Half a billion dollars – that’s how much funding Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced last week to start implementing the recommendations from the state’s Royal Commission into Family Violence.
It was an act of incredible leadership, and exactly the kind of thing we need to see from leaders at all levels if Australia is going to successfully address the rates of family violence devastating our communities. It’s an announcement that has also set an important benchmark for the scale of action needed ahead of Prime Minister Turnbull’s first budget in just a few weeks.
Because as the Royal Commission has found: “All parts of the system – support services, police, courts – are overwhelmed by the number of family violence incidents now reported. Services are not currently equipped to meet this high level of demand, which undermines the safety of those experiencing family violence and their potential for recovery.”
$572 million has been announced as the down-payment on Victoria’s implementation of the most urgent Royal Commission recommendations, and their call for ‘an immediate increase in funding to prevent family violence, help victims recover, and help perpetrators change their behaviour’.
For many women, finding a way to escape an abuser is difficult, dangerous, and impossible to do without support. Yet right now thousands upon thousands of women remain unable to access the service support they need. The ability of many of these services to provide that support relies on joint federal and state funding.
Take legal assistance services for example. Without access to legal help, many women can’t access the information or advice they need to escape their abuser, or know they’ll be able to protect themselves or their children. But the number of people who can’t access legal assistance in our country is staggering. At Community Legal Centres, the top two areas of work they do are family law and family violence-related. But governments’ decision to inadequately fund these services is forcing Centres to turn away 160,000 people a year, including women affected by family violence.
In December 2014 the Productivity Commission made recommendations that $200 million of additional funding needed to be immediately injected into the legal assistance service sector by governments. They recommended that the federal government provide 60% of that funding ($120 million annually). Instead, Community Legal Centres are facing a $12 million cut in federal funding from 2017 onwards.
Specialist women’s and children’s family violence services are another example of a potentially life-saving services that relies on joint federal and state funding. Last week’s announcement in Victoria included a very significant commitment of an additional $103.9 for specialist services like crisis support and counselling. In just Victoria.
It’s important here to note that Victoria is considered by many to have led the way in a number of domestic violence response areas over the past decade. For example, in establishing and resourcing perpetrator response services like men’s behaviour change programs and in the development of a common family violence risk assessment framework. Which is just to say that the government’s recognition that $572 million of additional funding is needed to address service and system gaps in Victoria gives us a pretty good idea of the scale of investment we should be expecting (and campaigning for) in other states and territories, and from the federal government.
The Turnbull government’s announcement of the $100 million Women’s Safety Package last September was a positive step. But there are still thousands of women who can’t access the service support they need to escape abuse, and live free from danger. That half a billion dollars has been needed to start addressing funding gaps in just one of our states and territories gives a good idea of the scale of investment our leaders need to be making to address this epidemic. And the scale of investment we, as community members, should be calling for.
The Prime Minister has said he considers family violence is a national priority. The true test of that commitment will come in this year’s budget.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000. For more information about a service in your state or local area download the DAISY App in the App Store or Google Play.