This budget was a test of this government's commitment on domestic violence. A test they failed.
Show me the money. It’s what you expect a government to do when there’s a national crisis – to show you the money needed to deal with it.
It's exactly what Waleed Aly asked the government to do on budget night, launching Fair Agenda's What it will take report - in a clip that has since gone viral.
This year 24 women have been murdered in alleged domestic and family violence incidents. At the same time thousands of women trying to escape domestic and family violence are having to be turned away from services that are supposed to help keep them safe because of a federal funding shortfall -- and we don’t have the serious investment we need in programs that can help stop this violence.
Yet on budget night we didn’t hear any new announcements of funding for family violence services. That means that we can expect thousands of calls for help will keep going unanswered, thousands of women will be left to face court and their abusers without support, and women and children seeking refuge will keep being be turned away.
This is the appalling reality that Fair Agenda has highlighted in our What it will take report – infamously launched by Waleed Aly on The Project on budget night.
Our report (which you can read for yourself here) shows that:
- Last year Australia’s national phone counselling service 1800RESPECT had to let 18,631 requests for assistance go unanswered
- Community legal centres – where domestic violence support makes up about a third of the work – had to turn away more than 150,000 people
- Homelessness services – another critical family violence support service – had to turn away 423 people every night in 2013-14
- Family Violence Prevention Legal Services – that help support Aboriginal victims and survivors of domestic violence – are also having to turn away those in need of support
- Investment in primary prevention work is still piecemeal and inadequate
Budget night was a test of the government’s commitment to dealing with our domestic violence crisis, and it’s a test they failed.
To escape domestic violence, women need to know they’ve got somewhere to go. Family violence services act as a safety net; but right now that safety net is stretched to breaking point, and people are falling through the gaps.
So what will it take from the federal government to do their part in tackling our national emergency? Fair Agenda asked family violence experts, and they told us that to tackle this problem the federal government need to adequately support work in 9 key areas:
- Crisis Lines – like 1800 RESPECT and state crisis lines.
- Specialist Women’s Services – that need to be at the centre of any response to family violence.
- Family & Relationship Services – to support those seeking to escape and/or deal with family violence issues.
- Legal Advice and Assistance – to make sure women aren’t left to navigate the complex legal system or face their abuser in court without support.
- Accommodation, Housing & Homelessness support – to make sure women and their children have somewhere secure to go when it isn’t safe for them to stay at home.
- Women’s Health Services – because 1 in 5 women affected by family violence first disclose this to their GP.
- Specialist Support for Marginalised Communities – because people who experience multiple layers of marginalisation and disadvantage aren’t adequately supported by the current system, even though they’re often affected by domestic and family violence at greater rates. Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander women are 34 times more likely to be hospitalised as a result of family-violence related assault than other Australian women. Women from culturally and linguistically diverse communities can have their experience of violence compounded by limited access to services and consequences or fear of consequences for their migration status. Women with disabilities are twice as likely to experience domestic/family violence, yet services for for women with disabilities experiencing violence do not exist, are extremely limited, or exclusionary.
- Men’s Behaviour Change – which works towards the safety and well-being of women and children by working with men who use violent and controlling behaviour.
- Primary Prevention – need to stop violence before it occurs, by challenging the deeply ingrained attitudes, social norms and power inequalities that give rise to men’s violence against women.
We need serious, full funding in family violence services. Funding that puts an end to the situation where women in need are turned away from services that should be able to help keep them safe. Funding that supports serious, nation-wide programs to help stop this violence. That’s what it will take to tackle this crisis - and Fair Agenda members won’t rest until we get that commitment.
I urge anyone else who cares about this issue to join us in standing up for what it will take at: www.fairagenda.org/whatwillittake