Fair Agenda Blog

Woman

In this week's budget the Morrison Government failed thousands of women who are trying to escape domestic and family violence, and build safer futures.

The Morrison Government has committed *zero* dollars of new funding in the budget for the specialist services that so many victim-survivors rely on for their safety – and that still aren’t resourced to assist everyone reaching out to them for help.

These are services that have the ability to save and change lives – when they’re resourced. Survivor advocates have even written to members of the Government about the better and safer future that’s possible when these services are available.

But during this time when being safe at home is more important than ever; and when the pandemic and recession are compounding the domestic violence crisis – the Morrison Government has again decided not to properly resource the services that many women rely on to escape abuse and build safer lives.

It’s a decision to leave members of our community in danger.

It will mean many victim-survivors are left without the support they need to manage their safety in moments of great danger – as inadequate resourcing of many specialist domestic and family violence services leads to waiting lists of months for women who need safety support right now.

It will mean many women are unable to access safe at home programs – forced to make the impossible choice between fleeing their unsafe home and hoping they can access homelessness services, or staying trapped with their abuser.

It will mean many victim-survivors urgently needing refuge are left without access to appropriate physical shelter; and access to the specialist support staff they rely on for assistance with immediate safety management after they escape.

It will mean thousands of women needing legal assistance to help them protect their children; deal with financial abuse; or navigate the family law system will be left without the legal advice and support they need from specialist legal assistance services.

It will also mean women on temporary visas who are experiencing violence – who experts say are at most risk right now, as government systems give their abusers even more leverage to keep them trapped – will be left without any of the key changes experts say are needed for their safety.

What’s more, the National Forum for Family Violence Prevention Legal Services – the key specialist and culturally safe services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander victim-survivors of family violence – has no funding certainty for their vital capacity building and coordination work beyond December. It is inconceivable to not be continuing to invest in capacity and expertise in family violence services during this time.

This budget is a decision to leave a heartbreaking number of women without the support they need to escape abuse and build safer futures, and that’s a disgrace.

 

Add your support to the campaign for full funding of family violence services at: https://www.fairagenda.org/family_violence_services

Written by Renee Carr
07 October 2020
Budget 2020
Last night's budget treats women as an afterthought. And it’s terrible news for those of us who care about equality.
Here are some of the key things you need to know:
  • The Morrison Government has committed no new funding for the domestic and family violence services so many victim-survivors rely on for their safety - even though services can’t help everyone reaching out to them for help right now.

  • Despite women losing the majority of jobs and work hours during the pandemic; and the Treasurer declaring “this Budget is all about jobs”, the government has failed to substantially invest in creating jobs for women.

    They have allocated just $240.4 million in dedicated funding (over *five years*) to the Women’s Economic Security Statement. That’s just 0.038% of the total budget deficit.

    The government has ignored calls from experts to strengthen our social security net and create jobs, by investing in female dominated sectors like nursing and education. They have made a small commitment to investing in opportunities for women in STEM and male dominated fields - but no significant investment in jobs or better wages or conditions for the women dominated caring industries (nurses, early childhood educators, teachers) that have been on the frontlines of this crisis.
  • The government is touting their plan to reduce personal income tax contributions. But these changes will overwhelmingly benefit men in the long term - with modelling showing they will get $2.28 for every $1 flowing to women.

  • Women over 45 were most likely to be on JobSeeker before the pandemic, and are facing not only cuts to their income support payments as the temporary increase to JobSeeker is removed over coming months, but also exclusion from the JobMaker program. This is particularly concerning given older women are already the fastest growing group of homeless Australians.

  • The government is also resourcing extending the ParentsNext program, which has previously been described as ‘punitive’ and ‘inconsistent with Australia’s human rights obligations’ by the Australian Human Rights Commission.

  • Despite numerous calls from leading economists, the government has failed to provide investment in high quality, accessible early childhood education - which would support women and families, encourage women’s workforce participation, and create jobs.

  • The failure to expand and permanently increase the JobSeeker safety net will also hurt many - including those affected by domestic violence.
    Financial insecurity can be an insurmountable barrier to escaping family violence, and loss of income during the pandemic shut down will increase the difficulty many victim-survivors face to escaping their abuser. A return to the old $40 a day support level would leave them without enough to live on, or cover the basics they need to escape abuse.
    And for women who joined our communities on temporary visas, who are trying to escape violence, this budget continues to deny them any income support - even though current govt systems give their abusers more leverage to keep them trapped.
In short: this budget fails women and will entrench inequality.
The Fair Agenda movement is working for a future where our gender doesn’t determine our worth - or our safety, economic security or agency over our lives and bodies. The Morrison Government had an opportunity to steer our nation in that direction with this budget. Instead, so many of their budget decisions steer us towards increased and entrenched inequality.
Our community deserves an economy and budget that benefits everyone; and provides a social safety net strong enough to keep us safe and well when times are tough. This budget has failed to deliver that.
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The absence of a gender lens analysis of who will (and won't) benefit from this budget couldn't be more apparent. Yet the Morrison Government has continued with Tony Abbott's policy of providing no Women's Budget Statement. If you think it's time that changed, you can join the campaign here: fairagenda.org/budgetstatement
Written by Renee Carr
07 October 2020

In response to Hannah Clarke's murder and the COVID-19 pandemic, domestic violence experts Australian Women Against Violence Alliance have advised governments that urgent action is needed in these areas: 

Proper funding of the specialist services women rely on for their safety

The time a woman tries to escape her abuser, or reaches out for help, can be incredibly dangerous. It’s vital she can access the help she needs, when she needs it. 

Even once the latest funding commitments are distributed, services still won’t be resourced to assist everyone who needs it. Experts have expressed particular concern about: 

  • There will still be a significant number of women who will not be able to access safe at home programs. This means they’re left to make the impossible choice between fleeing and hoping they can access homelessness services, or staying trapped at home with their abuser. Without safe at home programs which assist survivors with security for the home, protection orders and support; many women and children will remain trapped in abusive situations in perpetuity.  
  • Crisis accommodation services will still be beyond their capacity to provide physical shelter to those fleeing unsafe homes; and without the specialist staff who are needed to provide the immediate safety management assistance to those facing such significant safety risks
  • Services that intervene with men at risk of using violence to change their behaviour expect a huge surge in demand for behaviour change programs as isolation measures lift, and warn that without additional investment in capacity, the waiting lists for intervention with men at risk of using violence will be unacceptably long, and won’t be available everywhere it’s needed.
  • Family Violence Prevention Legal Services - the key specialist and culturally safe service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander victim/survivors of family violence - particularly women and their children - are already unable to meet demand, and bracing for a massive increase in demand as restrictions start to lift. 
  • Community legal services warn that they’re still unable to meet existing unmet need; far less the further surge in demand expected as the next wave impacts are felt. These are the kinds of services women affected by domestic violence rely on to help them protect their children, to navigate the family law system, and to deal with financial abuse.

 

Ensuring the legal system prioritises safety

Even before the COVID19 pandemic, systemic failures in the justice system meant that many women and children facing violence were not getting adequate protection; and dealing with a legal system that sometimes increases risks to their safety.  

Police and courts need to have women’s and children’s safety at the top of their agenda during this time of increased risk. 

Governments need to improve AVO standards to hold perpetrators accountable and interrupt escalating violence. Too often those orders are not enforced, or don’t account for the dynamics and patterns of abuse being used, and so don’t provide the protection that’s needed for a woman or child’s safety. 

While progress has been made with the urgent COVID-19 family law list enabling faster resolution of high risk parenting cases, the family law system  still operates to force children into care arrangements with parents who are violent and abusive. The legislated requirement that the starting point for decisions about parenting arrangements is a presumption of shared parental responsibility must be removed so that courts can more freely consider what is in the best interests of the child in each individual circumstance with a focus on safety first.  

 

Ensure every woman subject to violence is able to access the support she needs to be safe

Economic insecurity can be an insurmountable barrier to escaping escalating violence, and loss of income due to COVID-19 will increase the barriers faced by many women trying to escape a  violent perpetrator. As costs rise and access to many services becomes more difficult, experts have urged the Government to ensure that people with a disability and those on temporary visas aren’t left behind and in danger.

This crisis is making everything harder for all victim-survivors to access support, and to be safe. Unlike those relying on most other forms of income support, people living with a disability haven’t received an increase in their payment. And those on temporary visas face existing barriers to accessing services, income and basic healthcare due to strict eligibility criteria. The risks they face are likely to be compounded by perpetrators withholding and blocking access to healthcare and finances; and they face increased uncertainty about their migration status if they are to reach out for help. Women in these situations urgently need access to income support available to others - as well as housing, health services, interpreters and legal assistance.

 

Maintaining access to contraception and abortion care 

The increase in abuse and violence is expected to include sexual violence and reproductive coercion. It’s known that forced pregnancy is often used by abusers in an attempt to tie their partner to them, and make it more difficult for them to escape and re-establish a separate life.

Experts are highlighting the importance of ensuring those who need contraception and abortion care are still able to access it. That means ensuring clinics and delivery avenues for medical abortion care remain operational, and that clients can access care.

 

Add your support to the campaign: https://www.fairagenda.org/familyviolence_pandemic

Written by Renee Carr
12 May 2020

Key family violence experts are issuing a joint warning that the impacts of COVID-19 on women’s safety are only just beginning to be felt, and will compound the risks women face from abusive partners or family members for months and potentially years after isolation measures are lifted. 

Australia’s expert body, Australian Women Against Violence Alliance, backed by campaigning group Fair Agenda are advising that: 

Everything we know about the behaviour of abusers suggests that both the immediate and the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic will lead to increased danger for those experiencing abuse in their home. Beyond the additional risks created by isolation measures trapping many victim-survivors with abusers, the transition out of these measures will also compound safety risks over the months and potentially years of this recovery period.

Decades of evidence about perpetrator behaviour shows that governments must now plan for: 

  • Risk of escalating abuse in the home as isolation measures begin to lift, and some perpetrators using violence in response to the loss of control they have been able to exert in the home during lockdown;
  • Surges in contact with services from victim-survivors who haven’t had the ability to safely reach out for help while they were trapped in constant proximity with their abuser; 
  • Escalation of surveillance, harassment and threats by separated abusive partners as they  are able to travel to victim-survivors’ residences again;
  • Increased numbers of women requiring crisis accommodation and case management support, as windows of opportunity for them to escape open for the first time in weeks;
  • Increase in the use of violence by perpetrators when their dominance in the household is threatened by job loss or financial insecurity; and
  • Greater barriers to escape for women whose financial security is undermined by job loss or financial insecurity.

All the evidence we have about compounding risk factors for violence tells us that we’re going to see more people affected by violence for the first time; and more who were already dealing with abuse facing escalated violence. Without further action from governments; our communities will not only see unfathomable health and economic impacts - but also an escalation of the family violence crisis already devastating our communities. 

There are women around the country reaching out for help to escape their abuser and seek a safer future. They’re doing all they can on their own - but they need support for the next steps. Right now, governments’ decisions are leaving thousands of women on their own with an abuser who is determined to isolate and control them, and dealing with a legal system that might actually increase risks to their safety. 

Governments need to: fund specialist women’s and family violence services to ensure everyone can access the service support they need for their safety; ensure the legal system makes the safety of victim-survivors and their children a priority; and assist those at particular risk due to visa status or disability to access essential support. 

Join the campaign: https://www.fairagenda.org/familyviolence_pandemic

 

What experts say is needed

In response to Hannah Clarke's murder and the COVID-19 pandemic, domestic violence experts have advised governments that urgent action is needed in these areas: 

Proper funding of the specialist services women rely on for their safety

The time a woman tries to escape her abuser, or reaches out for help, can be incredibly dangerous. It’s vital she can access the help she needs, when she needs it. 

Even once the latest funding commitments are distributed, services still won’t be resourced to assist everyone who needs it. Experts have expressed particular concern about: 

  • There will still be a significant number of women who will not be able to access safe at home programs. This means they’re left to make the impossible choice between fleeing and hoping they can access homelessness services, or staying trapped at home with their abuser. Without safe at home programs which assist survivors with security for the home, protection orders and support; many women and children will remain trapped in abusive situations in perpetuity.  
  • Crisis accommodation services will still be beyond their capacity to provide physical shelter to those fleeing unsafe homes; and without the specialist staff who are needed to provide the immediate safety management assistance to those facing such significant safety risks
  • Services that intervene with men at risk of using violence to change their behaviour expect a huge surge in demand for behaviour change programs as isolation measures lift, and warn that without additional investment in capacity, the waiting lists for intervention with men at risk of using violence will be unacceptably long, and won’t be available everywhere it’s needed.
  • Family Violence Prevention Legal Services - the key specialist and culturally safe service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander victim/survivors of family violence - particularly women and their children - are already unable to meet demand, and bracing for a massive increase in demand as restrictions start to lift. 
  • Community legal services warn that they’re still unable to meet existing unmet need; far less the further surge in demand expected as the next wave impacts are felt. These are the kinds of services women affected by domestic violence rely on to help them protect their children, to navigate the family law system, and to deal with financial abuse.

 

Ensuring the legal system prioritises safety

Even before the COVID19 pandemic, systemic failures in the justice system meant that many women and children facing violence were not getting adequate protection; and dealing with a legal system that sometimes increases risks to their safety.  

Police and courts need to have women’s and children’s safety at the top of their agenda during this time of increased risk. 

Governments need to improve AVO standards to hold perpetrators accountable and interrupt escalating violence. Too often those orders are not enforced, or don’t account for the dynamics and patterns of abuse being used, and so don’t provide the protection that’s needed for a woman or child’s safety. 

While progress has been made with the urgent COVID-19 family law list enabling faster resolution of high risk parenting cases, the family law system  still operates to force children into care arrangements with parents who are violent and abusive. The legislated requirement that the starting point for decisions about parenting arrangements is a presumption of shared parental responsibility must be removed so that courts can more freely consider what is in the best interests of the child in each individual circumstance with a focus on safety first.  

 

Ensure every woman subject to violence is able to access the support she needs to be safe

Economic insecurity can be an insurmountable barrier to escaping escalating violence, and loss of income due to COVID-19 will increase the barriers faced by many women trying to escape a  violent perpetrator. As costs rise and access to many services becomes more difficult, experts have urged the Government to ensure that people with a disability and those on temporary visas aren’t left behind and in danger.

This crisis is making everything harder for all victim-survivors to access support, and to be safe. Unlike those relying on most other forms of income support, people living with a disability haven’t received an increase in their payment. And those on temporary visas face existing barriers to accessing services, income and basic healthcare due to strict eligibility criteria. The risks they face are likely to be compounded by perpetrators withholding and blocking access to healthcare and finances; and they face increased uncertainty about their migration status if they are to reach out for help. Women in these situations urgently need access to income support available to others - as well as housing, health services, interpreters and legal assistance.

 

Maintaining access to contraception and abortion care 

The increase in abuse and violence is expected to include sexual violence and reproductive coercion. It’s known that forced pregnancy is often used by abusers in an attempt to tie their partner to them, and make it more difficult for them to escape and re-establish a separate life.

Experts are highlighting the importance of ensuring those who need contraception and abortion care are still able to access it. That means ensuring clinics and delivery avenues for medical abortion care remain operational, and that clients can access care.

 

Explaining expected impacts

Risk of escalating abuse as stay at home measures lift

We know that abusers are obsessed with building power and control over their family members, and that they tend to escalate their abuse when that control is threatened. It’s why the most dangerous time for victim-survivors is when they try to escape. 

As the restrictions on movement that have afforded many abusers greater ability to monitor, harass and intimidate their partner lift, many will respond to that (as to the loss of other types of control) by deciding to escalate their use of control, abuse and violence.

 

Escalation of threats from separated partners 

For those living separate from their abuser - the movement restrictions have prevented some of the physical harassment and stalking abusers often conduct in the wake of someone escaping. 

Reports show that abusers have been using online mechanisms and technology to harass and threaten partners during this time. Many will have spent those weeks stewing, and can be expected to use the lifting of movement restrictions as an opportunity to return to their ex-partner’s home to harass, intimidate or harm them. 

 

Anticipated wave of women attempting to escape 

For those who have experienced escalating violence and abuse during the lock-down period, the easing of restrictions may be their first chance to escape and find a safer place to stay. The time that a woman tries to escape is known to be the most dangerous, because abusers tend to respond to that loss of control by escalating their use violence - sometimes to lethal levels. 

Refuges are not sufficiently funded to provide appropriate  physical space - or the case management and therapeutic services needed to manage the risks  for every person who has just escaped an abuser who may be intent on stalking, surveilling and harassing them.

Job losses likely to exacerbate abusive behaviour

Those who perceive their role as one of dominance in their household or who feel entitled to have control over their partner, job losses and heightened financial insecurity are likely to exacerbate abusive behaviour.

Evidence from Australia and international contexts shows that situations of heightened stress and panic, increased financial pressures, and disruption to usual personal and social roles can all compound and exacerbate the underlying inequalities and beliefs that lead to violence against women. 

 

Job losses for victim-survivors will increase barriers to escape
Financial insecurity is a key barrier for women working to escape an abuser and build a safer future. For many, access to the money they need to relocate and live separately from their abuser are vital preconditions to escape, and their ability to remain living separately to their abuser. Many will be dealing with financial abuse that may preclude them from accessing any previous assets, and current income will be the determinant of their ability to relocate and put food on the table. Even before COVID-19, domestic and family violence was the leading cause of homelessness; now with job losses, the risks of victims/survivors facing homelessness are even greater. 

The barriers to building safer futures are even higher for women on temporary visas - who may be facing job loss with none of the income support that is available to many others. 

For women with disabilities the increased costs and difficulties of accessing basics like groceries may increase their reliance on the person who is abusing them. The Government’s failure to increase the disability support payment in line with other supports like JobSeeker mean women who are experiencing abuse from their carer are facing insurmountable barriers to escape.

Join the campaign at: https://www.fairagenda.org/familyviolence_pandemic

Written by Renee Carr
12 May 2020

While requiring people to stay at home is an important measure for limiting the spread of COVID-19, domestic violence experts are warning that during home isolation men's use of violence against their partners and children is likely to intensify, putting many people's lives at risk.

Outside of pandemics, we know that abusers use isolation, coercion and surveillance against their partners, and work to cut them off from other relationships so they can fully control them. Those existing patterns of abuse will be compounded as victim-survivors are forced to stay in a confined space with their abuser. And many women will find it harder to access support services from home.

Experts have laid out key interventions that the Morrison Government needs to implement for women’s safety (here). But so far their response has left massive holes in that safety net.

Join the campaign fighting for governments act for women's safety here.

Here are the changes the Australian Women Against Violence Alliance are calling for, and how Government responses compare to what’s needed:

1. Reinstate the funding cuts from domestic violence services

A new phone can be a lifeline when a woman is escaping an abuser. It can help her stay safe, stay connected to support systems and service, and prevent further abuse. 

The Morrison Government was set to end funding of the WESNET program that distributes smartphones to hundreds of victim-survivors of domestic and sexual violence each month. But the Government has recently announced funding that will allow this work to continue until the end of the year. The funding announced isn’t the long-term commitment that a vital service like this needs, but it will mean that they can maintain their work supporting victim-survivors throughout this pandemic.

What’s more, the National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Forum is due to have their vital work cut from June. These cuts need to be reversed urgently so these services can focus on delivering services to women whose safety and lives are at risk.

Current policy: The Morrison Government has committed funding that will allow Safe Phones to continue their work this year, but not in the long-term. They still have not committed the funding needed to maintain the National Family Violence prevention Legal Services Forum, despite the urgent need to maintain their capacity.

2. Make sure people know where they can access service support, by ensuring service access numbers are promoted to the community throughout the crisis 

People who need help need to know where to get it. In the past, public communications have been critical to reaching women and enabling them to connect with services. 

Current policy: The Morrison Government has indicated they plan to roll out a new public communication campaign to ensure people know where they can seek help. While further information is needed on what shape this will take, at first glance this seems like a positive commitment.

BUT (and it’s a big but) we can only improve women’s safety if those at risk are able to access a safe phone to make that contact, and if their request for help is able to be met by services. A public communication campaign that isn’t accompanied by adequate funding to the specialist services that help women be safe will leave many women in danger - when we know the time a woman tries to reach out for help is often a time of greatest danger.

3. Resource specialist hotlines to respond to requests for support

Experts have urged the government to increase federal funding to boost the capacity of domestic violence helplines 1800 RESPECT and the Men’s Referral Service, and other entry points for assistance like Kids Helpline, Mensline and Safety Net Australia. Experts have advised that online help and secure chat is likely to become more and more important as abusers intensify their surveillance and control.

Current policy: The Morrison Government has announced a funding package of $150 million spread across six service areas. They’ve indicated that this package will include some additional funding for 1800 RESPECT and Mensline, but detail has not been made available on how much funding will be provided (and whether it will include funding for the Men’s Referral Service, as the specialist service best able to intervene with men using or considering using violence).

BUT funding for these hotlines will only improve women’s safety if it’s marched with an increase in the specialist services they refer to, to provide the ongoing help victim-survivors need to be safe.

4. Ensure women can access the specialist service support they need

Women at risk in their home need to be able to access specialist services that can assist them with things like: case management; individualised support with safety planning; legal assistance to navigate courts and legal processes; and therapeutic support for themselves and their children as they deal with the trauma caused by their abuser. Such support must be available to those remaining in their homes and as well as those who have had to move to refuges or temporary accommodation for their own safety.

Current policy: The Morrison Government’s funding package includes funding to State and Territory Governments that can be used for safer housing and emergency accommodation,  counselling and outreach, crisis support and helplines, men’s behaviour change programs and other perpetrator interventions, assisting frontline services to manage the demand and explore new technology-based service delivery methods, and responding to the unique challenges in regional, rural and remote locations.  We do not yet know how the State and Territory Government will spend the money. So far we are not seeing the Morrison Government commit to resourcing services at the scale needed to ensure women at risk can access the support they need.

 

5. Resource safe at home programs so that women and children who can safely stay in their home are supported to do so

Even before this crisis, in NSW alone, every day 63 women weren’t able to access the service support they need to be safe in their home. Without that support, women are forced to make an impossible choice between staying trapped with their abuser; or fleeing into temporary and unreliable crisis accommodation, or homelessness.This is an impossible choice made even more dangerous in the context of the COVID-19 lock down.

Current policy: The Morrison government has announced that their most recent funding package will include “Support programs for women and children experiencing violence to protect themselves to stay in their homes, or a home of their choice, when it is safe to do so” but it is not clear how this will be delivered. Given the overall funding is $150 million spread across six areas, the funding to safe at home programs will fall well short of the $180 million of federal funding that experts have said is needed to demand in this one service area.

6. Ensure refuges are resourced to support victim-survivors who can’t safely stay at home 

As men’s violence against their partners and children intensifies, experts are warning that the need for physical refuge will increase. Already there are more women needing physical refuge than spaces to house them. The physical capacity of refuges needs to be increased, along with the staffing to support women who are in crisis.

Current policy: The Morrison Government has a capital works grant program in place (Safe Places), but it requires matched funding, and is tied just to the physical building, with no funding for other services support for the women who are at such high risk they need to be sheltered. New funding to State and Territory Governments can be used for “safer housing and emergency accommodation” but it is not clear if this will increase the physical capacity of refuges. 

7. Ensure every woman subjected to violence is able to access the support she needs to be safe, regardless of her visa status or disability

Financial abuse is often a tactic used to trap women in abusive relationships, and cut off their avenues to leave and establish a safer future. Economic insecurity can be an insurmountable barrier to escaping escalating violence.

Many women with a disability are reliant on others for assistance with their care; and this makes them more vulnerable to violence, abuse and control, including in some cases from those who are supposed to be their carer.

As COVID-19 limits access to support workers, and increases the costs and difficulties of accessing basic resources like groceries and medications; financial resources are more important than ever, and linked with the victim-survivor’s reliance on the person who is abusing them, and whether they can access alternate avenues for their basic needs.

As costs rise and access to many services becomes more difficult,  experts have urged the Government to ensure the increases that have been extended to other support payments are also applied to the disability support payment. 

This crisis makes everything harder for all victim-survivors to access support, and to be safe. Those on temporary visas already find it hard to access services, income and basic healthcare due to strict eligibility criteria, and women in this situation who are facing violence are often already socially isolated by their abuser. Loss of income due to COVID-19 is creating increased barriers for women trying to leave violent relationships during this difficult time. The risks they face are likely to  be compounded by perpetrators withholding and blocking access to healthcare and finances; and they face increased uncertainty about their migration status if they are to reach out for help. Experts have outlined that women in this situation urgently need access to income, housing, health services, interpreters and legal assistance.

Current policy: In response to the pandemic, the Morrison Government has increased the rate of Newstart, Youth Allowance, Parenting Payment, Farm Household Allowance and Special Benefit. But they have not extended that same dignity to people living on the disability support payment; and people on temporary visas are still not eligible for income support as a general rule, with many also ineligible for Medicare.

8. Ensure the legal system prioritises safety 

Even before the COVID19 pandemic, many women and children facing violence were not getting proper protection against their abusers from police and courts. 

These systemic failures, like the failure to properly resource courts and support services with public money have caused a lack of accountability for perpetrators. This has devastating results - like children being used as a way to hurt partners. These systemic failures can also lead men to continue and escalate their violence, in some cases murdering their partner and children. 

Police and courts need to step up to prioritise women’s and children’s safety during this time of increased risk. The safety of women and children must be at the top of the agenda for the legal system.

Protection orders during this time must prioritise the safety of women and children, particularly as they are being put in place for longer periods than usual during this crisis. The legal system must be particularly vigilant regarding custody orders and their enforcement or adjustment during the pandemic. Where perpetrators currently in custody are being released back into the community, protective measures must be put in place for victim-survivors; and the Departments of Corrections needs to make sure infection controls are in place to prevent people passing on COVID-19 contracted in prison.

Given pre-existing issues with police mis-identification of perpetrators and victims, and the disproportionate focus on policing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and communities of colour - consultation with culturally safe services during this time (and at all times) will be key. 

The trauma of colonisation and oppression is directly linked to the complexity and prevalence of family violence that exists in First Nations communities today. The justice system must work in true partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family Violence Prevention Legal Services and Aboriginal Legal Services to provide culturally safe services to First Nations people.

As the Government evolves its legal responses to this crisis, experts are calling for the management of safety risks to victim-survivors to be made a priority, and for resources and public money not be diverted from this area. In addition they are calling for policing approaches to be developed in consultation with culturally safe specialist family violence services. 

Current policy: The Morrison Government is yet to make any commitments in this area. 

9. Maintain access to contraception and abortion care 

Experts are warning that the current physical distancing measures will increase men’s use of violence and abuse - and that will include sexual violence and reproductive coercion. 

We know that forced pregnancy can be used by abusers in an attempt to tie their partner to them, and make it more difficult for them to escape and re-establish a separate life.

Experts are calling for women who need abortion care during this pandemic to be able to access it - like all other essential healthcare. That means ensuring clinics and delivery avenues for medical abortion care remain operational, and that clients can access care. 

Current policy: so far the Morrison Government have not provided any public guidance on what, if any, non-COVID related services will remain open, including abortion-care.

10. Guarantee additional resourcing for specialist family violence workers - so services can pay the required wage to their workers, and keep serving women’s safety needs 

To address historic underpayment of workers in the community services industry, a court order has been put in place requiring an incremental increase in their remuneration - including for workers in specialist domestic and family violence and sexual violence services. To meet those obligations, Governments must factor this mandatory increase in the cost of delivering services into all government funding commitments. 

Current policy: The Morrison Government have made no commitments in this area so far.

 

Join the campaign fighting for governments act for women's safety here.

Written by Renee Carr
02 April 2020
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