Fair Agenda Blog

It was good to see Bill Shorten emphasise the importance of addressing family violence in his budget reply last night -- but unfortunately the Labor Party's commitment to 'ensure women are safe at home and supported in the courts' isn't yet matched by the funding needed to do that.

Right now thousands of women are being left without the support they need to escape their abusers because of inadequate federal funding. Specialist services still aren’t resourced to respond to all police referrals; refuges aren’t resourced to shelter all the women seeking their help; and legal assistance services are being forced to turn away women rely on their assistance.

Both Labor and the Coalition are paying lip service to the importance of treating family violence as a national priority. But so far both their funding commitments are woefully inadequate. 

Just weeks ago the Victorian Government announced $572 million of additional funding to address service and system gaps in just that one state. We need a similar scale of investment nationally – that's about $4 billion over two years.

Labor’s interim family violence funding package provides just ~$70 million over three years. That includes $42.9 million for community legal centres, $4.5 million for Family Violence Prevention Legal Services and funding for a number of other measures.

The Coalition's recent Federal Budget included an announcement of $100 million over three years to address violence against women and their children. While it appears some of that funding will go to legal assistance services, the details are not yet clear. The Government is standing by its plan to cut 30% of funding to community legal centres over the forward estimates. 

Labor’s declaration that they will reverse the cuts to Community Legal Centres is an important one for women affected by family violence. But just reversing those cuts isn’t enough to ensure all women will be supported in the courts.

Community Legal Centres aren’t currently receiving enough funded to keep up with current demand. They’re forced to turn away more than 160,000 people every year, including those trying to escape or recover from family violence.

So far neither major party has committed the funding needed to address existing unmet need, far less the increase expected as a result of the current COAG awareness campaign.

We need to keep speaking up and demanding that whoever is in government after the next election, they deliver full funding for family violence services – to ensure women aren’t left without the support they need to escape their abuser and to live safely.

So far more than 37,000 community members and 100 organisations have signed onto Fair Agenda’s call for full funding of family violence services. Will you join them? Join the campaign atwww.fairagenda.org/family_violence_services

Written by Renee Carr
06 May 2016

Last night’s budget included a funding increase of just $33 million next year to address violence against women and children – a woefully inadequate response to the family violence epidemic, and a decision that will have dangerous consequences for those affected by family violence.

The government has essentially decided to leave thousands of women without the service support they need to be safe.

Our Prime Minister has said that family violence is a national priority – but his budget announcements don’t reflect that. His decision to leave thousands of women without access to the services they need to live free from danger is devastating.

It’s good to see new funding committed, but let’s put this in perspective. Just weeks ago the Victorian Government announced $572 million (over two years) in additional funding just to address urgent family violence service and system gaps in that one state. What we needed last night was for the federal government to match that level of funding nation-wide -- that would have been $4 billion over two years.

Instead the federal government will continue to inadequately fund a range of critical services, including:

    • Family Violence Prevention Legal Services – a vital specialist service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who face a vastly increased risk of murder and hospitalisation as a result of family violence. Only 14 FVPLS centres are funded nationally; leaving many women without access. They need an additional $28 million to ensure women coverage nationwide.
    • Community Legal Centres – these help over 215,000 people each year and are forced to turn away more than 160,000 people a year, including women affected by family violence. Family violence and family law work are the top two areas of demand for CLCs across Australia. They not only didn’t receive the additional $14.4 million funding they need to meet this existing demand; the Turnbull government also maintained $34 million worth of cuts over the forward estimates. That means that from 2017 the capacity of community legal centres will be cut by 30%. That’s a devastating cut for a service that helps women navigate things like AVO processes, family law, child protection, and financial abuse.
    • Specialist domestic and family violence services – which aren’t resourced to respond to all police referrals, or to meet demand for crisis or outreach are expected to receive some fraction of the additional $33 million this year. To put that in context Victoria recently committed $103.9 million additional funding (over two years) to address funding deficiencies in this area in just one state.
    • Perpetrator programs - which need $38 million funding, also appear not to have additional funding.

The Treasurer has said that this government will ‘afford the things that need to be afforded’. Last night’s budget shows us that apparently keeping women safe doesn’t fall into that category. It’s absolutely critical that we as a community keep coming together to demand action on this issue, until it does.

Join Fair Agenda's campaign and take action here.

Written by Renee Carr
03 May 2016

With so many things at stake this election, it can be hard to keep track; so we’ve put together a quick budget guide on the top two issues Fair Agenda members said are top priorities, so you know what to keep an eye out for.

Here it is:

1. On addressing gendered violence

Funding for family violence services is the big one to look for here. Prime Minister Turnbull says addressing family violence is a national priority, and tonight’s budget is a test of that commitment.

Domestic Violence Victoria are calling for the federal government to provide an urgent additional $4 billion over two years in this budget, to match the scale of funding committed by the Andrews’ Government in Victoria last month.

Some specific funding needs to listen out for:

  • Family Violence Prevention Legal Services: these are a specialist culturally safe service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, which need an additional $28 million to meet national demand. 
  • Community Legal Centres – which provide vital legal advice to women trying to escape family violence and who are facing a $34 million funding cut,, but which actually need an additional $14.4 million to even meet existing demand.
  • Perpetrator Programs – which require $38 million
  • Primary Prevention work – which needs additional funding on top of the $30 million awareness campaign currently being rolled out.

2. On ending women’s economic inequality

Paid Parental Leave

For the past year the Fair Agenda community have successfully campaigned to stop the government’s attempts to cut the amount of time new parents’ can afford to spend at home caring for their newborn. The government recently confirmed that they plan to re-introduce their cuts to parental leave after the election.

Tonight’s budget should give us an idea of whether or not a returned Turnbull government plans to re-introduce them before the end of the 2016/17 financial year, and therefore whether or not parents due in that time frame will be affected.

Superannuation

Last week a Senate committee report found that women’s superannuation balances at retirement are on average half as large as men’s.

One recommendation made by the committee was that the federal government adjust superannuation tax concessions to ensure they are distributed to people with lower super balances.

The Turnbull government have said that it plans to abolish the Low Income Super Contribution, but there’s speculation that they might introduce something else in this area – if so, it will have important implications for women with low-incomes.

Childcare

The government is proposing a new childcare system – but wants to pay for it by tearing funds out of Paid Parental Leave and Family Tax benefits; hardly a good outcome for families. This is another issue to keep an eye out for in coverage of tonight’s budget.

Written by Renee Carr
03 May 2016
WE're going to an early election: here's the plan

The election is on, and with analysis showing 20 of the 21 key marginal seats have more women voters in them than men, and the fate of paid parental leave hanging in the balance, Fair Agenda’s involvement in this election campaign couldn’t be more important.

We've already asked Fair Agenda members to tell us which issues you want us to focus on in the upcoming election, and you told us you want addressing gendered violence and tackling women's economic inequality to be our community's top two priorities. So the team have developed a bold and ambitious plan to put these two issues on the election agenda. 

Here it is: 

  1. We'll work with survivors and family violence service workers to keep a media spotlight on the thousands of women who are being left without access to the service support they need to escape abuse, and build community pressure on both major parties to increase the funding committed for family violence services.
  2. Fair Agenda will create an easy to use guide to help you understand (and share) where candidates stand on key issues that matter to you, and 
  3. Together we'll make stopping the cuts to parental leave an issue in key Senate races.

It's a plan that focuses on the issues that matter most to Fair Agenda members, plays to the proven strengths of our community, and leverages some of the key opportunities that exist this election. Now we need your help to make it happen.

Right now Fair Agenda doesn’t have the funds to deliver the whole plan. In fact, we've only got enough to deliver one point of the three point plan properly. But we've rallied together to help power incredible impact before. So, before we have to start making tough choices about what we drop, can you chip in to help make sure we can deliver as much impact as possible this election?

As a member-driven organisation, Fair Agenda relies on supporters like you to power our community's impact. Over the past two years, FairAgenda members have helped keep a national spotlight on family violence service funding, protected new parents’ paid time at home -- twice; and defended reproductive rights. Together, our community has proven that we can help impact policy and media at a national scale. And that’s exactly what we need to do again in the lead up to this year’s election. 

Elections are high-stakes. Right now we’re facing a big opportunity to drive positive change by securing additional funding for family violence services, as well as the big threat of being dragged backwards on parental leave. That’s why it’s absolutely critical our community makes our voice heard on our issues, in key moments and in key races. 

Want to understand the plan in more detail? Here it is:

1. We'll keep domestic violence on the national agenda and mobilise to secure increased funding for family violence services.

Together we’ve proven that we can draw national media attention to the fact that thousands of women are being left without the service support they need to live free from danger; and created the consistent pressure needed to win millions in funding for a vital family violence service in the days after the last budget. Now we need to step up that campaign.  

With your support we can:

  • Work with survivors and experts to keep family violence funding on the media agenda ahead of the budget and election, delivering creative media tactics that keep this issue in the headlines and amplify the urgent call for action.
  • Support Fair Agenda’s tens of thousands of members to make the funding of family violence services an inescapable issue for key spokespeople in the major parties, and
  • Build pressure in a key marginal seat to ensure the candidates there can’t escape questions about what their party will do to ensure women trying to escape family violence aren’t left without the service support they need to live in safety.

2. We’ll create an easy to use guide to help you understand (and share) where candidates stand on key issues that matter to you

With speculation that this election could result in a minority government,4 and that minor parties could again hold the balance of power in the next Senate,5 making clear where candidates stand on your issues is vital.

That’s why Fair Agenda will make sure candidates are surveyed on the issues that matter to you; and create an easy-to-use guide to help people cast a vote in line with their values. Then we’ll work with Fair Agenda members to share this scorecard far and wide, and to get it in front of key voters in tight races.

3. We’ll make parental leave an issue in Senate races.

In order to pass their proposed cuts to new parents’ paid time at home, the government first have to get their cuts approved by the Senate. Together we’ve already stopped the cuts in the Senate -- twice. And now the Turnbull government have confirmed that if they’re re-elected, we’ll have to do it again.6

That’s why Fair Agenda have a plan to pressure key Senate candidates in tight races to commit to protect paid parental leave if elected; and to make sure voters know which Senators support cutting new parents’ paid time at home, through a nifty online scorecard.

But we need your help to make this happen. Can you make a regular donation between now and the election to help make that possible?

https://fairagenda.nationbuilder.com/election_donate_monthly

 

-References-

1. The big reason the female vote will be crucial at the next election, Daily Life, 24 March 2016.

2. Are you listening Malcolm Turnbull? Victoria sets new benchmark for national family violence response, Women's Agenda, 18 April 2016.

3. Labor's gains pave wave to another hung parliament, The Australian, 8 April 2016.

4. Double dissolution likely to weaken the Turnbull Government's Senate Position, ABC: Antony Green's Election Blog, 7 April 2016.

5. Cuts to parental leave shaping up as an election issue, Women's Agenda, 7 April 2016.

Written by Renee Carr
20 April 2016
Win! Parental leave

After 9 months of campaigning, we’re excited to announce that new parents' paid time at home with their babies is safe under this parliament.

Last week Fair Agenda and our friends at The Parenthood took your messages to parliament – and stood with crossbench Senators Jacqui Lambie and Glenn Lazarus as they told media they are committed to voting against cuts to new parents’ paid time at home.   

Press conference: Senator Lazarus, Senator Lambie, Fair Agenda, Parenthood & Fair Agenda member Heather and her son Luca

It’s an important victory and the culmination of more than 9 months of campaigning since the Abbott government first announced its plan to cut parental leave on Mother's Day last year.

It means that the proposed cuts to parental leave will not succeed under this parliament. Along with commitments from Senators Lambie and Lazarus, consistent community campaigning has also secured block votes from Senator Xenophon and Senator Madigan (who went on the record after receiving the research commissioned by Fair Agenda members). These commitments, combined with consistent opposition from Labor and The Greens mean new parents' paid time at home is safe!

Here’s what we've been able to achieve so far:

Last week, representatives of Fair Agenda and The Parenthood, together with Fair Agenda member Heather and her son Luca took your message to Parliament House, and secured support from key crossbench Senators Lambie and Lazarus:

Group photo: Senator Lazarus, Lambie, Fair Agenda, Parenthood and Fair Agenda member Heather and her son Luca

You can watch Senator Lazarus’s commitment to members here:

Video: Senator Lazarus pledge

This followed Fair Agenda's rapid response work at the start of the year, releasing an expert report commissioned by members that showed the devastating impact the Turnbull government's new attempt to cut leave in December would have had: 

Headline: Mothers $10k worse off
Here's the coverage of how key crossbench Senator John Madigan (who had the casting votes on this issue) responded to the proposed cuts after seeing our report:

Headline: 'Mean and stupid' proposal

These commitments mean that the new attempts to cut parental leave announced by the Turnbull government in December last year won't succeed.

It built on months of campaigning against the Abbott government's initial cuts, and months of Fair Agenda members calling, emailing and meeting with key cross-bench Senators to make sure they know about the strong community opposition to the government’s cuts. This initial community pressure helped ensure the initial Abbott government proposal was politically impossible for them to pass: 

Qld members meet with Senator Lazarus
Together we've defeated attempts by the Abbott and Turnbull government to tear precious time at home from new parents. We've helped turn the tide on this issue – and stop changes that would have been devastating for tens of thousands of families across the country. 

But the government haven’t dropped their cuts yet. And if they choose to stand by them at the next budget, this could be a live issue at the next election. That’s why our work together is so important.

Campaigns like this are only possible because of support from Fair Agenda members like you -- can you chip in to help make more campaigns like this possible?  http://fairagenda.org/donate

And, make sure you help shape our priorities around this election. As the election approaches, many of the issues our community care about could be on the table - including parental leave. That's why it's important we know what Fair Agenda members like you want to see our community focus on. Can you take 10 minutes to fill in our member survey and share which issues of fairness and equality for women you’d like to see Fair Agenda focus on in the lead up to the election?   https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FairAgenda

Written by Renee Carr
24 March 2016
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