Straight from the Senate: Family Violence Edition - Friday October 2 2020

2.03pm | October 07, 2020

Straight from the Senate: Family Violence Edition - Friday October 2 2020

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As COVID-19 continues to impact the Australian community and economy, Labor has persisted in calling on the Government to support the most vulnerable people in our community.

Last month I was honoured to be appointed as Labor’s Shadow Minister for Communities and the Prevention of Family Violence. This portfolio plays a crucial role in tackling inequality and social disadvantage.

Domestic and family violence continues to impact millions of Australian women and children - and COVID-19 has made things much worse. Despite this, Government assistance to frontline DV services during the pandemic has been too slow and insufficient to meet their needs. 

Here are five ways the Government has failed to support women fleeing violence and the services that help them rebuild their lives.

1. Delayed funding for frontline services and emergency accommodation

Almost 20 months after it was first announced, the Morrison Government has finally released the names of the organisations to receive funding from the Safe Places Emergency Accommodation Program. For months, frontline domestic violence services have been crying out for more support. It is unacceptable that it took this global health pandemic and a dramatic rise in domestic violence reports for this government to deliver promised funding. You can read my media release here.

In March, the Prime Minister announced funding for the prevention of violence against women and their children – before turning around and deciding that only half would be made available immediately.
It has taken the Morrison Government almost another six months to allocate the remainder of these funds to the states on a per capita basis. The Government’s delay has hurt frontline service providers’ ability to respond to the surge in family and domestic violence – they deserve better. You can read my media release here.

2. Lack of support for legal services

In a hearing of the Senate’s COVID-19 committee, women’s legal services reported that they are turning away half of the vulnerable women seeking legal assistance because they do not have the funding to support them. These services said that government funding was inadequate and had been poorly distributed. You can read media coverage of the hearing here.

3. Abandoning women on temporary visas facing domestic violence

Temporary visa holders are ineligible for many government support payments and health benefits. This sees women and their children fleeing violence struggle to get the support they need from shelters, clinics, housing and support services which are simply not funded to help them. The revelations on ABC’s 7.30 show just how bad this situation has become during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Minister for Families and Social Services could fix many of the problems faced by women on temporary visas with the stroke of a pen but has chosen not to act. You can read my media release here.

4. Failed action on technology-facilitated abuse

Experts have called out the Government’s inaction on online abuse against women in the face of climbing rates during COVID-19. In a hearing of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs inquiry into family, domestic and sexual violence, the eSafety Commissioner confirmed that technology-facilitated abuse had increased by 245% during the pandemic. When asked whether the Commission was properly resourced, the eSafety Commissioner described their funding situation as “hand-to-mouth,” with the Commission working “project-to-project.” You can read the Sydney Morning Herald’s coverage here

5. Two-year delay on super reform for women fleeing violence

Almost two years ago, the Government made a $3.3 million commitment for the family law courts to get access to superannuation information via the Australian Tax Office, so it can identify assets faster and prevent long, costly legal proceedings. This would help women fleeing violence to access superannuation that is not disclosed and controlled by their abuser. However, the Government has not introduced legislation. Alongside sector organisations like Women’s Legal Services Victoria, Women in Super and the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees, I have called on the Government to introduce this bill urgently.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732

I will continue to keep you updated on what’s happening inside and outside the Senate. If you have any questions or concerns, let me know by e-mailing jennifer.mcallister@aph.gov.au.

In Labor,

 

Jenny McAllister

Senator for New South Wales


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