JENNY MCALLISTER & MURRAY WATT - TRANSCRIPT - DOORSTOP INTERVIEW - GOLD COAST - TUESDAY, 9 MARCH 2021
8.05pm | March 10, 2021
SENATOR JENNY MCALLISTER
SHADOW CABINET SECRETARY
SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER TO THE LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE
SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR COMMUNITIES AND THE PREVENTION OF FAMILY VIOLENCE
SENATOR FOR NEW SOUTH WALES
SENATOR MURRAY WATT
SHADOW MINISTER FOR DISASTER AND EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT
SHADOW MINISTER FOR NORTHERN AUSTRALIA
SHADOW MINISTER FOR QUEENSLAND RESOURCES
SENATOR FOR QUEENSLAND
TUESDAY, 9 MARCH 2021
SUBJECTS: Government’s failure to invest in emergency housing for women and children fleeing domestic violence; imminent end to Federal funding for domestic violence services; housing affordability and homelessness.
MURRAY WATT, SENATOR FOR QUEENSLAND: Thanks for coming along to join us here at the Domestic Violence Prevention Centre. And thank you to Rosemary and all of her team for hosting us here today and for the terrific work that they do, looking after the Gold Coast community day in, day out in a very tough field. The reason we're here today is to put a real spotlight on the Federal Government's ongoing neglect of domestic violence services here on the Gold Coast. Unfortunately, we know that the Gold Coast has experienced extremely high levels of domestic violence, with some very high-profile incidents in recent years and in recent weeks. It is a scourge that we continue to experience here on the Gold Coast and services are struggling to keep up with the demand for their services. In particular, there is a critical shortage of emergency housing for women and children who are fleeing domestic violence here on the Gold Coast and right around the country, as you'll hear from my colleague Jenny shortly.
What we know is, from the Government's own figures, each year there are about 151 women and children here on the Gold Coast who are turned away when they are looking for emergency housing, to flee domestic violence. What we know is that if a woman and her family are unable to access emergency housing, that puts their lives in danger. It's a tragic piece of neglect that the Federal Government, in all of the funding that it has available for emergency housing, has not spent a single dollar here on the Gold Coast. I don't understand how our three or four federal members of parliament, who are all part of the government, can fail to get a single dollar for emergency housing here on the Gold Coast when they know that the Gold Coast has a particular problem around domestic violence. It's neglect on behalf of the local members, it's neglect on behalf of the Federal Government as a whole. Rosemary and her team need a lot more support from our Federal Government than what they're seeing at the moment. I'd like to hand over now to my friend and colleague, Senator Jenny McAllister, who's Labor's Shadow Assistant Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence.
JENNY MCALLISTER, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR COMMUNITIES AND THE PREVENTION OF FAMILY VIOLENCE: Thank you, Murray, and thank you everyone for being here today. I also want to extend my thanks to Rosemary and her team for having us here and I'd like to acknowledge the exceptional work, the difficult work, that is done by people in this building. Because supporting people who are subjected to violence is some of the most important work that we can do in our community. Too many women and children are subjected to horrifying levels of violence. One woman a week is murdered. We know that the most dangerous time for women is when they seek to leave the perpetrator who is abusing them. When a woman has made that decision, when she makes the decision to reach out and ask for help, no woman should be turned away. And the problem is that too many women across the country are being turned away.
The government likes to talk about their response to this, because the truth is the community won't stand for this anymore. The community knows that we need to act on this problem. The government announced nearly two years ago the funding program called Safe Places. It took them 20 months to even announce the recipients of that funding. Once announced, it became clear that there were very, very substantial gaps in the funding that had been provided. 75 percent of the women and children who need assistance, on the government's own figures, will not be supported. 70 percent of the applicants who sought funding for this program will not receive any funding. And 65 percent of the areas around the country where the government identified areas of need for new services will not receive funding under this program. And the tragic consequence of this is that women and children are left exposed to violence. If you are turned away when you are seeking emergency accommodation your choices are to couch surf, to live in a car, or worse, to stay with a perpetrator who presents a risk to you or your children.
I'm really pleased to be here today with Rosemary to call on the government to start taking this issue seriously. They need to roll out the money quickly now to those services that have been funded. And they need to explain to the women and children who will not receive services under their model why it is that they cannot find resources to help these women and children at the time when they need it most. Thank you, I'll ask Rosemary now just to make some remarks about the local situation and then take some questions, if that's alright.
ROSEMARY O'MALLEY, CEO DVPC: I need to point out that the Domestic Violence Prevention Centre, the centre that we're at today, we don't receive any money from the Federal Government. We don't receive a dollar. All of our funding is from the Queensland State Government. It's particularly problematic in that, during COVID, the Federal Government did release some money to the Queensland State Government to release to DV services and that's been a huge help and a really important part of us responding to women, children and young people during COVID-19, who are experiencing domestic violence, I should say. And the problem is that that funding is due to wind up in a few months, and that's super problematic for us at the moment.
The vacancy rate on the Gold Coast is 0.6. There is very few vacancies for anyone, let alone those escaping domestic violence, and we're really concerned what it means with that COVID money now stopping and how we're going to be able to support women and children to either stay in their homes and upgrade the safety of their homes so that they can still stay there safely or if they're going to leave, where they're going to go to. The great advice from the Department of Housing here on the Gold Coast is all about sustaining tenancies, and that's really great advice for those not experiencing domestic violence, but if you are, that's really unhelpful advice because the decision to stay can mean the decision between life and death. So we'd really call on the Federal Government to rethink stopping the COVID funding that was specifically directed for responding to DV that the State Government's been tasked to deliver.
JOURNALIST: Is housing the most important thing? If you were to get money from the Federal Government, what would be the best thing you could do? What would you put that money towards?
O'MALLEY: At the moment it's homelessness. This has been building for a while. The housing market, the property market right around Australia and particularly here on the Gold Coast, it's really, it's out of range for most of the people that we work with. I was speaking last week, we have an integrated response to domestic violence, so we had 16 services here, government and non-government and across all of those services, homelessness is the number one issue. So much so, that we've had to form a separate working party from that integrated response to actually start thinking about what we're going to do collectively to try to respond. And we're looking at, as viable options now, carparks for women and children. And that's just ridiculous in one of the wealthiest countries in the world.
JOURNALIST: Do you have any numbers of the number of women a day, a week, a month that would contact your organisation seeking some kind of emergency housing?
O'MALLEY: Emergency housing? We supported six and a half thousand women last year. I would say 80 percent of those did not have stable accommodation.
JOURNALIST: Is funding for domestic violence and public housing not a State Government responsibility?
MCALLISTER: Funding for domestic violence is a shared responsibility between the Commonwealth and the state. The Commonwealth is responsible for the national plan to end violence against women and their children and has a range of programs. The Commonwealth announced the Safe Places program. They made an assessment about unmet need, but unfortunately, the funds released go to a fraction of the demand and the Commonwealth has been very unclear about the basis on which they provided that money, and the reason why some regions missed out altogether.
JOURNALIST: Can you explain to us how much money we're talking here, how much would be good? You know, you're talking a lot or is it is it do-able?
MCALLISTER: What's required overall for family and domestic violence is an injection of urgency and ambition at a Commonwealth level. And that's true in relation to housing. It's also true in relation to the programs that are offered by the Commonwealth government through its own organisations to support women and children. There is very little evidence of urgency or ambition from the government at the moment, and that is what troubles me. There is a vast task here. No one pretends that this can be solved quickly or easily. But it is time for it to be taken seriously and for a real program of effort to be laid out to support women and children.