Domestic Violence Funding Leaves Behind Migrant and Refugee Women
Tuesday, 12th February 2019 at 4:51 pm
A $78 million investment in emergency domestic violence accommodation by the federal government has been met with mixed reviews from community groups, who say only funding certain areas of the issue will still leave women behind.
Federal Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher, announced on Monday a $60 million grants program for emergency domestic violence shelters, and $18 million to the Keeping Women Safe Program, which provides safety and security upgrades allowing women to stay in their own home.
Fletcher said the investment was designed to increase the national stock of emergency accommodation for women and children escaping domestic violence.
“When a woman needs to escape domestic violence, often she has very little chance to plan – she may well have raced out of the house and jumped in the car with just the clothes on her back,” Fletcher said.
“That is why it is so important there is emergency accommodation available – so a woman in this situation can have a safe place to live while she works out what she will do next.”
While many community groups welcomed the extra funding, they said it could leave women behind.
Settlement Services International (SSI) said women of migrant and refugee backgrounds, who faced a range of different barriers when seeking help, would fall through the gaps of this funding package.
“Often, the available accommodation is not ideal for newly arrived women because there are no interpreters, limited responses to cultural needs and few spaces for large families,” SSI policy manager Astrid Perry said.
She said in many cases, if they did get into emergency accommodation it did not include support from a social worker or domestic violence specialist, which meant issues were not resolved.
“Settlement workers in our community are increasingly reporting that women come out of temporary accommodation without having resolved any of their issues related to their relationship or securing ongoing housing,” she said.
With women of migrant or refugee backgrounds also less likely to seek help in the first place, Perry said more funding needed to be put towards tailored domestic violence services to help these women.
“Women of migrant or refugee background are less likely to seek assistance due to barriers like lack of knowledge about their rights, fear of deportation and removal of children, lack of English language skills, or shame and the need to maintain family honour,” she said.
“We must ensure all women have access to safe accommodation, regardless of their visa status.”
She told Pro Bono News while the rest of the sector were excellent advocates for this issue, there was always more to be done when making services more inclusive and culturally responsive, with the help of the government.
“In terms of services being more holistic or inclusive, we definitely think that needs to be improved, and we are happy to have a dialogue about that,” she said.
“We also call on the government to consider funding ancillary services that will ensure this support is appropriate for all women.”