Budget night: it’s the night you expect to hear funding commitments that reflect our government’s priorities. But Treasurer Joe Hockey’s federal budget speech included no new announcements of additional funding for family violence services.
It’s an omission that speaks volumes, and one that the Treasurer was asked to explain on last night’s Q&A, in a context where 25 women have been murdered in alleged domestic and family violence incidents in the first five months of this year.
His response? That there will be additional money, but he can’t tell us how much. Or whether it will be used to address the funding shortfalls causing thousands of women to be turned away from frontline services.
Which means that despite claiming that the government “take this issue very seriously”, we will see a continuance of the current situation — where women seeking support to escape family violence are being turned away from frontline services that don’t have the funding they need to respond to demand.
If, as a nation, we are really committed to keeping women safe from family violence; we need to make sure those who reach out for service support can get it. That’s also the message at the core of this new campaign video launched last week.
Because right now:
* Community Legal Centres – where a third of the work is family violence related – are having to turn away 150,000 people a year. This means women at risk are being left to face their abusers alone in court and without support to navigate the complex legal processes associated with escaping an abusive relationship.
* Family Violence Prevention and Legal Services – which provide specialist and culturally safe legal assistance, early intervention and prevention work still can’t reach all the geographic areas where there is unmet need for their service.
* Homelessness services – which act as a critical resource for women who can’t safely stay at home – are turning away 423 people every night.
These are all areas where the federal government has a clear funding responsibility. In fact, before budget night Minister Scott Morrison announced the federal government’s contribution to extend the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness – committing an amount that didn’t include indexation, meaning a real cut to services of $12.58 million across this year and the two years of the extension. Even at previous levels of funding these services can’t meet demand – so under this funding arrangement, we can expect even More women will be turned away.
That fact that during this family violence crisis, thousands of women are being turned away from services that should be helping keep them safe, because those services don’t have enough funding, is outrageous.
On budget night, Australians made the call to #showmethemoney to tackle family violence trend nationally. And the public outcry when the Treasurer’s budget speech included no new commitments of additional funding for services helped secure an additional $4 million for national hotline 1800 RESPECT. But not before 2 weeks of consistent public pressure about the fact that a funding shortfall had meant this critical service had to leave 18,631 requests for assistance unanswered in 2014.
It’s unbelievable that after months of talking about this national emergency, funding for services wasn’t front and centre on budget night. And it’s clear that we’re going to have to keep speaking up about this issue until it is.
To help make the call to fund services so loud the government can’t keep ignoring it; I urge you to join the campaign at: http://www.fairagenda.org/
– If you or someone you know is experiencing family violence, you can call 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) for 24/7 support. If you are unsafe right now, call 000. –