Fair Agenda Blog

Last week, both the Coalition Government and the Labor Opposition announced new funding commitments on family violence - a signal that this is an issue they both know is on the radar for voters this election.

We can’t let those announcements be the end of the parties' commitments to change. It’s absolutely critical that we show them that voters like us are watching this issue closely; that we know more is needed; and that we're going to keep speaking up until they commit what’s needed to address the family violence crisis.

On Monday last week - the Labor party announced $60 million for tailored support for people to rebuild their lives after fleeing abusive relationships. That commitment is positive. But given the scale of the problem, we hope and expect it is not the entirety of the ALP’s commitments in this important area.

Then on Tuesday The Morrison Government announced an additional $382 million of federal funding over three years to improve prevention and response under the final phase of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children. That commitment included crucial additional funding for crisis response, accommodation and long-term prevention. It was  really positive progress.

But it was nowhere near the level of funding that experts have been calling for, and there appear to be troubling gaps in their commitments.

The Labor Party will be considering how they respond to the Government’s announcement. We need to hammer home that this issue matters to Australian voters and that they want them to not only match the Government’s commitment, but to fill the gaps it leaves.

Specifically, under the Morrison Government's announcement: Family Violence Prevention Legal Services, community legal services and perpetrator interventions haven’t received the level of funding that experts have been calling for, and that are needed to meet demand for their services.

These services do important work: for the safety of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women; to ensure that women know their rights and options under family law; and working with men who are using violent behaviour to prevent their future violence.

To address this national crisis all of these services all need to be adequately funded.

With the federal budget due in just a few weeks, we can assume that last week’s announcement is the entirety of the Coalition’s platform on domestic violence. But there’s still a chance to influence Labor's further commitments in this area.

You can bet that the ALP will be looking at this commitment from the Government, and measuring community response, while they finalise the shape and size their commitments on this issue. It may only be a matter of days before they finalise their policy.

That means that right now there is an opportunity to make sure they commit to not only match; but also address the gaps in the Government commitment.

This afternoon is our best chance to do that, but for the Opposition Leader to sit up and take notice, hundreds of us will need to make the call within a few hours of each other. Will you pick up the phone and let Bill Shorten’s office know that we want him to invest in the services needed to ensure a safer future for women?

It only takes a minute to make a call - we’ve even provided a draft script and Bill Shorten’s office phone number below. When you make the call, a staffer will answer the phone. Just tell them why you’re calling, why you care about this issue, and ask them to pass along your message to the opposition leader: 

Phone Now: (03) 9326 1300

Hi, my name is [insert name].

[Mention if you are a constituent of Maribyrnong, or another Labor MP’s electorate. And if you voted for the Labor party at the next election].

I’m calling because I am very concerned about the family violence crisis. I know that right now the full range of services needed to enable a woman to safely escape an abuser aren’t funded to meet demand.

I’m aware that last week the government announced an additional $382 of federal funding for family violence response and prevention. While I was excited to see the additional investment in areas like crisis response, accommodation and long-term prevention, I was concerned to see some critical gaps in the funding commitment.

I’m calling to urge the Labor Party to not only match the Government commitment, but to exceed it - and address the gaps by committing to providing the necessary funding to community legal centres, the Family Violence Prevention Legal Services, and perpetrator services.

[Mention if this issue will affect how you vote at the next election].

Will you please pass along my message to the Opposition Leader?

Thank you for your time.

 

Click here to let us know when you’ve made your call.

 

Written by Stacey Batterham
14 March 2019
Last month the Morrison Government announced that they will commit an additional $328 million of funding (over the next three years) to improving domestic violence prevention and response under the final phase of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children.
 
This is the biggest commitment that the federal government has made to date - and it's really positive progress. But it’s important to remember it’s still nowhere near the level of funding that experts have been calling for from the federal government. (For context, in response to the Royal Commission, the Victorian Government announced $1.9 billion of funding to address the problem in one state.)
 
Domestic Violence Victoria and Domestic Violence NSW have praised their commitments for being “directed to the areas where it is most needed - crisis response, accommodation and long-term prevention.”
 
This funding commitment is a good step forward. But it's nowhere near everything that's needed. And there appear to be gaps in at least three important areas:
 
1. Family Violence Prevention Legal Services (FVPLS)
 
These specialist services work mainly with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women; who are 32 times more likely to be hospitalised as a result of family violence than non-Aboriginal women.
 
They provide critical specialist services including casework, counseling and court support to First Nations people affected by family violence.
 
But right now they only funded to service approximately half of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. Some of the Family Violence Prevention Legal Services report that up to 30-40% of women contacting their service have to be turned away because they don’t have the resources to assist everyone reaching out to them for help.
 
These services didn’t receive any of the additional core funding they desperately need in last month's announcement. In fact, they have even been denied the standard CPI level increase on their existing direct funding since 2013, which means they’ve essentially been dealing with reduced capacity for 6 years, during a crisis of violence against First Nations women.
 
While FVPLSs are expected to be eligible to apply for new grants as a result of last month's funding commitments; the entire pool announced for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander focused services ($35 million over three years) is smaller than the additional funding FVPLS alone need to meet national demand ($28 million each year).
 
 
2. Community Legal Centres
 
For those trying to escape a violent abuser, access to free legal advice and assistance is critical. In order to escape her abuser, a woman will often need legal help to find out what her rights and options are under family law; how she'll be able to access shared funds or property; and untangle debts and loans that might have been put in her name by her abuser.
 
Community Legal Centres provide critical support in all these areas - but they don’t have the funding they need to provide that support to everyone who needs it. In fact, according to the National Association of Community Legal Centres, centres are forced to turn away over 170,000 people each year, including people experiencing family violence.
In 2014 the Productivity Commission recommended that an immediate injection of at least $120 million per year of additional federal funding was required by the legal assistance sector to meet demand. This would mean at least $14.4 million additional federal government funding per year for Community Legal Centres alone. Yet it’s not clear if last month's announcement will provide centres with any of the new funding they need to address turn aways and help all the women reaching out to them for assistance with family violence.
These centres need funding certainty, and a significant increase in Commonwealth funding to meet rising demand. Without it, people experiencing family violence across Australia will continue to miss out on the legal help they so desperately need.
 
 
3. Perpetrator interventions
 
Working with men who use violent and controlling behaviour is critical to minimise and prevent family violence. Men’s specialist family violence practitioners engage violent men to work toward the safety and wellbeing of their partner and children, and toward real, meaningful change.
 
Right now these services aren’t being resourced at the scale needed to work with the number of men using violence across the country. At some services there are waiting lists of up to 6 months, where men who are using or at a risk of using violence are having to wait to get access to programs to address their behaviour. In NSW there are just 9 accredited providers for the whole state.
 
Australia’s largest peak body representing organisations and individuals working to end men’s use of family violence, No To Violence, has been calling for more Federal funding investment in: men’s intake referral services, community-based Men’s Behaviour Change Programs, perpetrator case management, workforce development, crisis accommodation for perpetrators and programs working with young men. As well as investment in national Minimum Standards, and accreditation to ensure all agencies engaging with men are delivering programs in line with best practice.
 
Yet the Government’s announcement on last month appeared to include no new funding for these important areas. Experts say we need a sophisticated service response for intervening with men that fills in the gaps between prevention and prison in order to keep perpetrators in view, promote behaviour change, and ultimately reduce risk for women, children and families. Unfortunately, this week’s announcement doesn’t provide that.
 
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To address women’s and children’s safety from men’s violence in the home we need to ensure everyone who needs it can: access crisis support; access a safe and affordable place to sleep; and access the legal support they need to navigate any court processes about their (and their children’s) safety, via services that understand their needs. We also need long-term cultural change to reduce violence in the future; and to ensure those who are using or likely to use violence against their partners can access programs to change their behaviour.
In summary, the Morrison Government's announcement last month was an important, positive step forward. But there’s so much more work to be done.
Written by Renee Carr
07 March 2019
Joint statement

Power to Prevent: Urgent Actions Needed to Stop Sexual Harassment at Work

Joint statement

We are a group of diverse organisations, unions, researchers, peak bodies, health professionals and lawyers who have come together to say we need to do more to stop sexual harassment in workplaces. Our organisations and research efforts see the effects of sexual harassment on people around Australia every day and how our systems are not working to respond to the issues.

Everyone deserves to be safe at work and in their community. Yet the rates of sexual harassment in Australia are alarming, particularly for women, with 85% having experienced it in their lifetime. Sexual harassment is about more than just individual behaviour. It is a problem that is deeply entrenched within our society and occurs because gender inequality is ingrained in our social and cultural norms, structures and practices.

It’s time that employers and workplaces stamp out sexual harassment. Sexual harassment causes significant harm to individuals, workplaces and society. We know what the solutions are, but we need governments and employers to implement them. We need strong action to prevent and respond to sexual harassment, and we need it now.

We call on State, Territory and Federal Governments across Australia to take urgent and coordinated action to implement the following solutions.

  1. Dedicated prevention efforts to address the underlying gendered drivers of sexual harassment, which should be part of a holistic strategy to prevent violence against women and promote gender equality in line with Change the story: A shared framework for the primary prevention of violence against women and their children in Australia.
  2. Stronger and clearer legal duties on employers to take proactive steps to prevent sexual harassment at work, and strong and effective regulators that have the full suite of regulatory tools and resources necessary to effectively tackle sexual harassment, including as a cultural, a systemic and a health and safety issue.
  3. Access to fair, effective and efficient complaints processes, including a new right of action under the Fair Work Act, extended time limits, increased transparency of conciliation outcomes where appropriate, and other amendments and resources necessary to address the unique barriers that currently prevent workers who experience sexual harassment from taking effective legal action.
  4. Appropriate advocacy and support for workers who experience sexual harassment, including access to information, counselling and legal services that are appropriately resourced and coordinated.
  5. Accessible reporting tools, including piloting an online reporting tool that assists people to report and address problem behaviour and seek support, and identifies trends to assist with prevention and enforcement efforts.
    We stand together to call for change to create sexual harassment free workplaces.

List of signatories (as at 28 February 2019)

1. Alice Springs Women’s Shelter
2. Annie North Inc
3. Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union - Victoria Branch
4. Australian Council for International Development
5. Australian Council of Social Service
6. Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU)
7. Australian Discrimination Law Experts Group, Academic forum
8. Australian Education Union - Victoria
9. Australian Lawyers’ Alliance
10. Australian Manufacturing Worker’s Union Victorian Branch
11. Australian Services Union Victorian and Tasmanian Authorities & Services Branch
12. Australian Women Against Violence Alliance
13. Basic Rights Queensland
14. Centres Against Sexual Assault Forum
15. CFMEU Construction and General Division Victoria and Tasmanian Branch
16. Community and Public Sector Union - PSU Group
17. Community Legal Centres’ NSW
18. Disability Discrimination Legal Service
19. Djirra
20. Domestic Violence NSW
21. Domestic Violence Victoria
22. Dr Alysia Blackham, Academic
23. Dr Belinda Smith, Associate Professor of Sydney Law School, University of Sydney
24. Dr Cristy Clark, Legal Academic
25. Dr Dominique Allen, Legal Academic
26. Dr Karen O’Connell, Associate Professor of Faculty of Law, University of Technology, Sydney
27. Dr Paula McDonald, Legal Academic
28. Dr Sara Charlesworth, Legal Academic
29. Drummond Street Services
30. Emeritus Professor Margaret Thornton of Australian National University College of Law
31. Emma Coetsee, Human Rights Consultant
32. Equality Rights Alliance
33. Fair Agenda
34. Federation of Community Legal Centres
35. Finance Sector Union of Victoria
36. Fitted for Work
37. Gender Equity Victoria (GEN VIC)
38. Gippsland Sexual and Reproductive Health Alliance
39. Gippsland Women’s Health
40. Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand
41. Gordon Legal
42. Health and Community Services Union
43. Human Rights Law Centre
44. Independent Education Union Victoria and Tasmania
45. International Women’s Development Agency
46. Job Watch
47. Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research, UTS
48. Justice Connect
49. Karen Willis, Executive Officer, Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia
50. Kingsford Legal Centre
51. Liam Elphick, Legal Academic
52. Maritime Union of Australia
53. Maurice Blackburn
54. Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance
55. Minus18
56. National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC)
57. National Working Women’s Centres
58. Not in My Workplace
59. NOW Australia
60. NT Working Women’s Centre
61. Professor Beth Gaze, Academic
62. Public Health Association of Australia
63. Public Interest Advocacy Centre
64. Rail Bus and Tram Union
65. Redfern Legal Centre
66. RMIT Centre for People, Organisation & Work (CPOW)
67. Ruby Gaea Darwin Centre Against Sexual Violence
68. Sexual Assault Support Service Inc
69. Shop Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA) National
70. St Kilda Legal Service
71. Switchboard Victoria
72. Thorne Harbour Health
73. Unions NSW
74. United Voice
75. University of Melbourne Students Union
76. Victoria Legal Aid
77. Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service
78. Victorian Council of Social Service
79. Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC)
80. Victorian Women’s Lawyers
81. Victorian Women’s Trust
82. Villamanta Disability Rights Legal Service Inc.
83. WestJustice
84. Women in Adult and Vocational Education (WAVE)
85. Women with Disabilities Victoria
86. Women’s Electoral Lobby
87. Women’s Health and Wellbeing Barwon South West
88. Women’s Health Goulburn North East
89. Women’s Health in the South East (WHISE)
90. Women’s Health NSW
91. Women’s Health Victoria
92. Women’s Health West
93. Women’s Legal Service NSW
94. Women’s Legal Service Victoria
95. Women’s Legal Services Australia
96. Women’s Property Initiatives
97. Working Women Queensland
98. Working Women’s Centre South Australia Inc
99. Youth Affairs Council Victoria
100. YWCA Australia
101. Northern Territory Legal Aid Commission

You can download the joint statement here.

Written by Renee Carr
28 February 2019

Partner logos

To all members of NSW Parliament,

As organisations and services working for the wellbeing of residents in New South Wales, we express our strong concern about the harm that current abortion laws are causing.

We believe that a woman has the right to feel safe and in control of her life, that she knows what is best for her health, her body, and her family, and that she should have the freedom to decide whether and when she has children.

NSW’s current abortion laws are archaic, cruel, and degrading, and deny a woman the right to make decisions about her healthcare. We are very concerned that they increase the distress, delay and financial burden faced by a woman who needs abortion care and that they disproportionately harm women living in rural and remote areas, who already have limited access to healthcare.

A woman who needs to end her pregnancy shouldn’t have to travel hundreds of kilometres from home, or cross state borders, to access this healthcare. And a qualified health practitioner should be free to provide the best care possible, without fear of criminal charges.  

50 Queensland parliamentarians, from all sides of politics, voted to modernise the state’s abortion laws in line with Law Reform Commission recommendations. NSW now has the most archaic abortion laws in the nation - laws created in 1900 that treat pregnant people like second class citizens when it comes to accessing abortion care. The attitudes of 1900 should not deny a woman the healthcare she needs in 2018.

It’s time that NSW’s abortion laws are made fit for today’s world, and that abortion is finally recognised as a health matter – as it is in Victoria, Tasmania, the ACT, Northern Territory and now Queensland.

We call on you to support decriminalising abortion in NSW, and to vote for new health laws that promote the autonomy, dignity and wellbeing of people who need to end a pregnancy by providing for safe, legal and compassionate access to abortion care.

We applaud the recent leadership of the NSW MPs who championed, and supported, the introduction of safe access zones at reproductive healthcare clinics in NSW. Their dedication to patient dignity and privacy is the kind of representation NSW deserves, and expects.

We now call on all members of NSW Parliament to commit to reforming NSW’s abortion laws to improve access to this basic healthcare, and recognise the right of people who are pregnant to make decisions about their own bodies and futures.

Sincerely,

Amnesty International Australia

Australian College of Nursing

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights

Australian Medical Students Association

Australian Women’s Health Network

Australian Women Lawyers

Community Legal Centres NSW

Domestic Violence NSW

Fair Agenda

Family Planning NSW

Human Rights Law Centre

Kingsford Legal Centre

Marie Stopes Australia

National Council of Single Mothers and their Children

National Foundation for Australian Women

NSW Council for Civil Liberties

Our Bodies Our Choices

Penrith Women’s Health Centre

Pharmaceutical Society of Australia

Public Health Association of Australia

Public Interest Advocacy Centre Ltd

Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia

Rationalist Association of NSW Inc

Rationalist Society of Australia

Reproductive Choice Australia

Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

The Private Clinic

Women’s Abortion Action Campaign

Women’s Electoral Lobby

Women’s Health NSW

Women Lawyers Association NSW

Women’s Legal Service NSW

YWCA Australia

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Join the campaign for safe and legal access to abortion care at http://fairagenda.org/decriminalise_abortion

Written by Renee Carr
11 December 2018

They limit access to healthcare

In South Australia, abortion care must be provided in a ‘prescribed hospital’, which doesn’t account for medical abortions. The impact of this restriction is most acutely experienced by women living in regional areas who often face delays and financial barriers to abortion care access.

Medical abortions are available up until nine weeks pregnancy. For many people who can’t, or don’t want to undergo a surgical procedure, a medical abortion is a non-invasive alternative. Unfortunately, a medical abortion must still be performed in a ‘prescribed hospital’. People in regional areas are sometimes forced to travel hundreds of kilometres just to take a tablet. In some instances, it could mean they experience the commencement of the abortion as they’re on their way home.

They disproportionately harm women in rural areas

Current laws state that a person must be a South Australian resident for to months prior to accessing abortion care. This makes access impossible for people living in neighbouring regions, such as Broken Hill, Mildura, Alice Springs, and even Darwin, who rely on providers in Adelaide since abortion care isn’t available in their areas.

They undermine a woman’s right to self-determination and bodily autonomy

Abortion is the only healthcare procedure in South Australia that requires examination and certification by two doctors. In order for a person to access abortion care, two doctors must agree that they meet a set of criteria, which was developed nearly 50 years ago.

The current laws deny a woman’s right to self-determination and bodily autonomy. The decision to terminate a pregnancy should be made by the person who is pregnant.

They include arbitrary restrictions on when a person can terminate a pregnancy

Ninety per cent of women in South Australia who have an abortion, do so within the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. Yet there are rare and complex circumstances, such as domestic violence or a foetal anomaly, which could mean a woman needs to terminate her pregnancy at a later stage.

South Australia’s laws currently impose a limit on the stage of pregnancy at which an abortion can be performed. The limit is set at 24 weeks pregnancy, which is completely arbitrary and out of step with medical evidence.

This information is based on series of fact sheets developed by the team at SAAAC. You can view the original source here and follow them on Facebook here.

Written by Alycia Gawthorne
04 December 2018
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