What you need to know about this week's funding announcement

An update on our community's campaigning for full funding of the services women rely on to be safe from family and domestic violence.

This week the Morrison Government announced that they will commit an additional $382 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 that one state.
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.
That means long-term, secure and adequate funding for specialist services and crisis response, community legal centres, specialist and culturally safe services like the Family Violence Prevention Legal Services, men’s behaviour change programs and primary prevention work.
This week the Government announced that they will invest in some of those important areas, and peak groups 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.”
It's a good step forward. But it's nowhere near everything that's needed. And there appear to be gaps in yesterday’s commitments, 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 this week. 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 this week’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, in the 2016-2017 financial year centres were forced to turn away over 112,000 people who came to them for help, 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 funding per year for Community Legal Centres alone. Yet it’s not clear if this week’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.
In recent years the Federal Government has also spent $23.4 million piloting new domestic violence units and health justice partnerships across Australia. These services require additional funding to continue operating, or to be rolled out nationally - but it’s also not clear whether these services will receive the funding they need through this week’s commitment.
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 Tuesday 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.
In summary, this week’s announcement was an important, positive step forward. But there’s so much more work to be done.
And with just over 2 months until the expected date of the federal election, we can assume that this week’s announcement amounts to the Coalition’s election platform on domestic violence. It’s the largest commitment made by a federal government yet; and positive progress; but it still falls well short of what’s needed.
We don’t yet know which party will form Government at the next election.
The Federal Labor Party also announced a groundbreaking package this week - $60 million for tailored support for people to rebuild their lives after fleeing abusive relationships. That commitment is also positive; and addresses different needs and areas than the Government’s commitment.
Given that domestic violence is such a prominent national issue; we hope and assume that we are yet to see Labor’s full platform for domestic and family violence responses, going into the expected May election.
That means 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 will take on this issue.
*That means that right now there is an opportunity to make sure they commit to not only match; but also address the gaps in yesterday's Government commitment.*
Can you help make sure they hear the message loud and clear that voters want domestic violence response to be a priority; and that they want the full range of services to be funded - including Family Violence Prevention Legal Services, perpetrator interventions and Community Legal Centres?
Use this link to send Labor leader Bill Shorten and Deputy Leader (and Shadow Minister for Women) Tanya Plibersek an email saying exactly that:
We also want to recognise that this week's Government announcement comes after years of campaigning by the Fair Agenda community, in partnership with survivors and services, to help keep the issue of service funding on the political agenda. Since 2015 our community has helped amplify the voices of survivor advocates and service providers to build the pressure for increased funding of services - including many of the ones included in Tuesday’s announcement.
Thank you to the tens of thousands of Fair Agenda members who have taken action, and chipped in to fund these campaigns, you have helped lay the foundations for commitments like those made this week.