Fair Agenda Blog

pro choice march

To all members of the South Australian House of Assembly,

As organisations and services working for the wellbeing of South Australians, we express our concern about the harm being caused by keeping abortion in the criminal law, and register our strong support for the current Termination of Pregnancy Bill 2020.

Each patient knows what makes sense for their health, their body and their future. They should be able to feel safe and in control of their healthcare, and be free to decide whether and when to have a child. 

South Australia’s current abortion laws are no longer fit for purpose. They delay and complicate patient care, increase patient distress, and disproportionately harm members of the community who already face barriers to accessing healthcare. 

A patient who needs to end their pregnancy shouldn’t have to travel hundreds of kilometres from home, or cross state borders, to access the healthcare they need. And healthcare professionals should be able to provide their patients with the best care possible – without fear of criminal charges. 

We express our strong support for the Termination of Pregnancy Bill 2020 in its current form. The Bill promotes the autonomy, dignity and wellbeing of patients who need to end a pregnancy - by providing a pathway to a more compassionate reproductive healthcare system for South Australians

In particular, we note the profoundly personal and complex circumstances in which patients need abortion care later in pregnancy. Given this, we strongly support the approach outlined in the Bill, which enables patients and medical professionals to jointly make decisions about their healthcare needs after 22 weeks and 6 days in pregnancy. We consider the proposed Bill provides an approach that is both medically appropriate and compassionate for the patients facing these distressing circumstances. 

We also support the provisions to ensure a health practitioner’s personal beliefs don’t interfere with their patient’s access to timely abortion care. 

We urge you to support the Bill, and to oppose any amendments. We are aware of proposed amendments that would create barriers to many patients accessing timely, appropriate and compassionate healthcare; particularly in regional and remote areas. Such amendments go against the expert advice of the South Australian Law Reform Institute, and major medical bodies. All South Australians should be able to access the healthcare they need; when they need it; and where they need it.

We call on you to be on the right side of history, and vote yes for the Bill - for safe, legal and compassionate access to abortion care in South Australia. 

 

Sincerely,

Amnesty International Australia

Australian Education Union (SA Branch)

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights 

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (SA Branch)

Australian Women Against Violence Alliance (AWAVA)

Australian Women’s Health Network

Democracy in Colour

Embolden SA (Coalition of Women’s Domestic Violence Services SA)

EMILY’s List Australia

End Rape on Campus Australia

Fair Agenda

Family Planning Alliance Australia 

Human Rights Law Centre

Marie Stopes Australia 

National Alliance of Abortion and Pregnancy Options Counsellors (NAAPOC)

National Foundation for Australian Women

MS Health

Public Health Association of Australia

Rationalist Society of Australia

RANZCOG (Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists)

Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia

Reproductive Choice Australia

South Australian Council of Social Service

SHINE SA

South Australian Abortion Action Coalition

South Australian Council for Civil Liberties 

SPHERE - NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Sexual and Reproductive Health for Women in Primary Care

The National Council of Single Mothers & their Children Inc

The Women Lawyers Association of South Australia (Inc)

WESNET (The Women’s Services Network)

Working Women’s Centre SA inc

YWCA

 

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You can send your MP a personal message of support for abortion reform at: www.voteprochoice.org.au

Written by Renee Carr
15 February 2021
Woman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Ensuring the legal system prioritises safety

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Maintaining access to contraception and abortion care 

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

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

 

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

Written by Renee Carr
12 May 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What experts say is needed

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

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

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

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

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

 

Ensuring the legal system prioritises safety

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Maintaining access to contraception and abortion care 

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

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

 

Explaining expected impacts

Risk of escalating abuse as stay at home measures lift

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

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

 

Escalation of threats from separated partners 

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

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

 

Anticipated wave of women attempting to escape 

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

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

Job losses likely to exacerbate abusive behaviour

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Written by Renee Carr
12 May 2020
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