Domestic violence prevention advocates are urging state and Commonwealth Governments to adequately fund frontline domestic, family and sexual violence services, with record numbers of victims coming forward seeking safety and support.
Women’s Safety NSW has today issued an additional plea, with stats showing that the COVID pandemic is seeing frontline workers “slammed” and in urgent need of additional funding.
The organisation is highlighting the fact that COVID-related supplementary support is coming to an end, and both core and supplementary funding must be allocated across state and federal budgets this year.
Chief Executive Officer Hayley Foster notes the stats from Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services, which has saw a massive 35% surge in women seeking help, recording 286,722 occasions of delivering services to women experiencing domestic and family violence in NSW, 73,863 more than the year before.
Despite this, it has not received any increase to its core funding in recent years — so far, the only relief has been the $150 million from the Commonwealth allocated to NSW for support to services (a figure that was matched by the NSW Government). This funding was only temporary and is due to run out in a couple of months’ time.
Foster says the demand for domestic and family violence support is not letting up. Rather, it continues to surge across both metropolitan and regional areas.
She says the cumulation of multiple factors is raising demand for services: including hard lockdown conditions that saw victims trapped at home with their abusers 24/7, as well as COVID’s economic impact on families, and reduced resources for women escaping violent and abusive situations.
She adds that national and state-based awareness campaigns have also raised awareness and encouraged more people to come forward for help.
Women’s Safety NSW has also offered anecdotal evidence from those in their network to highlight the surge that is occuring, including one frontline specialist working with the regional Staying Home Leaving Violence Service (SHLV), who says that clients presenting for help have nearly doubled over the past year, compared with the previous year.
Another worker with WDVCAS says there are simply not enough funds to refer clients to support services in their local areas. “Where do we refer our clients and their children after experiencing domestic violence [if we] have no safe places to send them?”
Foster says it’s a good thing that more victim-survivors of domestic and sexual violence are coming forward.
“But we can’t expect frontline domestic, family and sexual violence serbvices to cope with this additional demand without supplementary funding.”
“Our measure of success shouldn’t be a reduction in women coming forward to seek safety and support. It should be a reduction in domestic-related homicides, hospitalisations and physical, mental and financial health impacts.”
Foster adds that if we get this right, we will see more women coming forward for safety and support in the immediate future. After a time, as primary prevention efforts make an impact and less families are trapped in intergenerational cycles of violence and abuse, “We will start to see a reduction in need for crisis support services.”
“If we ever needed more help for women’s safety, now is the time,” Foster says.
We need to address the service system gaps which pre-existed COVID, such as case management and accommodation support, and specialist supports for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, culturally and linguistically diverse women, women with disability, and LGBTIQA+ people, as well as targeted support for children, and behaviour change programs for people using violence in their relationships.”
If you or someone you know if in immediate danger, call 000. If you need help and advice call 1800Respect on 1800 737 732, Men’s Referral Service on 1300 766 491 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.