Thousands of women return to violent partners because they can't access affordable housing. It's time for change.

Thousands of women return to violent partners because they can’t access affordable housing. It’s time for change.

domestic

Up to 7,700 women a year are returning to partners who inflict violence upon them while 9,120 women are forced into homelessness after escaping violent homes because they have nowhere else to go, new research commissioned by the Everybody’s Home campaign has revealed.

However, an investment of $7.6 billion from the federal government would supply 17,000 new homes to help fix the problem of housing shortages for women in need

The Nowhere To Go report also showed that if the government invested this amount it would also create 47,000 jobs and provide savings of $15.3 billion from lowering the costs of homelessness. 

The Everybody’s Home campaign, which aims to push for a fairer housing system across the nation, is planning to submit the report to the federal government’s National Women’s Safety Summit on 29 and 30 July.

The national spokesperson for the Everybody’s Home campaign said the research made a compelling economic and social case for investment that would keep tens of thousands of women and children safe.

Kate Colvin, who has been the spokesperson for the campaign since 2015, believes that the harsh reality is that women can be forced into a position where they have to leave to find safety.

“Victims and survivors of domestic and family violence are often criticised for returning to their abusive partners but an overwhelming majority have to choose between that and homelessness,” Colvin said in a statement. 

“This report demonstrates an urgent need for an additional 16,800 social housing units to ensure women and children have somewhere to go when they are forced to leave their homes due to domestic and family violence,” she said.

The report’s modelling suggests additional social housing investment would help prevent costs of up to $122.5 million per year due to women returning to violent relationships as well as another $257 million a year in preventable costs due to less women experiencing homelessness caused by domestic or family violence.  

The report also acknowledged recent research done by PWC and KPMG which estimated broader economic costs of domestic violence accumulating to over $22 billion a year.   

Colvin believes that investing in more social housing would provide both social and economic benefits.

“More than 9,000 women and children face homelessness each year after leaving a violent partner,” she continued. “As this report highlights, many simply have nowhere to go.”

“Victims and survivors of domestic and family violence are often criticised for returning to their abusive partners but an overwhelming majority have to choose between that and homelessness.”

Colvin also highlighted the importance of providing stable housing for women fleeing an unsafe home environment. 

“Ideally, women would stay in their homes and perpetrators would be removed during instances of family violence,” she said. “The harsh reality is that women need to leave to find safety.” 

“By building more social housing, the federal government can inject billions of dollars into our economy, create tens of thousands of jobs and prove it is serious about helping victims of domestic and family violence.”

In May last year, the Australian Institute of Criminology found a large increase in women experiencing domestic abuse for the first time, in a survey involving more than 15,000 Australians. Comparing March 2020 and March 2021, they found that there was an almost 6 percent increase in the number of women seeking homelessness services.  

Currently, figures in Australia show that roughly one in six women have experienced physical or sexual violence by a current or previous partner. 

Between 2019 and 2020, police across Australia recorded 112,509 family and domestic violence-related incidents. This number is believed to represent only 40 percent of actual crime levels since many incidents go unreported. 

In April, at the the Women’s Summit, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced widespread demands for more funding to combat domestic and family violence.  

Jane Hume, Victoria’s Women’s Economic Security Minister, said Morrison’s government had proposed to put $9 billion on housing and homelessness this financial year, which would include $5.3 billion in Commonwealth Rent Assistance and $1.6 billion provided to the states and territories under a national agreement.

Hume told SBS that housing was considered a “fundamental pillar of economic security for Australians, including women fleeing domestic violence.”

“We are taking a collaborative approach with the states and territories to unlock existing housing supply and to assist them in meeting their responsibilities in providing social and community housing, and those conversations are ongoing,” she said.   

The government revealed plans during this year’s budget announcement that they would invest more than $998 million over four years in programs and services to reduce domestic and family violence.  

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

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