged because we get to share the real stories of our clients with people who make laws,” Ms Thompson added.

“They get to hear firsthand how their policies and procedures are impacting.”

The organisation has instigated important changes over the last three decades.

It influenced the government to make changes to policy and legislation; was instrumental to the introduction of victim impact statements in the criminal justice system; and contributed to the recent changes in sexual abuse laws.

Sadly, VOCAL suffered a tragic loss last year, losing founder Dawn Gilbert, but it is moving forward for her and will continue to fight her fight.

“People don’t have to go through such awful events alone,” Ms Thompson said.

VOCAL will celebrate its 30-year milestone at a fundraising dinner tomorrow (Friday 1 November) from 6.30pm at Marina Views Function Centre, Wickham.

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