"Irresponsible" government's inaction on domestic violence

The government’s inaction on domestic violence slammed as ‘appalling’ & ‘irresponsible’

Scott Morrison
The Federal government has elicited strong criticism from women’s safety advocates for its “ongoing inaction” on domestic violence.

A crisis meeting convened on Friday between the Women’s Safety Ministers resulted in no tangible outcomes to increase the safety of Australian women and children currently being subject to domestic and family violence.

Under the National Plan, the Australian Violence Against Women Alliance (AWAVA) was set up to advise the Federal Government on reducing violence against women and their children.

The group offered five urgent measures for the Women’s Safety Ministers to address at a meeting last Friday. The meeting by phone was co-chaired by Minister for Women Marise Payne and Social Services Minister Anne Ruston, and set up after the shocking deaths of Hannah Clarke and her three children in Brisbane at the hands of her estranged husband last month.

The measures drawn up by AWAVA aimed to address strategies to increase women and children’s safety and included full funding of specialist services and placing children’s safety first in family law.

AWAVA, together with Fair Agenda, wrote a letter to women’s safety ministers claiming the safety of Australian women and children would dramatically improve “within weeks” if federal and state governments provided more funding for frontline services such as perpetrator intervention programs and more training for doctors, police and lawyers to identify women at immediate risk of violence. The letter was signed by more than 40 organisations working in domestic violence.

The meeting resulted in no marked resolutions, and no commitments were made.

Instead, on Sunday, Social Services Minister, Anne Ruston marked International Women’s Day by re-announcing the controversial $20 million for a no-interest loan scheme for women fleeing abusive partners that would provide loans of up to $2,000 to people fleeing violent situations.

Hayley Foster, the chief executive officer of Women’s Safety NSW, said the government is ignoring the advice of experts and have failed to commit to “serious action in addressing domestic violence”.

Foster believes the re-announcement “adds insult to injury” and insinuates “victim blaming undertones.”

“The measure is itself a loan – a $2,000 loan that women have to go to another agency to apply for (not their local domestic and family violence service), and then have to repay,” Foster said in a statement. “In other words, “you got yourself into this mess, it’s your responsibility to get yourself out of it.” 

“At a time when politicians are preaching to the Australian community about changing their violence permissive and victim blaming language and attitudes, they themselves are developing policy which is premised on these very same belief systems.”

Foster told Women’s Agenda she is perplexed and disappointed and doesn’t understand why the government is ignoring its own experts.

“They’ve set up the advisory, that’s its purpose, to advise on these matters,” she said. “They haven’t just ignored recommendations. They haven’t even responded to them. 

“It’s quite irresponsible,” Foster continued. “They’re putting money into things that are not necessary effective. It’s essential that the money goes where it needs to go.”

“If the government are not going to enact any of the measures, what are they going to say to the family of the next murdered woman and children? Will we see a woman murdered in the contest of a family law proceeding that made the children spend time with the father who was with the children? Will we see another women who was not able to access the services or without specialist services? When these measures are not implemented, we will get predictable outcomes, and the government can’t act shocked when these deaths happens again.” 

Foster also told The Guardian the $20 million could be put to use instead on
“specialist frontline domestic violence services which support women and children to escape and recover from violence.”

In a statement, Foster asked, “What does it say about a government that continually dismisses women advisors on issues as they most critically affect women and their children?”

“If our political leaders truly want to change the culture of violence against women in this Country, perhaps they should start by modelling equality and respect in the way they develop women’s safety policy? The first step would be to listen and respond to the experts, most of whom happen to be highly qualified and experienced women.”

The outrage is raw and contentious and comes as the funeral for Hannah Clarke and her three children Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey is being held today in Brisbane. Prime Minster Scott Morrison will be in attendance, alongside thousands who are expected to pay tribute.

Clarke and her three children were killed last month after Hannah’s estranged husband set fire to his family inside a vehicle before killing himself.

Support is available for those who may be distressed by phoning Lifeline 13 11 14; Mensline 1300 789 978; Kids Helpline 1800 551 800; beyondblue 1300 224 636.

If you or someone you know is impacted by family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au

In an emergency, call 000.

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