The city of Melbourne was the scene of a terrible tragedy on Friday, 20 January 2017. It occurred within very close proximity to our office. We saw some of the aftermath. We felt the sense of dread that gripped our city. In the very early stages we tried to comprehend what had occurred. The events of the day have now been widely reported by media outlets.
Our deepest sympathies go to the families of those who have died. Our prayers are with the injured and especially those who remain fighting for their lives and receiving critical care in Melbourne’s Hospitals. Our thoughts are with those who witnessed the events that unfolded at the time and who are left to deal with the visions and sounds. Our gratitude goes to all police, emergency services workers, doctors and nurses and citizens that answered the call and went to the aid of the victims. We saw the true Australian spirit, Melbournian spirit, come to the fore that day and it was incredibly heartening. But there are many, many people who will need ongoing support and assistance in the aftermath.
One thing that many might not appreciate is that this was a “transport accident”. As such, all victims have an entitlement to lodge a claim with the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) and as part of that claim to receive medical treatment and a range of other support services. This won’t reverse what occurred, but it could be very beneficial for many; the families of the deceased, the victims who suffered physical and emotional injuries and also those who attended to and witnessed the events of the day and who may be dealing with the psychological effects. This is likely to be something that will continue to impact many over the days, weeks and months to come.
We commend the Victorian Government for pledging to assist the victims. However, we hold concerns regarding the Government’s approach.
The Andrews Government has launched a fundraiser to assist the families of those killed and has pledged $100,000.00 to the Bourke Street Fund. The Federal Government has also pledged to donate and will match the $ 100,000.00. All Victorians are being asked to donate. We have no doubt the Victorian people will answer the call. It is being said that the Fund ‘will also complement other services and support, particularly for those who were injured or who witnessed the Bourke Street tragedy’. It is stated that the Fund will be managed by an Independent Panel who will guide decisions about the fund. By comparison, the TAC fund which already exists and which every Victorian motorist and motor vehicle owner already contributes to annually through their registration fees, contains in excess of $13 billion.
We hope that the Victorian Government is intending the Bourke Street Fund to be an additional supplement to the existing TAC system/fund, however fear that it may be used as an alternative. Sadly, if it is the latter we see a range of problems associated with this.
Instead, the Government should be informing ALL Victorians that those who have been effected/affected by this tragedy should lodge a claim with the TAC. With this, victims and those who witnessed the events of the day potentially have a range of entitlements including coverage for medical and related expenses (and funeral expenses for the families of the deceased), counselling services and psychological support, income benefits and even possible lump sum compensation. The benefits and entitlements under the TAC system are likely to be more generous and more immediate. Administration of these entitlements is likely to be smoother as the TAC system has operated for more than 30 years now and already has in place well defined processes and procedures for the delivery of benefits.
For victims who did not require hospitalisation, under the TAC system there is a requirement to cover the first $ 629.00 of non-hospital treatment and support services. The Andrews Government should make an exception in this instance by waiving the medical excess for all victims of the events of Friday 20 January 2017 who lodge a TAC claim.
Victims of this tragedy also have rights to Crimes Compensation.