Fair Agenda Blog

Government fail domestic violence test

It's exactly what Waleed Aly asked the government to do on budget night, launching Fair Agenda's What it will take report - in a clip that has since gone viral.

This year 24 women have been murdered in alleged domestic and family violence incidents. At the same time thousands of women trying to escape domestic and family violence are having to be turned away from services that are supposed to help keep them safe because of a federal funding shortfall -- and we don’t have the serious investment we need in programs that can help stop this violence. 

Yet on budget night we didn’t hear any new announcements of funding for family violence services.  That means that we can expect thousands of calls for help will keep going unanswered, thousands of women will be left to face court and their abusers without support, and women and children seeking refuge will keep being be turned away.

This is the appalling reality that Fair Agenda has highlighted in our What it will take report – infamously launched by Waleed Aly on The Project on budget night.  

Our report (which you can read for yourself here) shows that:

  • Last year Australia’s national phone counselling service 1800RESPECT had to let 18,631 requests for assistance go unanswered
  • Community legal centres – where domestic violence support makes up about a third of the work – had to turn away more than 150,000 people
  • Homelessness services – another critical family violence support service – had to turn away 423 people every night in 2013-14
  • Family Violence Prevention Legal Services – that help support Aboriginal victims and survivors of domestic violence – are also having to turn away those in need of support
  • Investment in primary prevention work is still piecemeal and inadequate

Budget night was a test of the government’s commitment to dealing with our domestic violence crisis, and it’s a test they failed.

To escape domestic violence, women need to know they’ve got somewhere to go. Family violence services act as a safety net; but right now that safety net is stretched to breaking point, and people are falling through the gaps.

So what will it take from the federal government to do their part in tackling our national emergency? Fair Agenda asked family violence experts, and they told us that to tackle this problem the federal government need to adequately support work in 9 key areas: 

  • Crisis Lines – like 1800 RESPECT and state crisis lines.
  • Specialist Women’s Services – that need to be at the centre of any response to family violence.
  • Family & Relationship Services – to support those seeking to escape and/or deal with family violence issues.
  • Legal Advice and Assistance – to make sure women aren’t left to navigate the complex legal system or face their abuser in court without support.
  • Accommodation, Housing & Homelessness support – to make sure women and their children have somewhere secure to go when it isn’t safe for them to stay at home.
  • Women’s Health Services – because 1 in 5 women affected by family violence first disclose this to their GP.
  • Specialist Support for Marginalised Communities – because people who experience multiple layers of marginalisation and disadvantage aren’t adequately supported by the current system, even though they’re often affected by domestic and family violence at greater rates. Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander women are 34 times more likely to be hospitalised as a result of family-violence related assault than other Australian women. Women from culturally and linguistically diverse communities can have their experience of violence compounded by limited access to services and consequences or fear of consequences for their migration status. Women with disabilities are twice as likely to experience domestic/family violence, yet services for for women with disabilities experiencing violence do not exist, are extremely limited, or exclusionary.
  • Men’s Behaviour Change – which works towards the safety and well-being of women and children by working with men who use violent and controlling behaviour.
  • Primary Prevention – need to stop violence before it occurs, by challenging the deeply ingrained attitudes, social norms and power inequalities that give rise to men’s violence against women.

We need serious, full funding in family violence services. Funding that puts an end to the situation where women in need are turned away from services that should be able to help keep them safe. Funding that supports serious, nation-wide programs to help stop this violence. That’s what it will take to tackle this crisis - and Fair Agenda members won’t rest until we get that commitment. 

I urge anyone else who cares about this issue to join us in standing up for what it will take at: www.fairagenda.org/whatwillittake

Written by Renee Carr
14 May 2015

Here’s what you need to know about the proposed cuts: 

*The recommended leave time a new parent is supposed to spend with a newborn is around 26 weeks. This is seen as the period of postnatal leave needed to provide health and welfare benefits to mothers and babies. The government's own economic advisor the Productivity Commission also thinks there are reasonable grounds to expect benefits - for parents, babies and workforce participation - from longer periods of exclusive parental care for up to 9 – 12 months.

*The government's changes drag us backwards, and will force thousands of parents back to work earlier than experts say is needed for health and welfare benefits. The existing government scheme provides new parents with government leave of 18 weeks at the minimum wage. This is provided as a minimum safety net for new parents, and comes with the option of covering the costs of spending the full 26 weeks at home with their newborn by topping up the government's 18 week page (at the minimum wage) with any additional paid leave an employee has negotiated into their employment contract.

*The current scheme was designed to be used in conjunction with employer provided leave. When the current scheme was introduced it was supposed to exist as a minimum safety net for new parents, to be used in combination with leave from employers -- to allow more parents to access  additional income they might need if they want to spend the recommend 26 weeks or more at home with their newborn. In fact in informing the design of the current scheme, the Productivity Commission specifically noted that the ability for primary carers to combine government and employer provided leave was something that can and should happen. 

Employer schemes are supposed to be used to top the minimum 18 weeks up – to help more women get access 26 weeks paid parental leave, and enable things like breast-feeding and bonding between parents and babies. [2]

*The government's cuts will probably exacerbate childcare problems. The current paid parental leave scheme has successfully decreased the number of children under 12 months old in childcare, because it has allowed primary carers to extend their time at home. But if the Abbott government attack succeeds it's likely primary caregivers will be forced back to work, and that will have flow on effects on our already strained childcare system. The system already struggles with caring for babies between the 6 - 12 month mark. Experts expect this will exacerbate those problems.[3]

*The current system is doing what it's supposed to. It has been extending the amount of time new parents can stay at home in line with the recommended period. And it has been providing a system that has helped ensure women’s workforce participation didn’t suffer as a result of having a child. Paid parental leave is supposed to help provide a connection for new parents to their workplace while they’re caring for their newborn. If parental leave doesn’t work as it’s supposed to; it creates a system that prompts more women to drop out of the workforce. That’s a problem that contributes to the alarmingly high gender pay gap, and leaves women economically disadvantaged over their lifetime.[4]

*It’s a backflip worthy of a gymnastics medal. During his election campaign Prime Minister Abbott sung from the rooftops about the importance of extending parental leave to 26 weeks, because "the bills still keep coming in and there is no 'leave' from mortgage payments, power and fuel bills". Now, his government wants to reduce the amount of time people who work can spend caring for their newborns. His government's proposed change will drag tens of thousands of women further away from the 26 weeks recommended parental leave time, and leave 45,000 women stuck with just 18 weeks of minimum wage income instead.

*The Government will need the support of the Senate to make this attack law. That means we have a chance to stop this. In the 12 months since the last budget, countless government measures have been scrapped as a result of voters speaking out.

Will you join the more than 15,000 voters already standing against this proposed change with Fair Agenda? Sign the petition now at www.fairagenda.org/ppl


1. Federal budget 2015: Almost 50% of mums to lose government paid parental leave entitlements, SMH, 11 May 2015.

2. Federal budget 2015: Almost 50% of mums to lose government paid parental leave entitlements, SMH, 11 May 2015. 

3. Paid parental leave in this year’s budget, The Drum, 11 May 2015.

4. Paid parental leave in this year’s budget, The Drum, 11 May 2015.

Written by Renee Carr
12 May 2015
Categories: ppl

Today, thanks to your support, it's now a (still small) but mighty force of passionate volunteers and one part-time staff member who have pulled off high profile media, important campaign wins, awareness raising and strategic interventions in state elections on a shoestring budget. Here are 5 highlights from our year together:

1. You helped to found an organisation! In March this year, Fair Agenda launched its first campaigns, and started working to help bring Australians together to have maximum impact at critical moments, and drive change on the local, state and federal stage. 

2. Together, we got the issues you care about on the agenda and in front of thousands of voters in key election races during the Victorian state election and WA senate by-election. Fair Agenda teamed up with family violence experts and reproductive rights advocates to rate the candidates and parties on their stance on key policies; and surveyed the mysterious minor parties to find out where they stood on your top issues.
3. We helped put women’s representation on the agenda with our campaigns around women in cabinet and the Just for Laughs festival. In the months leading up to the Cabinet reshuffle Fair Agenda volunteers helped shine a light on the importance of women in cabinet in the media, and helped spread the word about the set of accomplished and impressive women who could be in cabinet. Then, on the eve of the reshuffle, we drove a social media campaign and delivered your petition signatures to the Prime Minister’s electorate office.

4. We backed family violence experts – coming together in critical moments to demonstrate voter support for the changes front line support workers and policy experts say are required to protect women and children, including: death review processes, specialised services, and responsible reporting by the media.

5. We held big companies to account for the messages they sent about women and girls – bringing thousands together to push Myer to commit not to buy more of the stick thin Winx dolls, and helping put media pressure on Libra after their infamous ‘absorbs way more than you ever did in maths class’ advert.

 It's no overstatement to say that our campaigns this year - and the wins that our small community has achieved - could not have happened were it not for you. Together, we're only getting stronger -- and we need your help to make sure our impact, size, power and income is doubled in 2015. In 2014, 80 members chipped in $7,364 to support our work fighting for equality. In 2015, if just 100 of us commit right now to spend $25 a month supporting this work, it will help ensure our community has the resources to dedicate a full time staff member to drive more campaigns like this, at critical moments, on the issues we all care about. 

Can you help make that happen by becoming a regular donor? Regular donations provide the vital, predictable resourcing that means we can run campaigns on issues you care about, in the moments when it matters most. Or help support our work with a once off end of year donation at: http://fairagenda.org/donate.


Thanks for all you've done this year. Here's to a bigger and better 2015.

Written by Renee Carr
29 December 2014

When Fair Agenda launched earlier this year, we asked members – everyday Australians like you – to tell us which issues you wanted to see on the agenda. Two of the issues that members said were top concerns were family violence and reproductive rights –- that’s why, for the past two months, Fair Agenda members have worked together to keep these issues on the agenda, and to collect the information Victorians need to cast a vote in line with their values.

And together, we’ve had a big impact. Here’s what we were able to achieve in the past eight weeks:

On reproductive rights

Before the election, polling showed that 85% of Victorian voters support the legal right to choose to have a termination – and that 48% of voters would be likely to shift their vote away from those who attacked abortion laws. It meant shining a light on where candidates stand during the election was going to be powerful.

That’s why Fair Agenda members and partners came together to ask more than 300 candidates four simple questions about where they stand on critical reproductive rights issues. Together, we collected responses from140 candidates, and got the survey and its results covered in both major Victorian papers - the Herald Sun and The Age.  

With support from Fair Agenda members who chipped in to help us buy crucial online advertising space, we were then able to get this critical information about candidate positions in front of thousands of voters in the 3 key marginal raceswhere anti-choice candidates had a chance of winning seats, and to ensure our message was put in front of key Victorian facebook users more than 33,000 times in the week leading up to the election.

On current predictions, none of the anti-choice candidates in these key races were elected to parliament (though a number of key anti-choice parliamentarians and parties were elected in other races for safe and upper house seats); and 44 of the parliamentarians expected to win seats are publicly committed to protecting reproductive rights. It’s an important foundation for the next parliament, and Fair Agenda members were part of the effort that made it possible.

On family violence

For the past two months, Fair Agenda has worked with the experts at the No More Deaths alliance to demonstrate public support for the changes required to save lives.

Fair Agenda worked with the experts to survey and score the parties’ policies on family violence, and in the week before the election Fair Agenda members worked together to get this scorecard in front of more than6,000 voters online

The scorecard and campaign were also covered by The Age, and ABC News in the week leading up to the election - providing a critical resource for voters like Carmen who wanted to use their vote to support action on family violence this election...

What we know about the next parliament

The exact result of Saturday’s vote won’t be known for a few weeks yet – with question marks above key lower house races and Legislative Council seats remaining.

But here’s what we do know about Victoria’s new parliament:

  • It’s expected that women will make up approximately 47% of the Labor caucus. A fantastic step towards equality in our parliaments!1

  • Yesterday Premier Daniel Andrews announced a new Cabinet made up of 9 women and 13 men2 – a significant improvement on the proportion of women appointed to the previous cabinet, and more than 9 times the number of women currently serving in our federal Cabinet. 

  • Emma Kealy, Nationals MP has been elected as the member for Lowan – and will be the first woman ever to represent the Wimmera region in state or federal politics.Stephanie Ryan MP is also making history as the youngest woman ever elected to represent the Nationals in the Victorian Parliament, and as the new deputy leader of the party. Congratulations to these two history making women!4

  • The government will not have a majority in the Legislative Council – and will need to work with other parties to pass legislation. While seats aren’t confirmed yet, on current projections the parties the Government is expected to have to negotiate with could include: the Greens, Shooters & Fishers, Country Alliance, Democratic Labor Party, Sex Party and Vote 1 Local Jobs party.  Of these parties – the Greens and Sex Party have public pro-choice positions; and the DLP have already stated they plan to launch attacks on the Abortion Law Reform Act.

What’s next?

As the new Victorian government get to work, Fair Agenda members will have to keep working together to ensure the issues that matter to us remain on the agenda – including showing key decision makers that the public support the actions experts say are required on family violence, and making sure anti-choice parties aren't able to build momentum for attacks on our reproductive rights.

This was the first major election campaign Fair Agenda members have fought together -- and we’ve still got a long way to go to make sure the issues Fair Agenda members care about stay on the political agenda across the country. But this campaign shows us what's possible when we work together. NSW and Queensland both have state elections in 2015. Together we can make sure that Fair Agenda is heard loud and clear across Australia. 

Can you chip in $5, $10 or $25 a month to make sure we can keep running campaigns on the issues you care about - in Victoria, and across Australia?


1. The incoming Victorian State government sure has a lot of women of calibre, SMH, 4 December 2014.
2. Premier-elect Daniel Andrews reveals his cabinet but not their portfolios at caucus meeting, The Age, 3 December 2014.
3. Nationals candidate Emma Kealy wins Lowan and becomes the Wimmera's first female MP, ABC News, 1 December 2014.
4. New Nationals MP Stephanie Ryan breaks the country party's mould, The Age, 3 December 2014.

Written by Renee Carr
04 December 2014

In any discussion about the lack of women in Cabinet – and the countless other decision-making forums where women remain under-represented – someone will almost always cite “merit” as the reason we don’t see as many women at the table. But the reality is, whatever your politics, it’s hard to argue that the women our Prime Minister would describe as “knocking on the door” are anything short of accomplished and impressive.

As murmurs of impending Cabinet reshuffles continue - can you help us push the conversation beyond "merit" by sharing these articles about women and Cabinet?

Can you help spread the word about the importance of ensuring the next cabinet reshuffle includes women? Not just because half the population deserve to be better represented in this key decision making forum; but also because diversity is critical to good decision making, and good democracy.

Written by Renee Carr
03 December 2014
Categories: representation · cabinet
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