Concerns Raised Over Government’s Domestic Violence Plan
6 March 2019 at 5:23 pm
Community groups warn the Morrison government’s $328 million domestic violence package will not fix major gaps in the safety service system that are making it hard for victims to get ongoing support.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the funding on Tuesday, pledging $82 million for frontline services and $68 million for prevention strategies.
With one woman a week murdered by a current or former partner on average in Australia, Morrison said a long-term cultural shift was needed to address these sobering statistics.
“We are talking about significant longer-term generational cultural change and these programs are designed to address that,” Morrison said.
Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher said the government would invest $35 million for support and prevention measures for Indigenous communities, and $78 million to provide safe places for victims.
The government will also fund targeted prevention initiatives to reach culturally and linguistically diverse communities and people with disability.
“We will act against the different forms abuse can take, including preventing financial abuse and technology-facilitated abuse, and we have included specific measures targeted to address the risks faced by women with intellectual disability and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women,” Fletcher said.
“Domestic violence is a risk that all women face – but we recognise that specific groups may have particular vulnerability, which is why there are specific targeted measures included in this package.”
Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services NSW welcomed the new investment in strategies tackling the root causes of violence against women and their children.
But the women’s safety group expressed concerns that the funding package failed to address crucial gaps in the women’s safety service system.
WDVCAS NSW director Hayley Foster said the group helped 45,863 women and 40,130 accompanying children who experienced domestic violence last year, working closely with police, courts, health services, child protection, corrective services and other non-government agencies.
“And the feedback we’re getting time and time again is that the crucial gaps in the service system are specialist legal and case management services – to assist women to obtain safety and justice and to be supported in their recovery to live lives free from violence,” Foster said.
While $10 million has been earmarked to increase the number of Specialised Family Violence Services, Foster warned these services did not form part of state and territory governments’ primary women’s safety service infrastructure.
“We don’t want to see a patchwork system whereby services are available in some areas and not others,” she said.
“And we don’t want to keep adding new services to the service system so that women have to navigate multiple agencies to obtain the support that they need.”
WDVCAS NSW called on the government to consult more widely on its plans, particularly with the key agencies delivering services in each state and territory to ensure new measures were fully integrated within the existing service system.
“Let’s take this opportunity to create a high quality, consistent, fully integrated service system, so that women, children and families are supported from woe to go, no matter where they live,” Foster said.
The Greens were also critical of the Morrison government’s domestic violence plan.
The party’s spokesperson for women Senator Larissa Waters said after six years of inaction, the government’s package was “far too little and far too late”.
“Nine women have already been killed this year from domestic violence and staggering numbers of women are turned away from frontline services every day because of government under-funding,” Waters said.
“This is the government who slashed frontline DV services in 2014 and is led by a PM who didn’t mention the staggering number of women killed by violence for almost six months.”
Waters said the Greens would announce their domestic violence package on Friday, with long-term funding certainty for frontline response services, prevention programs and research.
Labor also announced a domestic violence plan this week, promising $60 million over four years to fund 20,000 support packages – which will be individually designed to address the barriers vulnerable women and their children faced keeping safe after fleeing violence.
These packages will help women cover costs such as rent, furniture, transport and medication.