Women fleeing domestic violence will now be eligible for a new, one-off payment of up to $5000 under a two-year trial established by the federal government.
Under the new scheme, women will receive up to $1,500 in cash, with the remainder of the amount available for goods and services, direct payments of bonds, school fees or other necessary support to establish a new life.
The trial, called the Escaping Violence Payment, is designed to address some of the financial barriers women face when attempting to leave an abusive situation.
“We know that financial hardship as well as economic abuse, which may involve interfering with work or controlling or withholding money, reduces women’s ability to acquire and use money and makes it difficult to leave violent relationships,” Ruston said.
Ruston said the payment is designed to give women more security when they make a decision to leave an abuse relationship.
“The payments will assist people who need financial support to leave. We know the size of the house a woman is fleeing doesn’t matter – often she bundles the kids into the car, maybe the dog too and they leave with nothing more than the clothes on their backs.”
Eligibility for the payment is based on financial stress and evidence of domestic violence, and includes (but is not limited to) a referral from a domestic violence service provider with a risk assessment and safety plan, an AVO, court order or police report.
The payments will be delivered through The UnitingCare Australia Consortium as a service provider.
Claerwn Little, the national director of UnitingCare Australia, said the organisation has “extensive experience supporting victim-survivors” and would leverage its knowledge to provide “a wrap-around service” for women and their children.
“As part of the individualised support packages, UnitingCare Network agencies will provide tailored assistance and engage with other relevant agencies that support women and their children including other Commonwealth or state and territory government funded community services,” Little said.
The trial, costed at $144.8 million, is part of the federal government’s women’s safety package. The payment will not be considered taxable or reportable income.
According to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1 in 6 women in Australia experience intimate partner violence.
The Escaping Violence Payment comes as Indigenous family violence prevention and legal services continue their call for a separate, self-determined national plan to reduce violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children.
An open letter addressed to Scott Morrison, Marise Payne and Anne Ruston and signed by Indigenous family violence prevention and legal services, academics, community leaders and victim-survivors has called for a standalone plan developed by and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.
“A truly self-determined plan that brings together Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and First Nations frontline service providers to design our own strategies for our safety and the safety of our communities,” the open letter lists as one of its calls.
“This cannot be achieved by the government deciding who is at the table, and what reforms they want to consider.”
This call was supported by high-profile Indigenous leaders including Professor Marica Langton and June Oscar AO at the National Women’s Safety Summit.
“The national plan does not work for us,” Professor Langton said at the Summit. “Let me be very clear about this. Nobody listens to us. They talk over the top of us and tell us what we’re going to have in our communities.”
“No one listens to the women in the communities, the women in the towns, the women in the suburbs who have to deal with all the young women, and older women and children fleeing from violence.
“Lives are being lost because people who think they know better than us will not listen to us and will not act on our advice.”
The open letter, spearheaded by Change The Record, also calls for a dedicated national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Gathering or Summit “to ensure that self-determined, community-led solutions are invested in and listened to”.
Anne Ruston has said she supports the development of a standalone national plan to reduce violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children.
“We absolutely support a dedicated self-determined action plan that has real and practical outcomes and measures in it, to make sure issues facing Indigenous women are addressed in a way they would like to be addressed,” Senator Ruston told the ABC’s Radio National on Monday morning.
“Equally, the national framework cannot be silent on Indigenous women, and what we are seeking to do is to have a dedicated action plan designed by Indigenous women moving towards self-determination.”
If you or someone you know is impacted by family and domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au.
The Men’s Referral Service can be contacted on 1300 766 491.
In an emergency, call 000.