Federal budget 2024: it leaves gaping holes in the service safety net women need for their safety

Joint press release | 15 May 2024

Women’s safety advocates have expressed disappointment and despair at the government’s decision not to properly fund domestic, family and sexual violence services again in this budget.

After last night’s budget, specialist domestic and family violence services, sexual assault services, legal assistance services, perpetrator intervention services are all still not adequately funded to meet demand.

The groups welcomed investment in the Leaving Violence Program, accommodation, and structural reforms - but asserted that to improve women’s safety and freedom, governments desperately need to remove barriers to frontline service access. 

Quote from Renee Carr, Executive Director, Fair Agenda:

“When we’re talking about improving women’s safety - we have to ask, if a woman is reaching out to a service for support to escape domestic violence, or to recover sexual assault - can she actually get help? Right now the answer is frequently no. This budget doesn’t change that.” 

“We talk about a cost of living crisis. Women are being murdered every week - how are the services that support our safety and freedom not at the core of this budget?” 

Quote from Kathleen Maltzahn, Deputy Chair, National Association of Services Against Sexual Violence (NASASV):

“We can’t ensure women are safe and free if governments don’t take serious action on sexual violence, both within family violence and separate from it. There is little in this budget to suggest the federal government is willing to do this with the urgency needed. 

NASASV welcomes the government’s reiteration of its investment in campus-related sexual violence responses and in tackling sexually explicit deep-fakes. 

However, right now, sexual assault survivors can’t even be sure of getting access to counselling from a specialist service. The public focus on sexual violence is causing a spike in survivors contacting specialist sexual assault services, and we can expect that this will happen again when the ALRC inquiry starts in earnest. However, this budget does nothing to make sure survivors reaching out for help don’t get stuck on a waiting list.”

Quote from Tania Farha, CEO of Safe and Equal:

“With at least 28 women murdered in Australia already this year, the scope and scale of the family violence crisis in this country calls for bold, enduring and coordination action from the Commonwealth. Unfortunately, that’s not what we’re seeing in this budget.

“While we welcome increases to homelessness funding and the extension of initiatives like the Leaving Violence Program, it’s unclear how any of this funding will make it to specialist family violence services, who desperately need more dedicated and sustained funding.

“Family and gender-based violence is complex - and addressing it requires a robust, systemic and thoughtful response. The National Plan has set out an ambitious goal - but with piecemeal funding like this, we will never create the positive change needed to bolster and retain our critical workforce and protect victim survivors and prevent further harm. “

Quote from National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Forum CEO Kerry Staines:

“While we are grateful for the $8.6million injection to support pay parity for the FVPLS sector and welcome the support, our continued calls to adequately resource our sector to provide the coverage needed to meet the needs of our communities leaves us in a position where we still have unmet need and services too stretched to meet the need,” 

“We understand that the National Legal Assistance Partnership (NLAP) Review is due to be released next month and call for it to be made available to us immediately, with the view to commencing conversations to discuss the future of the FVPLS sector,” 

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to championing the rights and needs of the FVPLS sector.” 

Quote from Women’s Legal Services Australia Chair Elena Rosenman: 

"The very modest investment in community legal centres for indexation and wages in the Budget does not cover legal assistance programs dedicated to women affected by gender-based violence.

“This Budget means many women’s legal services will have to start planning to reduce services to women experiencing gender-based violence. This includes legal assistance for women separating from violent partners, specialist Domestic Violence Units, Health Justice Partnerships and sexual harassment legal services.

We are deeply concerned that the Albanese Government has completely overlooked the critical work of women’s legal services. We are already forced to turn away over 52,000 women every year due to lack of adequate resources.

If we are asking Australian women to trust that the system will be there for them when they flee a violent relationship, we must ensure they can access the trauma-informed, integrated legal services they need.”

Quote from Phillip Ripper, CEO of No To Violence:

“In recent weeks the Prime Minister and Attorney-General have both emphasised the crucial need to address men’s use of family violence, a number of new initiatives in the Budget did highlight the need to end men’s use of violence, but we need these to be co-ordinated to ensure maximum impact. And we were disappointed by the lack of investment in front line services working with men to change their behaviour.”

Quote from Diana Piantedosi, Director of Policy Advocacy and Community Engagement, Women with Disabilities Victoria:

“While we appreciate the permanent continuation of the ‘Leaving Violence Program’ and the targeted allocation of $1 billion for crisis and transitional accommodation, this budget leaves significant gaps in addressing the needs of women with disabilities. The ‘Leaving Violence Program’ offers up to $5,000 of financial support to victim-survivors but fails to account for the immediate requirements of women with disabilities, like specialised equipment.

Similarly, while we welcome the investment of $1 billion to the National Housing Infrastructure Facility, there is a lack of attention to accessible housing for women with disabilities who are disproportionately impacted by family violence. This oversight fails to address the intersecting barriers women with disabilities face in establishing a life free from violence.

The budget announced $1.3 million to establish an independent expert panel to advise the Government on approaches to prevention and ending the cycle of violence. Women with disabilities should be at the centre of and play a lead role in designing prevention initiatives such as this, and the sector must be properly resourced for accessible violence response.”

Quote from Dr Adele Murdolo, CEO of Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health:

“The investment into the primary prevention of violence against women and children is very thin in this budget. The National Plan aims to eliminate gendered violence in a generation, and this won't be achieved without a robust national investment into prevention.The community is ready for change. Specialist primary prevention agencies need vital funding to bring about the systemic and cultural change that is needed to protect women from continuing gendered violence.” 



Background Information on funding need:

Specialist sexual violence trauma counselling services aren’t properly funded by governments. That means there are dire waiting lists around the country, and many victim-survivors have to wait months. The ALRC process is expected to increase demand, but this budget provided no new investment in these services, this means 1800 RESPECT will continue to encourage calls, but only be able to direct victim-survivors to services with months long waiting lists. NASASV has been calling for $6.7 million for this year and $27.8m over the forward estimates to address service deserts in Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia.
NASASV was also calling for $2.7 million this year and $23.8 over three years for a national pilot for specialist sexual assault services to help increase schools’ capacity to delvery consent and sexual violence components of the respectful relationships curriculum in up to 480 schools across Australia.

Specialist domestic and family violence services are not funded to meet demand for their vital case management services.

Family violence prevention legal services can’t reach all the families in need of their critical specialist services. This budget delivered important investment in pay parity for FVPLS service providers, which is a welcome acknowledgement of their specialist skill. However, they needed $60 million extra core funding to address need across their services. This budget only provides $8 million, most of which is expected to go towards achieving pay parity, rather than increasing service capacity.

Women’s legal services across Australia provide women with access to legal advice and representation services in relation to family violence orders, family law, child protection, and victims of crime compensation. They’ have already been forced to turn away an estimated 52,000 women every year because governments don’t fund them to meet demand. The Federal Budget includes a very modest investment in community legal centres for indexation and wages but this does not include legal assistance programs dedicated to women affected by gender-based violence. 

On perpetrator interventions No to Violence, the largest peak body for organisations working to stop men’s use of family violence, says we need an over-arching national perpetration strategy to ensure a co-ordinated national approach to ending men’s use of family violence to keep women, children and communities safer. That means appropriately funding the sector to reflect the real cost of delivering services.

On migrant and refugee women: It is heartening that the Leaving Violence program is accessible to all women, without discrimination on the basis of visa. It is also great to see continuing specialised support for women on temporary visas who are escaping violence. However, there remains much to be done to ensure that migrant and refugee women have the same protections from gendered violence as the rest of the community. The many systemic barriers to safety and equality remain, including a visa system that makes women dependent on their sponsors and spouses, and therefore more vulnerable to all forms of gendered violence. Many migrant and refugee women remain locked out of much-needed housing and welfare support and childcare subsidies. Australia’s domestic and family violence response systems are not equally accessible to all those who need them, and they remain largely monolingual and ill-equipped to provide a culturally safe response. Investment is needed to remove the discrimination that is embedded within our health and welfare systems, and to specifically tailor the domestic and family violence response system to address a wider range of needs.


Join the call for proper funding of services at https://www.fairagenda.org/fund_womens_safety