Fair Agenda Blog

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

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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
Abortion access vital

Having the legal right to access an abortion is important for many reasons - including its important to women trying to escape abusive partners.

The Women's Legal Service in Queensland have explained that:

Having access to all reproductive healthcare options can be vital for a woman who is trying to escape an abusive partner.

All too often we see perpetrators of abuse limiting their partner's access to contraceptive and reproductive healthcare - and also using unwanted pregnancy as a way to try and trap their partner.

For a number of women who have turned to Women's Legal Service for help to escape their abusive partner, Queensland's current, outdated laws are making it even more difficult to access the services they desperately need, including pregnancy termination options.

For a woman who is facing emotional, financial and physical abuse - unwanted pregnancy can be devastating, and access to all reproductive healthcare options is critical for those who want to choose abortion to help them get safe from escalating violence and control.

Women who want to access abortion will often move mountains to make that happen because they know it is the best decision for them and their family at that time. Our current system makes this even harder for women, especially women experiencing domestic violence who are amongst our most vulnerable.

The last thing we want is to continue the current climate where women are forced to continue a pregnancy against their will because the access barriers to abortion are too great to overcome. For women experiencing domestic violence, they are then tied to an abusive partner forever as co-parents. 

This week White Ribbon have also released a statement declaring their support for full reproductive rights, stating:

"All women should have complete control over their reproductive and sexual health."

They have stated they take this position because:


  • We are opposed to all forms of control, violence and abuse. Restricting or denying a woman the autonomy to make decisions about her body is an attempt to maintain power and control over a woman. This is also known as reproductive coercion.
  • Sexual and reproductive rights are basic human rights. Denying a woman access to contraception and abortion is a denial of basic rights to health care. It impacts on a woman achieving economic and sexual self-determination and having full access to education and employment. It is a woman’s right to choose if and when she gets pregnant. It is a woman’s right to seek an abortion.
  • Women want access to abortion and control over their reproductive rights.
  • Criminalisation of abortion and restricted access to abortion and birth control (through high cost and limited availability) endanger women’s physical and emotional health and wellbeing.

Other experts agree. Professors Caroline de Costa and Heather Douglas wrote this week

"For women experiencing domestic violence, good access to abortion might be the difference between staying in a violent relationship and getting out."

 

This week Queensland MPs will be asked to vote on whether or not abortion should be decriminalised. This change won't be made without huge public support. Can you help show the undecided MPs you want them to vote for decriminalisation?

Click here to send your MP an email urging them to vote "yes" and stop criminalising women's reproductive healthcare decisions.

Or click here to sign and then share the petition with your friends.

Written by Renee Carr
25 February 2017
Decriminalise abortion

60% of voters are less likely to vote for an MP who votes to continue criminalising women’s healthcare decisions. That’s the new polling that Fair Agenda has just been able to release.

Last week I reached out and asked you to chip in to help show undecided MPs that the majority of Queenslanders want them to stop criminalising women’s healthcare decisions. And Fair Agenda members stepped up.

Thanks to the generous support of members like you, Fair Agenda was able to commission strategic polling of Queensland voters’ view of abortion. And the results could be game changing.

Yesterday, there were reports that the LNP might prevent its MPs from casting a free vote on the abortion decriminalisation package.[1] Today, because of Fair Agenda members – there is a story in the Courier Mail about the fact that 60% of Queenslanders are less likely to vote for any MP who opposed decriminalisation... And that 48% of the LNP's own supporters would also be less likely to vote for them if they vote against decriminalisation.

Fair Agenda has just sent this polling to every MP to ensure that as they consider next week’s vote they know that 82% of the Queenslanders they govern for agree it should be legal for a woman, in consultation with a medical professional, to decide to terminate a pregnancy. 

Below is a quick snapshot of the polling results. You can click here to view the full results.

On issues like these, having members willing to chip in to fund strategic tactics can be make or break.

So thank you to everyone who has donated funds, and to everyone who is donating their time to help influence their MP on this important issue!

- Renee for Fair Agenda

-References-
1. LNP still up in the air about its approach to abortion law reforms, Courier Mail, 20 February 2017.

Written by Renee Carr
21 February 2017
Decriminalise abortion

PRESS RELEASE

Women’s advocates and health professionals have spoken out against a parliamentary committee’s failure to support the urgent need for abortion decriminalisation in Queensland.

“To continue to deny women the legal right to make decisions about their own fertility and health is unfathomable, and unacceptable.” said Renee Carr, Executive Director of Fair Agenda.

“The only person in a position to properly understand the best reproductive health care decision for a woman in her multitude of relevant life circumstances is the woman herself.”

“The current laws are from the dark ages. Queensland women deserve for decriminalisation of their healthcare decisions to be a priority.” Ms Carr added.

Amanda Bradley from Children by Choice added: “These laws are fundamentally broken. They impact on women’s access to abortion services every single day.

“The situation is so absurd that we have women turning to us for financial assistance because current laws make it almost impossible to get the help they need at public hospitals.  

“Almost half of the funds we've had to raise to help women in need cover their costs are for women who have already been subjected to sexual assault or domestic violence - that our parliament wants to subject them to this further trauma through the medical system is horrible."

“The overwhelming weight of evidence provided to the committee by medical professionals and expert bodies was to recommend the passing of this legislation. Those who drive policy on all other healthcare issues are clearly in support of decriminalisation. It should be passed.”

Michael Moore, CEO of the Public Health Association of Australia said:  “This is a healthcare issue, and should be dealt with like any other health matter. To have the Government interfering in a woman’s right to make this or any other health care decision for herself is wildly inappropriate.”

“The notion of applying the same approach to this medical procedure as we did a hundred years ago is ludicrous and inappropriate.” he added.

Kath Kerr, Social Worker at Women’s Legal Service Queensland added: "For a number of women who have turned to Women’s Legal Service for help to escape their abusive partner, the current, outdated laws are making it even more difficult to access the services they desperately need, including pregnancy termination options."

In response to recent reports that the LNP may prevent its MPs from casting a conscience vote, Ms Carr added:

“The majority of Queenslanders want abortion decriminalised. If not even a single LNP member is willing or able to vote to end the criminalisation of women’s health care decisions -- it begs the question, how well is the LNP representing Queenslanders on this issue?”

Young mother Karla Wareham-Deane added: “As a Queenslander, a lawyer, a mother, and a woman, I’m horrified that we’re even debating this in 2017.”

 

Want to take action? As Queensland MPs sit down to consider the committee report, can you make sure they receive a flood of local constituent messages urging them to support decriminalisation? Click here to remind your MP women are the experts in their own lives - and that their healthcare decisions shouldn’t be criminalised.

Written by Renee Carr
17 February 2017
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