The Morrison government has announced it will double its spending on women’s safety to $227 million annually ($680 million over three years), in Tuesday’s Federal Budget.
It’s a start, but organisations focused on women’s safety say the amount is nowhere near enough to address the issue effectively.
They say a $1 billion yearly investment is required to close the gap in frontline domestic violence services.
Hayley Foster, chief executive of Women’s Safety NSW — a peak representative body for women’s specialist domestic and family violence services advocating for women’s safety, justice and wellbeing, says that Australia has never made proper attempts to make domestic abuse services universally available.
“There are currently many services which are underfunded or simply not available Australia-wide,” she said in a statement.
“We wonder why domestic and sexual violence rates aren’t coming down, but truly, how can we expect women to leave violent and abusive relationships when we’re not ensuring they have access to safety and support? And how can we break the cycle?”
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Frontline domestic and family specialists say that New South Wales’ most critical service gap is case management, though serious gaps exist across the spectrum of services.
Figures from Women’s Safety NSW reveal that 9 out of 10 women experiencing violence who want to be supported are unable to access such services and 1 in 3 women and girls seeking accommodation to escape violence are unable to be housed.
A 2020 survey from Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services showed that women in half of the local court areas in NSW lack access to women’s legal services. Fifty percent of women in local areas do not have access to a women’s health centre and their children lack access to child-focused domestic and family violence case management services.
The same survey also indicated that men in 20 percent of local court areas of NSW do not have access to accredited men’s behaviour change services.
In addition, services that have been positively evaluated such as the Family Advocacy Support Services (FASSs) in the Family Courts, Domestic Violence Units (DV Units) in Legal Aid Commissions and Health Justice Partnerships in health-related settings have been waiting to expand but have only maintained pilot status so far.
Consequently, access to critical safety services continue to be unavailable to many women and children.
Hayley Foster recognises the positive step the Federal Government have taken in investing in women safety but believes more is needed.
“This is a good start and if invested in the right interventions, will significantly improve the safety of many Australian women and children experiencing family, domestic and sexual violence,” she said.
“However, we still need to see a four-fold increase in this figure if we want to ensure all Australians can access the services they need to achieve safety in the face of domestic and sexual violence and all communities equipped with the tools and resources to prevent such violence occurring in the first place.”
“This is about recognising the magnitude of this problem as the single biggest preventable driver of premature death, disability and illness in Australian women aged up to 45 years of age and that domestic and sexual violence services are not a luxury, but an absolute necessity.”
Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg will deliver the 2021-22 Federal Budget at approximately 7.30 pm (AEST) on Tuesday 11 May 2021