8.57am | March 24, 2022




SUBJECTS: Domestic and family violence, 500 additional community sector workers, crisis accommodation for women and children fleeing violence 

SENATOR JENNY MCALLISTER, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR COMMUNITIES AND THE PREVENTION OF FAMILY VIOLENCE: Thank you all for being here. It's a real pleasure to be here today with Rosie O'Malley, who many of you will know as a great voice for victims and survivors of domestic violence. I'm also here with three terrific Labor candidates, standing here on the Gold Coast, and it's great to be here with Rowan, Letitia and Glen. 

Domestic violence is at epidemic levels. We've heard this morning from Rosie and her team about the increase in demand on her service just in the last few months. They are picking up an additional 100 women per week, needing their service. It is an enormous load, and it speaks to the scale and extent of the tragedy. Labor understands that if we form a government, we will need to lead on this.

Unfortunately, the last nine years has seen a puzzling lack of inactivity in the area of women's safety policy. It's why if we are elected, we will provide funding to establish 30,000 new, affordable homes. Because all around the country services tell us that this is the number one issue facing their clients. People say why doesn't she leave? Well, the answer is because too often, there is simply nowhere to go. 

We know that long term accommodation is part of the story. But crisis accommodation really matters. Leaving a violent relationship is the most dangerous and difficult thing that a woman will ever do. It's why under our policy, we will provide $100 million to augment the refuge capability right across the country. Here on the Gold Coast, that will mean an extra $2 million available to services here to build additional accommodation. 

We estimate that will assist about 185 additional women and children each year. We know too, that there's nothing more helpful than an extra pair of hands. That's what services tell us. They simply don't have the staff to meet the demand that they are facing. It's why we have committed to providing funding for an additional 500 workers. Again, here on the Gold Coast that will mean 10 additional workers. Workers that can stand beside a woman and stand beside children when they are leaving a violent relationship. On the Gold Coast, we'll be able to provide 10 of these workers. We expect that that will be able to help services like Rosie's. Help the clients that she works with to make a real difference in the lives of women and children escaping violence.

ROSIE O'MALLEY, CEO OF THE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PREVENTION CENTRE: Hello. Our service has been operating here on the Gold Coast since 1992. So, 30 years of doing this work. Jenny is exactly right; the last two years have seen significant increases. As of February, we're actually getting 125 new women a week, and that's in addition to the 7,000 women that we work with every year here on the Gold Coast. New hands are exactly what we need. Several new pairs of hands, advocates, the whole workforce. The DV workforce in Queensland is very fatigued, and quite fragile. I was saying to Jenny before that the sector runs on passion and commitment. But it's not an exhaustible and people are tired. We need the budget to expand to meet that demand, and to give the services to the women that they deserve and expect rather than just the pointy end of crisis, risk assessment, safety planning and housing. We can do so much more and so much better than that. And we are better than that, as Queenslanders, and as Australians. I think we do want the best for women and children who are escaping domestic violence.

JOURNALIST: So, 10 new domestic violence support workers for the Gold Coast, is that enough?

O'MALLEY: It's better than what we have now. If the current amount goes on, we have to keep talking about that. The sector in Queensland, the 19 funded services - DV services - we've gone collectively to government saying that core funding needs to be increased. While innovation and new projects are great and they are needed, what's really needed is a significant injection into funding a much bigger DV workforce. Again, it's finding those advocates and then training them so they're actually effective advocates, that can take up to three years. Takes a long time. there's no quick easy fixes here. It's going to be a multitude of things.

JOURNALIST: Has the problem finding rentals on the Gold Coast, the additional housing crisis on the Gold Coast, made it more difficult for people, for women in violent relationships to find somewhere to go? 

O'MALLEY: Absolutely. It's exactly as Jenny was saying. Women may leave during a crisis where there's been quite extreme violence. They may leave, but they might, if they're lucky, get some very short-term motel accommodation. It's virtually impossible for a woman fleeing domestic violence with no income, and children to get into the private rental market. There are some amazing initiatives from Department of Housing with paying for head leases, but it's not sustainable in the long term. It's not a stable home for years, where you can actually build a life. More often than not, it's not just that they will leave and then realise that and end up going back and the risk increases when they go back. Because obviously, you know, he's realised he's even more vulnerable than he realised there is actually no way for her to go.

MCALLISTER: Violence in our community is at record levels and epidemic levels. Unfortunately, over the last few years, there has been very little attention paid to women's safety and to safety in general by this government. Should Labor form a government, we have a lot of work to do. We will need to work with states and territories to evaluate the adequacy of current responses. My great concern is that at the moment, we simply do not have the resources we need to help all of the people who need our assistance.

JOURNALIST: Do you think it's simply a matter of resources, or has there been a lack of leadership?

MCALLISTER: There has been a noticeable lack of leadership and a lack of interest in women's safety from the Morrison Government. From the time I have been in Parliament I have seen very little attention paid to this issue. When Labor was last in government, we established a national plan because we understood that national leadership was required. We established a national prevention agency, a national research agency and a national hotline; 1800RESPECT. This government cannot point to a single new institution that they have established in their nine long years in office. They have ignored this area and have been dragged kicking and screaming to provide additional resources in the last year because the Australian people are so angry. Australian people know that people escaping violence are brave and resilient. They want to stand up new lives, the lives that they deserve and the lives that the children depend on them deserve. Australian people want governments to support this, and they want leadership at a national level. Thank you