Fair Agenda Blog

Press conference

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

Written by Renee Carr
16 May 2024

What: The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) is conducting an inquiry into justice responses to sexual violence. 

When: Submissions will remain open until Friday, 24 May 2024.

Why:  The ALRC seeks submissions from a broad cross-section of the community, as well as those with a special interest in the Inquiry. These submissions are crucial in assisting the ALRC to develop its recommendations. The ALRC’s recommendations will aim to ensure that people who have experienced sexual violence and their families are properly supported when they seek help, and that the justice response minimises the extent of any re-traumatisation.

How to make a submission

Preparing to make a submission

The ALRC has posted two relevant documents speaking to the scope of the inquiry and the kind of responses they are looking for, you may want to acquaint yourself with these resources. They are fairly long documents, so don’t feel like you need to read them in full, but they are here for you to refer back to:

  1. The terms of reference - this details the scope of the inquiry and what it will cover.
  2. The issues paper -  this contains a number of questions to help guide submissions.

How to write your submission

Written submissions must be in a format that can be uploaded. We recommended a word doc or PDF format to be able to upload your submission into the government portal.

Some of the options you may consider for structuring your submission are to write:

  1. A letter entirely written from your individual perspective.
  2. A template submission, utilising the commissions provided questionnaire.
  3. A formal submission, detailing your recommendations to the commission with analysis that follows.

Option 1: Writing a letter

You might choose this option if you want to convey information highlighting your expertise and/or experience related to justice responses to sexual violence, without using a set structure or responding to specific questions. If you already have a good idea of what you want to write then this option could be for you.

Option 2: A template submission

The commission has put together 56 questions that ask individuals to speak to their experiences of a range of areas relating to justice system responses to sexual violence. If you choose this avenue, you aren’t expected to answer every question, we recommend that you have a read and copy and paste the relevant questions into a separate document that apply to you and your experience.

You can download the questions in a word doc here, and answer any questions the commission has asked.

Option 3: A formal submission

You might choose to make a more formal submission if you want to make a case for the problem and solution to governments based on your personal or professional experience. In this case we recommend: stating your recommendations at the top of your submission, and then speaking to the problems that the recommendations you are trying to address solve for in the text that follows.

Speaking to Fair Agenda’s campaigns in your submission

If you want to highlight Fair Agenda’s campaigns relating to justice responses to sexual violence, we have drafted some copy for you to draw on. You may choose to copy and paste this into your submission or pick and choose text which suits your submission points. We have also included the question number our campaigns relate to if you are choosing to use the ALRC template. You can download Fair Agenda’s pre-written copy for your own submission here.

How to send your submission

Once you have finalised your submission you can upload it via the government website here. Submissions will remain open until Friday, 24 May 2024.

Things to consider

Confidentiality

You will need to decide whether you want your submission to be confidential or not. You will be required to notify the ALRC when uploading your submission. The ALRC has made the following statements in regards to confidentiality:

“If a submission discloses a person’s experience of sexual violence and the submission is not a confidential submission, the ALRC will publish the submission, but it will redact any information that may identify the person who has experienced sexual violence.”

“If you wish for your submission to be published with information that identifies you as someone who has experienced sexual violence or as a complainant in legal proceedings, please select the relevant checkbox when uploading your submission.”

Identifying information

You may need to consider if any identifying information in your submission could impact on parts of your submission being published. The ALRC has made the following statements:

"The ALRC wishes to respect the ability of people to identify as having experienced sexual violence and to share their experiences in a submission. However, different laws generally restrict how and when some information can be published if it would identify a victim survivor, a complainant in legal proceedings, or a person accused of committing sexual violence."

"The ALRC will not publish parts of a submission that would identify any person accused of committing a sexual violence offence. The ALRC may publish information that would identify a person who has been convicted of a sexual violence offence where the person’s identity has otherwise been publicly disclosed."

To read more about the ALRC's policies relating to submissions click here.

Support to write your submission

Support is available for those who need via the commission.  If you need their support to make a submission you can contact them. This includes: 

  • If you want assistance in making a written submission.  
  • If you would prefer to make a verbal submission.  
  • If you need the support of an interpreter.  
  • If you need a referral to a service provider who can help you make a submission.  

Email: [email protected] 

Phone: 0456 972 868, 9 am–5 pm (AEST) Monday–Friday 

Support services

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic, family or sexual or violence, help can be found via: 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) or via https://www.1800respect.org.au/ which offers a national counselling helpline, information and support. For counselling, advice and support for men who have anger, relationship or parenting issues, you can call the Men’s Referral Service on 1300 766 491.

Written by Liz Hadjia
15 May 2024

Women’s safety advocates have today responded to news of Bettina Arndt’s “MenToo” conference by calling out its harmful implications for survivors of sexual violence, as well as highlighting the need for a better system that can actually deliver justice. 

Survivor-advocate Dani Villafaña said: “Already the legal system is so deeply traumatic for someone who has been raped to experience. To suggest that we need any changes that further skew the system to protect people perpetrating sexual assault is both dangerous and absurd.”

“We have an Australian Law Reform Commission Inquiry underway because of how deeply harmful this system is. To suggest we need changes that would hurt victim-survivors even more is disrespectful and deeply distressing for the brave survivors who are doing such important work speaking out about their experiences and the work that desperately needs to be done to improve the current criminal legal system.” she added.

“The ‘men too’ ‘movement’ are right about one thing - right now the legal system isn’t delivering justice when it comes to sexual assault - but that’s because it’s failing most victim-survivors.” said Renee Carr

“The criminal legal system is failing victim-survivors at so many points - starting with the ability to get the immediate medical care you need and any potential forensic evidence collected. I think most Australians would be surprised to learn that support is not always available if and when you need it. ” said Renee Carr, Executive Director of Fair Agenda.

“As it currently stands, the system disincentives a woman who has been sexually assaulted from coming forward to police or seeking findings through court at all.” Ms Carr added.

"The double standard in the current system is a joke. Perpetrators are literally platformed while victims have to put their lives on hold, staying silent around legal proceedings for risk of causing a mistrial or affecting sentencing if there's a conviction.” said Sarah Rosenberg, Executive Director of With You We Can.

“We are angry. My friend and survivor advocate Sarah Williams of What Were You Wearing is working quickly to coordinate a protest of the event.” she added.

Sarah Williams, founder of What Were You Wearing Australia, herself said, "Enough is enough. Victim-survivors have been through enough, and we urge the community to stand with us to show we don’t support this harmful rhetoric".

Michael Bradley, lawyer, Chair of RASARA, and Director of the Grace Tame Foundation added: “The promotion for this event talks about ‘restoring the presumption of innocence’. It is a false narrative; the presumption is under no threat whatsoever. 

One in five Australian women has been the victim of a sexual assault. For these women, there is less than a 1 per cent chance that their rapist has been arrested, prosecuted and convicted of the crime. These are the bare numerical facts of system failure. The suggestion that men are the real victims of this system is plain wrong.” Mr Bradley added. 

 

Some actual facts:

  • Official public safety data collected by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows 2 million women have experienced sexual assault since the age of 15. (source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Personal Safety Survey Data: 2021-22 financial year).
  • When we look at legal outcomes for those women, the vast majority (92%) of women who experienced sexual assault by a male did not report the most recent incident to police. (Source Queensland Government, Department of Justice & Attorney-General Sexual Violence Statistics, )  
  • In 2022, 32,146 incidents of sexual assault were recorded by police. (Source: Australian bureau of Statistics, Recorded Crime - Victims: 2022)

 

Written by Renee Carr
08 April 2024
Uni action plan

For seven years the Fair Agenda movement has been calling for the government to intervene to hold universities to account on this issue - calling for a Taskforce or other intervention to deliver the systemic interventions so desperately needed, by providing: oversight and monitoring, transparency, an effective complaints mechanism, and actual accountability on this issue. 

This new Draft Action Plan provides a viable strategy to deliver that. It was developed over recent months in consultation with representatives of Fair Agenda, and our campaign collaborators End Rape on Campus Australia, The STOP Campaign, National Union of Students.

Yesterday, our team and campaign partners took a moment to reflect on and celebrate just how big a deal this proposed Plan could be if it’s implemented. We wanted to celebrate that with you - as the thousands of people who have helped amplify, resource and maintain the pressure on this issue over seven years. Because what we are doing together is making a difference.

Here’s what what’s contained in the Draft Action Plan:

  • New Standards: the introduction of a National Code that would create rules for universities and residences related to: evidence-based prevention, management of sexual violence reports, the provision of student support and academic adjustments.
  • Oversight of the new National Code’s implementation.

  • A new complaints avenue: The establishment of a new National Student Ombudsman who would have the power to handle student complaints about their providers’ and recommend that a Vice-Chancellor do things like refund a student’s fees.

  • Transparency: requiring annual reporting from universities and residences on things like: disclosures, reports, satisfaction with reporting pathways and processes, disciplinary processes and outcomes - to both the federal Education Minister, and parliament.

  • Accountability: The draft Plan includes a specific proposed commitment to “strengthen provider accountability for systemic issues relating to gender-based violence”. The details about specific powers and sanctions that would be available are still to be determined, but we believe this Draft Plan and other concurrent university reform processes underway puts us on track to see institutions finally held to account. 

  • Critically, the Draft Action Plan emphasises the need to continue engaging and consulting with students and victim-survivors - which is vital to making sure approaches are fit for purpose into the future. 

Yesterday Fair Agenda and our campaign partners had a chance to address Education Ministers around the country about why these changes are so important. Now the Ministers have released that draft Action Plan for ‘further consultation and detailed design work’. It’s a next step to figuring out the specifics so that the government can fund and implement these proposed actions, and actually make  university communities safer. 

As governments prepare to consult on this proposed action plan, and how it can and should be implemented - we have to keep the pressure up to make sure the promise of this Draft Action Plan is realised.

We expect that the prospect of meaningful consequences will make any universities and residences who have been failing students and survivors in this area extremely concerned. And we expect they’ll throw their extensive resources at influencing this consultation and design process, to try to minimise the financial and reputation risks to their organisations carrying on with business as usual. That’s why it’s so important we keep up the pressure and maintain momentum for the transformative reforms proposed in the Draft Action Plan today.

We know our movement’s campaigning has been making a difference. In partnership with our friends at End Rape on Campus Australia the Fair Agenda movement has helped keep this issue on the political and media agenda for years. We have ensured it was recognised as a key and priority area for reform in the University Accords process earlier this year. We have met with Ministers and parliamentarians across the country and political spectrum to convince them of the need for action, and the importance of our criteria for reform. Now we need to carry that momentum forward to ensure the promise of this Action Plan is delivered. 

The Fair Agenda team will be in touch soon about next steps, and how we can collectively realise this change. But in the meantime we wanted to reach out and celebrate this update - because it’s a really big deal, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the consistent pressure for the Fair Agenda movement; helping to back the calls of survivors, students, and our many campaign partners over the years. Thanks for all the ways you’ve been part of this campaign.

Renee, Sharna, Dani & Liz for Fair Agenda

PS - Fair Agenda has only been able to keep up the pressure on this issue over the past seven years with the generous support of members and supporters around the country. Can you chip in to help us keep up the pressure to make the proposed Action Plan a reality?

Written by Renee Carr
22 November 2023

As the Referendum date approaches, the Fair Agenda team wanted to share some resources that you might find helpful to inform how you vote, as well as the resources and support services available for First Nations people who are being impacted by the debate. 

The Fair Agenda movement exists to campaign for a fair and just future - one where we can all live with safety, security and agency over our lives, no matter our gender. To achieve that future, we must address the historical and ongoing marginalisation of First Nations people, especially First Nations women.

We know that laws and policies are more effective when those of us affected by them have a say. But all too often governments have ignored First Nations people when making important decisions about them - perpetuating systemic injustices including violence, health disparities, and other forms of inequality. 

So before you write your answer to the referendum question; we want to share these messages from First Nations advocates about why writing Yes matters: 

Larissa Baldwin-Roberts on how millions of us writing Yes makes so much more possible. 

Dr Jackie Huggins AM, Professor Marcia Langton AO and Emily Carter on why the Voice is so important for future generations.

Nova Peris OAM on the way that Australian laws since colonisation have been used to exclude and hurt Aboriginal people; and the opportunity a Voice would create.

Tanya Hosch speaking just one day after she left hospital, about listening to the voices of communities who know the problems they face and solutions they need.

Antoinette Braybrook on how the Voice creates an opportunity for First Nations people to apply a lived experience lens to government policies.

Amelia Telford on focusing on the shared vision of First Nations Communities, and seeing the Referendum as a step along the journey to realising those shared visions.

Ensuring First Nations people have a seat at the table and a greater say in their future is critical to realising a fairer and better future.

But every representative body for First Nations people in the past has been torn up by subsequent governments who didn’t like what they were saying. When the majority of us write Yes in the referendum, we can create a permanent representative body that will represent communities and can say what needs to be said.

Right across Australia there are examples where Aboriginal health, housing, education and justice are significantly improving. These programs are most successful when they are created, run and controlled by Aboriginal people who have the cultural knowledge and hands on experience of what works best. 

The Fair Agenda team holds respect and understanding for the diverse range of opinions held by First Nations advocates and communities inside and outside of our movement. We agree that change needs to be much bigger than just a Voice - that we need transformative change. 

If the overwhelming majority of people write Yes, we will have the momentum for big reforms and transformative changes including treaties, land rights, truth-telling and justice. Over the next decade, we can work together to leave future generations more united, where First Nations people are respected, listened to and treated with dignity.

We are also conscious that the public discussion around the Voice is having a significant impact on First Nations people - which is why we also want to share National Indigenous Television’s advice and resources from First Nations mental health professionals about the support services and online safety resources available to mob.

In solidarity,

The Fair Agenda team 


Remember, you have to be registered to vote to have a say in the referendum. If you’ve recently changed your name or address, you might need to update your details on the electoral roll. Go here to register or change your details: https://www.aec.gov.au/referendums/enrolling.htm  

You can find out more and get involved in the Yes23 campaign here.

Written by Renee Carr
14 September 2023
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