7.05pm | March 04, 2022





SUBJECTS: Sexual, domestic and family violence, 500 additional community sector workers. 
LIBBY COKER, MEMBER FOR CORANGAMITE: Thank you for having us here today. I'm here with Senator Jenny McAllister, and we're here talking about family violence and sexual assault at the center in Geelong. It's really important for Labor that we do more for women, particularly who are facing the growing prevalence of sexual assault, and family violence. We've seen through COVID, that this is an issue that must be dealt with. And Labor believes that we can do so much more in Government. Jenny McAllister is here today to talk to us more about and with the community here about what we will do if elected.
JENNY MCALLISTER, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR COMMUNITIES AND THE PREVENTION OF FAMILY VIOLENCE: Thanks so much Libby for inviting me to this really terrific Centre and for introducing me to Helen and her excellent team. Domestic, sexual, family violence is a national crisis. Too many women and children spend too much time in deep fear, and are subjected to the worst kind of circumstances imaginable and unfortunately, for the last nine years, it has received too little attention from the Commonwealth Government. Under the Liberals, this has been relegated to a second or third level issue in terms of importance and that needs to change. Because too many people depend on government to support them.
The survivors of violence are strong, and they need our assistance to rebuild their lives. Labor in Government will make a number of important interventions. The first of these is that we will invest to create new, affordable homes. Everywhere I go, and here is no exception, workers in the family and domestic violence sector tell me that the lack of affordable housing is the key issue affecting their clients. And so a Labor Government will invest to build 30,000 new affordable homes, and 4,000 of those will be provided directly to women and children escaping violence, and older women at risk of homelessness.
We also know that an extra pair of hands can make an enormous difference. The services we talk to say that an extra person working on staff can help between 80 and 100 additional women and children each year. For that reason, we will invest in 500 new workers across Australia to support people who are facing violence. Here in Geelong and the surrounding regions, that will mean an additional seven workers. It'll mean an additional 560 women and children who can be helped and supported. And it will also mean that services like the one Helen runs, can be supported to grow the workforce that they need to meet the growing demands in this critical social policy area. I'm delighted to be here today. I'm delighted to have heard from a number of community members working in this area - survivor advocates who have shared some of their experiences, and I'm just delighted to be working with Libby and many of my other female colleagues around the country. We hope to form Government at the next election and we hope to make a real difference on this critical policy area. Helen.
HELEN BOLTON, CEO OF THE SEXUAL ASSAULT AND FAMILY VIOLENCE CENTRE: Thank you, Jenny, and thank you, Libby. It's an honour to have you both here today and also for your personal passion and commitment to address violence against women. So I really commend you for that. The difference that housing will make to women and children experiencing violence is just enormous. There are no exit options for women. They end up bottlenecked into crisis accommodation, and are often unable to leave because there aren't the housing options for them to move into. So it will really make a difference on the ground to women and children. During the pandemic, the crisis of family violence has increased enormously and we've seen increased complexity and higher risk cases than we've ever seen before. So Australia is in crisis. And it's terrific to have government that's really committed to addressing this. Additional workforce is way needed. Our staff have worked with trauma in their own homes for the last two years. There's an industry shortage and it's demanding work. It's work that we're all personally committed to and drawn to and it's a great honor to work in this area. We're very proud to work with so many women and children that have experienced violence and to hear their story and to witness their growth and resilience is incredible. So I really thank you for investing in this area. Thank you.
JOURNALIST: How important is a safe place for women and their children to go to? How much of a factor is that in escaping this horrible thing?
COKER: I think for many women that have come to this place, it's obvious that they really need immediate support. If they don't, they return to a household with a perpetrator. And it can be high risk, particularly for the woman, and for children. So we need to act immediately and we need to provide a range of ongoing support. The fact that there are 20 places here in this organisation that haven't been filled, we're hoping that this additional number of staff, not just for this organisation, but through the region, are going to actually be able to provide more support for those women and those children. So it's really significant that people get immediate support. But Helen, you might have something more you'd like to say on that.
BOLTON: Thanks, Libby. Currently, we're seeing over 5,000 women each year, and that's increased by 3% in the last 12 months. We've already met our case management target by the end of December. Each year, we have a certain number of women that we're funded to see, we're already over that. Adolescent family violence has really increased through the pandemic. It's one of the biggest growing cohorts of violence that's occurring and there's very little response to adolescents that are using violence. A centre like this is where we work across both sexual assault and family violence, from primary prevention to intervention, to recovery, is very unique. We love working with our Geelong and Barwon community, it's so important to have a visible presence and to be a leader in this field addressing violence against women and children.
JOURNALIST: So, that 5,000 number, is that for the Geelong South Barwon region?
BOLTON: That's the Barwon area, yeah. We cover Colac as well. Yeah.
JOURNALIST: How much of an impact will those seven extra staff members have on (inaudible)?
BOLTON: Currently, our waiting list is quite long, so they will have an impact. There's been an industry shortage of staff through the pandemic, that's starting to ease now. In the last six months, I think we've employed 40 new staff. So we are looking to fill those vacancies that we currently have. You know, seven new staff across the sector in the Barwon area will make a huge difference.
JOURNALIST: And was it construction of low cost housing? That's obviously going to provide jobs to the local builders and local businesses as well.
MCALLISTER: Yeah, we know that investment in affordable housing is not only good for tenants, and for people who need safe homes. It's also good for business. And we know that we can grow the economy by making these important investments. One of the great shames is that during the pandemic, the federal government has racked up an enormous quantity of debt without making any real investment in housing. Labor thinks that's a waste.
JOURNALIST: That's all from me.
MCALLISTER: Great, thank you.