Colleen, marching on for Tom

by Graeme Down

If you have kept in touch with Doncaster Athletic Club you will be aware that in memory of the great Tom Kelly, his favourite Seb Coe training session is on next Tuesday.  On 15 September 2020 it will be seven years since we lost our dearest of friends.  Tom’s Seb Coe sessions was one of his favourites so on Tuesday the Club is encouraging us all to do Tom’s Seb Coe session in his honour.

And significantly, the Kelly family is marching on.  Tom’s daughter, Colleen continues to play a huge role at the Club on the Committee and driving the Ruffey Runners group.  But Colleen has also been extremely active championing the case for the victims of crime.

While it can be argued that the criminal justice system in our country needs serious work, it is fair to say the vast majority of ordinary Australians would firstly support huge improvements for the treatment of the victims of crime.  Criminal justice reforms are welcome but too often such reforms are throwing the baby out with the bath water.  Victims of crime are the hardest hit yet criminal justice reforms appear to ignore the poor treatment of the victims of crime.

Since losing Tom, Colleen has championed this cause constantly writing and talking to government, media and victim representative agencies.  And someone is listening.  Recently Colleen was asked to apply for one of six Community Representative positions on the Victims of Crime Consultative Committee (VOCCC).  Established in 2013, the VOCCC is a high level forum for victims of crime, prosecutors, judiciary, police and service agencies to discuss concerns with and reforms to the criminal justice system.  The Committee advises the Attorney General on issues relating to victims of crime.

Colleen submitted an application and following an interview and assessment process, Colleen is now a member of the VOCCC.

The VOCCC is chaired by a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, the Honourable Jennifer Coate AO.  You may know the name, Jennifer Coate is currently the head of the COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry.  Here’s hoping she can uncover the wrongs of Victoria’s second wave of this nasty virus.  No doubt Colleen has a great deal to offer Ms Coate when she gets back to the business of improving the manner in which the victims of crime are treated.

And the work that Colleen and her Committee confronts is real, harsh and pressing.  One only has to look at a recent change to the Judicial Proceeding Act in February of this year.  These changes silence all sexual assault victims whose offenders have been found guilty.  These victims are now banned for ever speaking out under their real identities.  The victims of such crimes can no longer speak, their freedom of speech has been outlawed.  And the new laws apply irrespective of when the crime occurred.  This includes scores of high profile survivor advocates who have been speaking out for decades.

Not only does legislation like this harm victims, it restricts any improvements.  Colleen has lots of work to do and will no doubt do so with her determination and commitment, characteristics that her Dad Tommy distilled.

It goes without saying, Colleen has worked tirelessly for the victims of hit and run crimes and her new role places a great deal on her desk.  We wish you well Colleen, we are right behind you.  And as Tommy would say: “Hang in there now!”