Fair Agenda Blog

Funding for the services women rely on to get safe

Prime Minister Turnbull has recognised domestic violence as a national disgrace. But tonight’s budget suggests it’s still not being treated as a national priority. Women will continue to be left without the services they need to get safe.

It's good news that the Federal Government have extended existing funding for vital homelessness services and reversed planned cuts to legal assistance. But the Turnbull Government still isn’t providing the scale of additional service funding needed to address the fact that thousands of women being left without access to services they need to be safe.

Victoria just announced $1.9 billion of additional funding to address this issue in just one state. That’s the kind of commitment we need on this issue. But Fair Agenda's early analysis suggests that the Federal Budget provides only around $50 million for additional capacity in domestic violence related services.

Fair Agenda notes that a number of family violence services remain unable to meet demand:

  • Family Violence Prevention Legal Services report that up to 30% of women contacting the service have to be turned away because they don’t have the capacity to support them.
  • In South Australia, the Crisis Service estimates the increase in demand for their service over the last year could be as high as 30%. What’s more, the services the they rely on to assist women in crisis are also consistently at capacity – making it extremely rare that a woman in crisis can be placed into a specialist service directly. Women deserve better from our Governments.
  • Community Legal Centres are no longer facing cuts – but still don’t have the funding they need to address the fact that they’ve been having to turn away more than 160,000 people a year including women affected by family violence.

Victoria has shown the scale of commitment needed to address domestic violence. A woman’s ability to escape domestic violence shouldn’t depend on the state she lives in.

Fair Agenda’s early analysis of the domestic violence related budget measures is below.

Funding for additional capacity:

  • $3.4 million over two years to expand the trial of Domestic Violence Units in legal centres, and 
  • $10.7 million over four years to employ additional family violence consultants at Family Law Courts.
  • $12.7 million to establish Parenting Management Hearings - a new forum for resolving family law disputes between self-represented litigants.
  • $5 million of additional investment in Community Legal Centres (There is also $34 million in cuts reversed)
  • $18.2 million to establish Family Advocacy and Support Services by Legal Aid Commissions, which will provide integrated duty lawyer and family violence support services.

Relevant by not additional funding:

  • $375 million to extend homelessness service funding – is a vital extension of funding for critical frontline DV services that will allow them to continue assisting people at the same level. This is a positive announcement, but won’t enable additional capacity.
  • The previously announced $55.7 million of funding for legal assistance services is also a positive announcement – but is almost entirely a reversal of cuts to services. Only about $5 million of this can be considered to going towards additional capacity, and that is spread over three years and the 100+ Community Legal Centres operating in Australia.

Existing funding commitments (i.e. not new money) mentioned in the budget:

  • $7.5 million to support a series of trials to test technology to improve the safety of women and children affected by domestic violence


Other announcements

There have been two other positive announcements made by the Attorney-General overnight.

1. Cross examination reform

Last night there was also a very positive announcement around our campaign to reform the Family Court rule that means survivors of domestic violence can be forced to endure direct cross-examination by their abusers in court. 

The Attorney-General has announced that the Government will soon release amendments to the Family Law Act to address this issue. These amendments will be subject to public consultation, and we may need to do further campaigning to ensure they’re adopted – but this is a really big, and positive step forward.

Thanks to all the Fair Agenda members and survivor advocates who have helped speak out on this issue over the past year. In partnership with our friends at the Women’s Legal Services and Never Alone we have helped build the pressure needed to make this announcement possible.

2. Family Law Act reform

The Turnbull Government have also announced a comprehensive review into the family law system. The first since the Act was first introduced in 1976. 

This will pave the way for long term fundamental reform of the system, and is a promising development to help deal with the risks around family violence in the family law system.

Importantly, the issue has been referred to the Australian Law Reform Commission who will conduct the review with a view to making recommendations around reforms.

This is an important area to keep an eye on - as we know there are a number of powerful groups who oppose recommendations from the Women's Legal Service and other domestic violence experts. But this announcement by the Attorney-General is a very positive and promising one.


Written by Renee Carr
10 May 2017
2017 budget guide

Here’s a quick brief on the top items of Fair Agenda’s “watch list” for tonight’s Federal Budget:

1. Increased funding to ensure women in need can access domestic violence services

Thousands of women are being put in danger by the Federal Government's decisions to keep denying adequate funding to domestic and family violence related services. 

Many family violence services rely on both federal and state funding to operate. And this is an area that all Governments, including the Turnbull Government, should be making a top priority, and stepping up funding of required services.

Here’s a snapshot of the problem:

  • Family Violence Prevention Legal services, which provide a specialist and culturally safe service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, report that they are forced to turn away more than 30% of people who come to them for help because of inadequate funding. This is in a context where approximately 90% of violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women is already believed to go unreported to services.
  • In South Australia, the Crisis Service estimates the increase in demand for their service over the last year could be as high as 30%. They believe that tight funding leaves them increasingly less able to provide the early intervention work they know is necessary to increase women’s safety. Instead, limited funding forces them to constrict their service focus to the most high risk cases when a woman is already in immediate, imminent risk.
    What’s more, the services the crisis line refers women on to are also consistently already at capacity – making it extremely rare that women in crisis can be placed into a specialist service directly.
  • Community Legal Centres – where family violence and family law related work are some of the biggest areas where people seek assistance, have to turn away more than 160,000 people a year (including but not limited to women affected by domestic violence) because of inadequate funding.
  • Men’s Behaviour Change programs have, on average, upwards of a 6 month waiting list for men to get into a behaviour change program, even when it’s court mandated.

Last week the Victorian Government set the benchmark for the kind of response we should be expecting from Governments – with an announcement of $1.9 *billion* of additional funding for family violence response in the state.

We need to see an equivalent scale of investment by the Federal Government. That’s the message Fair Agenda members and survivor advocates have been sending:

Rebeca and Liana's video

You can join the campaign for full funding here: http://www.fairagenda.org/domesticviolence

Budget analysis tip: Up until last month, the Federal Government were preparing to cut the funding of Community Legal Centres by almost $34 million over three years. They recently announced $39 million of funding for the service -- reversing those cuts, and providing ~$5 million extra for Community Legal Centres over the next three years. 

This was a really positive announcement. The Attorney-General has been touting this commitment as "record levels of funding" and we anticipate this message will feature again tonight. But it's important we don't let the Government move the goal posts on this issue. At its heart, this announcement was essentially just a reversal of funding cuts. Service providers say the ~$5 million of new funding (spread across three years and the country's more than 100 centres) will do little, if anything, to address the 160,000 people a year they're forced to turn away (including women seeking their assistance to escape family violence).

In 2014 the Productivity Commission recommended to the Federal Government that they needed to inject $120 million extra per year to the legal assistance sector to address unmet legal need across Australia. That's the scale of funding we need to be seeing in the legal sector. 


2. Cuts to working parents’ time to care for their newborns

It’s expected that the Turnbull Government will use this budget to resurrect many of its so called “zombie measures” from the 2014 budget. It’s expected that this will include cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from our paid parental leave system.

This is a system that is overwhelmingly utilised by women, in a context where the full time gender pay gap is 16% and almost 50% of mothers report they have experienced discrimination in the workplace at some stage during their pregnancy or parental leave. 

The Government have been trying to introduce a system cut that would change the system from the current "combined" system to a system capped at 20 weeks -- well short of the 26-week minimum recommended for health and welfare reasons.

These are cuts punish that will punish women who have secured parental leave from their employers – often at the expense of increased pay. And it will hit workers like nurses, ambulance service workers, retail workers and teachers hard -- across tens of thousands of families a year. 

For the past two years Fair Agenda members have helped stop these cuts. We have to keep up the efforts, and maintain the pressure on the Nick Xenophon Team to keep using their deciding votes to reject these cruel cuts.

Join the campaign here: http://www.fairagenda.org/ppl


3. Homelessness and housing funding

Fair Agenda will be keeping an eye out for any changes to the National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA) or the National Partnership Agreement on Homeless (NPAH). 

These are both vital sources of funding for family and domestic violence services and also for public housing. Both of which need increased resourcing.

Right now there’s a 200,000 person waiting list for public housing. And older women are the fastest growing group of Australians being pushed into homelessness.

According to the most recent census, there are close to 100,000 women over 60 are living in public housing. And women and girls make up a majority of those who rely on public housing.

We need increased investment in both family violence services, and public housing.

But there’s a chance that the Government may use this budget to redirect funding from the NAHA funding stream to other housing measures. So keep an eye out for any changes that would direct money away from public housing.


4. Cuts to programs for the world’s poorest

There have been leaks this week suggesting the Government plans to tear funding out of programs for the safety and wellbeing of the world’s poorest people.

The majority of the world’s poorest people are women – so any cuts in this area will have a dangerous impact on our vulnerable neighbours.

One key area to keep an eye on is funding for family planning and reproductive health. You may recall US President Donald Trump has imposed a “global gag rule” on the US aid program – preventing any investment in programs that even talk about full reproductive healthcare options. 

The Australian Christian Lobby has been pushing a similar agenda here – calling on the Government to re-introduce an equivalent rule that had been in place to restrict the use of Australia's global aid under John Howard. We need to make sure there aren't moves to reintroduce this horrifying rule in Australia.


5. Women's representation

The Turnbull Government took a $13 million STEM focused funding package to the last election - with a pledge to support women to pursue careers in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics industries. Keep an eye out for any other positive funding announcements in this or other women's representation areas.


6. The women’s budget statement

The Women’s Budget Statement was introduced in Australia in 1984. It served to provide a comprehensive overview of where budget allocations were being made to ensure women’s rights were being upheld.

But it was dropped by Tony Abbott in his capacity as Minister for Women in 2014. Without it the Australian public has no access to information on what is being spent to advance gender equality and women’s rights – or how proposed budget members would set women’s equality back.

As the Minister who was responsible for introducing the statement back in 1984 says: "The Budget had been designed by men, for men and before the Statement was introduced, everyone assumed that would work for women as well. It didn't, obviously."

Fair Agenda, ActionAid Australia and the Women’s Electoral Lobby are partnering on a campaign calling on the Turnbull Government to reinstate the Women’s Budget Statement. Can you join the campaign?


Fair Agenda will be posting budget analysis live tonight as the Budget is delivered. You can get all the analysis as it's released by following Fair Agenda on facebook or twitter.

Written by Renee Carr
09 May 2017
FA members

Fair Agenda members have helped stop cuts to our parental leave system that would have hurt more than 79,000 families. 

This impact was only possible thanks to the efforts of thousands of Fair Agenda members who have driven this campaign since Day One. Members like Anna who launched the petition calling on other Fair Agenda members to stand with her in campaigning against the cuts… members like Trish, Kyla and Belinda who met with former Senator Glenn Lazarus and asked him to use his Senate vote to block the cuts… members like Heather and baby Luca who came to Parliament House and stood with Senator Lazarus and Senator Lambie as they committed the votes needed to block the legislation in the previous Parliament… and members like Sascha, Colleen, Cassie, Kate and baby Ella who met with election candidates and got them on the record on this issue.

Together, Fair Agenda members have now helped stop cuts to parental leave *four* times. These wins are a testament to the power of our movement, and to our ability to drive change on the national stage. So thank you to everyone who has contributed to this campaign – whether as a donor, volunteer, or as someone who has used their voice to join the call for change. 

How we did it 

When the Abbott Government announced on Mother’s Day last year that they planned to cut working parents’ paid time at home, Fair Agenda member Anna asked you to stand with her to speak against these cuts – and within days 15,000 Fair Agenda members joined her. 

When it became clear that the Government weren’t going to back down from their outrageous attack on working parents, we worked together to win the votes needed to block this proposal in the Senate.

Over the months that followed Fair Agenda members called, emailed and met with key cross-bench Senators to make sure they knew about the strong community opposition to the Government’s cuts.

This community pressure helped ensure it was impossible for the Abbott government to negotiate its cuts through the Senate.

That should have been the end of it.

But instead, when Malcolm Turnbull took over the leadership, he doubled down – and announced a new, slightly different proposal he was planning to negotiate through the Senate. 

But we didn’t let him.

The Turnbull Government’s had made their announcement in the weeks before Christmas – the perfect time to announce something you don’t want to attract bad press - we made sure their strategy didn’t work.

In just a few days Christmas Fair Agenda members chipped in to raise the funds needed to commission expert modelling on the impact of these cuts on workers like nurses, teachers, ambos and Woolies staff.

Fair Agenda then released that research in January, securing syndicated print coverage across major cities, keeping this issue in the headlines where it belonged. 

This coverage helped get crossbench Senator John Madigan on the record as opposed to the new cuts – securing a critical vote needed to block the Government’s attack. 

Then, Fair Agenda joined our friends at The Parenthood in Canberra, to meet with key Senators Glenn Lazarus and Jacqui Lambie.

Fair Agenda member Heather and her son Luca stood with the Senators as they told media they would pledge the final votes needed to block the Turnbull Government’s new cuts in the Senate. 


It won us a reprieve under the last parliament, and it should have been the end of this cruel policy.

But then Minister Porter told media that the fact that the Government's hadn't been able to pass the legislation: "does not mean that this government at the moment is not trying to change [the current system], or if it were re-elected wouldn’t also be looking at ways in which to modify the existing system along the lines that we have suggested.

In response, Fair Agenda members stepped up our campaign – donating and volunteering to make this an issue for voters at the July 2 election.

Fair Agenda members led meetings with key candidates, and funded an election scorecard that got key eight Parties on the record as opposing any cuts that the Turnbull Government might try to get through.

Then we got that scorecard in front of more than 15,000 voters before they headed to the polls. 


When the Senate results were announced, Fair Agenda had secured commitments to block these cuts from a majority of Senators. 


But then the Federal Government started backroom negotiations to pass a different form of cuts to working parents time to care - putting pressure on the Nick Xenophon Team to pass a variation of the cuts. And there were reports that the Party was considering going back on its promise. So Fair Agenda partnered up with The Parenthood and others to hold them to their word, including funding a giant billboard near their electorate offices in Adelaide:


And then, when questioned by journalists on their pledge to Fair Agenda members, the Nick Xenophon Team confirmed they would not support the cuts. A decision that has seen the Federal Government remove the cuts from the Federal Budget, although they remain Government policy.


This campaigning by Fair Agenda members over the past two years has stopped cuts that would have hurt 79,000 working families and counting. Thanks to everyone who took action to make this possible!


As the attacks on working parents' time to care have shown – we can’t take progress on issues of equality for granted. In fact, we still have to be ready to defend against those who want to drag us backwards on these issues. 

That means it’s critical that Fair Agenda members keep working to hold those pledges accountable for their commitments, as well as working to secure the policy improvements we need to make progress on women’s economic inequality.

Important campaigns like this are only possible thanks to the generous donations of Fair Agenda members. Can you chip in to help our community drive more change? www.fairagenda.org/donate

Written by Renee Carr
08 May 2017
Family violence groups speak out

A collective of 37 family violence groups have partnered with Fair Agenda in an open letter speaking out against the danger of the federal government’s planned funding cut to Community Legal Centres (CLCs).

The planned $12.1 million cuts to CLCs, due to take effect on July 1, will mean a major reduction in services by CLCs – which provide front line support for women and children trying to escape family violence, putting lives at risk.

It's a plan that's incredibly dangerous. Access to legal support is vital for women trying to escape an abuser. A decision to cut funding for community legal services is a decision to put more women in danger. That’s why family violence groups have come together to urge the Government to reverse the cuts.

Survivor advocate Rebeca Carro said, “Community legal support helped save my life. Without women’s legal service I would be a statistic, not a survivor.”

Survivor advocate Liana Papoutsis said: “I knew I needed help. The first service I reached out to was my Community Legal Centre -- and they provided me with critical support to start thinking about how I could get myself and my child out safely."

Governments' decision to inadequately resource Community Legal Centres means they are already forced to turn away 160,000 people annually, including women affected by violence. 

“Legal assistance is absolutely vital in supporting women experiencing family violence to be safe.” said Fiona McCormack, CEO of Domestic Violence Victoria.

“A cut to the funding of Community Legal Centres will have disastrous impacts for the safety of women and their children.”

In 2014, the Productivity Commission found that $200 million of additional funding per year was needed for Community Legal Centres to meet existing demand.

“It’s great to see the Government talking about domestic violence. But the more we talk about domestic violence – the more women reach out to services for help,” said Moo Baulch, CEO of Domestic Violence NSW.

“If you’re not funding the services to keep up with demand – you’re putting women in danger, and making it harder for them to seek the right support.” she added.

Can you join the campaign to stop the cuts? Sign and share the campaign here: http://www.fairagenda.org/clc_cuts


Open letter to the Turnbull Government: Please don't put more women in danger

To the Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP, Prime Minister of Australia, and all members of the Turnbull Coalition Government,

As experts who work for people affected by family violence every day, we implore you to urgently reverse the planned Commonwealth funding cuts to Community Legal Centres. 

We know that access to legal assistance changes lives. It helps women and children stay safe, and gives them the power to make informed decisions so they can feel more in control of their lives. And in many cases it’s the reason someone can finally escape an abusive partner. 

A woman affected by family violence – whether that abuse is physical, emotional or financial – faces overwhelming legal obstacles to finding safety for herself, and any children she may have. She will often rely on Community Legal Centres for help with her urgent safety needs, as well as the legal information, advice and representation she needs to be safe in the future. This includes things like: 

  • Help securing a family violence order – to prevent a perpetrator from continuing to abuse or threaten her,
  • Help making sure she isn’t rendered homeless by any legal or financial issues created by her abuser,
  • Assistance to address financial abuse, including debts and fines that may have been accrued in her name to make her feel trapped and unable to escape, and
  • Access to financial counselling and social work services - to ensure she has the support she needs to re-establish her independence. 

Too often we hear from women affected by abuse that dealing with the courts and justice system is overwhelming, intimidating, and re-traumatising. We believe that Community Legal Centres also bring vital and unique expertise to the law reform process needed to improve our legal systems.

As family violence specialists we work with Community Legal Centres because we know their services help keep women and children safe.

But already Community Legal Centres and other services that people affected by family violence rely on don’t have the resources they need to be able to adequately help everyone who reaches out to them for assistance.

We’re very concerned that the planned 30% cut to Commonwealth funding for Community Legal Centres will have devastating consequences. We believe the cuts will put more women in danger.    

Your Government has previously recognised that “adequate investment in frontline services is critical to save lives.” We couldn’t agree more. We implore you to urgently reverse the cuts and appropriately resource all family violence services to ensure everyone reaching out has the support they need to be safe. 

Yours sincerely,

Domestic Violence NSW

Domestic Violence Victoria

Safe Steps – Family Violence Response Centre

Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia

Coalition of Women's Domestic Violence Services of South Australia

InTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence

Domestic Violence Crisis Service (ACT)

Domestic Violence Resource Centre Vitoria

Mitcham Family Violence Service

Mallee Sexual Assault Unit and Mallee Domestic Violence Service

Centacare Catholic Family Services

Women’s Information Referral Service (WIRE)

Women’s Health West

Carrie’s Place Domestic Violence and Homelessness Services Inc

Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault

Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services NSW Inc.

Women’s Information, Support and Housing in the North Inc (WISHIN)

Australian Women Against Violence Alliance (AWAVA)

Women’s Health in the South East

Emerge Women and Children’s Support Network

Women’s Health West

Eastern Metropolitan Region Family Violence Partnership

Southern Metropolitan Region Integrated Family Violence Executive Committee

Women’s Health Victoria

McAuley Community Services for Women

Central Highlands and Western Family Violence Division

Women with Disabilities Victoria

Share & Care Community Services Group Inc

Southern Metropolitan Integrated Family Violence Partnership

Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia

Penrith Women’s Health Centre Inc

Men and Family Centre Lismore

YWCA Housing

Berry Street

YWCA Victoria

Quantum Support Services

Georgina Martina Inc

Financial and Consumer Rights Council

Australian Association of Social Workers

Written by Renee Carr
27 March 2017

Thank you to everyone who donated, who called, emailed or met with their MP, and who signed and shared the campaign. You made this possible.

While we didn't get the change that Queenslanders urgently need, thanks to the efforts of Fair Agenda members and our partners, decriminalisation hasn't been swept under the carpet and will now be an election issue.

You can sign onto the campaign at: http://www.fairagenda.org/decriminalise_abortion

Sign up to volunteer here: http://www.fairagenda.org/decriminalise_election_volunteer

Or chip in to: https://fairagenda.nationbuilder.com/decriminalise_abortion_donate_election

Written by Renee Carr
08 March 2017
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