Women a focus in this year’s budget, but funding falls short
12 May 2021 at 11:07 am
This year’s budget has seen an increased focus on women, their safety, and their health. But advocates say it is far from revolutionary.
While the 2020 budget was criticised for its lacklustre focus on funding women, this year is a completely different story.
Not only did the $3.4 billion funding package fall across areas of safety, health, and support in the workplace, women got their own budget statement, which outlined that this year’s investment promoted the values of “respect, dignity, choice, equality of opportunity and justice”.
Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said on Tuesday night that the government needed to do more to end violence against women, committing a further $1.1 billion over five years towards reducing domestic and family violence, and supporting survivors.
That funding covers primary prevention, frontline services, respect at work, e-safety, financial support, and specific programs for refugee and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.
There’ll also be a new trial program which gives women fleeing violent relationships up to $5,000 in assistance, split into a $1,500 payment and $3,500 in expenses like rent, legal fees and furniture.
Legal assistance will also be made more available, with $129 million going towards increased funding for legal assistance services.
But women’s safety advocates say this year’s budget spend is far from revolutionary.
Hayley Foster, the CEO of Women’s Safety NSW, said that it fell substantially short of the $3 billion over three years called for by women’s safety organisations across the country to meet gaps in frontline domestic and family violence services and help communities address the underlying drivers of violence against women and children.
She also noted that this budget did little to address the nine in 10 women who wanted to be supported to stay at home with the abuser removed, the fact that one in three women fleeing violence could not be housed, or the root causes of violence.
“There is very little investment in primary prevention initiatives to address the root causes of violence against women and children with just $92.4 million being invested over four years, Foster said.
“If we don’t get serious about primary prevention, we’re never going to achieve the generational change we need to see in this country for rates of violence against women to come down.”
The social housing shortfall
With domestic violence one of the key drivers of homelessness, social housing’s lack of mention in this year’s budget came as a blow to women’s safety advocates.
James Toomey, the CEO of Mission Australia, said that while it was positive that money had been invested into emergency accommodation services, permanent housing was what would make the real difference.
“There is a severe shortage of permanent safe homes for victim-survivors and their children to prevent and address homelessness when violence occurs,” Toomey said.
“We need creative ways to supply more social and affordable homes as a matter of urgency.”
He said not taking action on this would result in serious consequences.
“Women are often faced with homelessness, or needing to relocate hundreds of kilometres away, or staying in a violent household because there are not enough long-term housing options,” he said.
“Put simply, insufficient supply of suitable housing is putting the lives of women and children at risk.”
Culturally specific services for Indigenous women
Advocates did welcome the fact that a number of initiatives specifically designed to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, culturally and linguistically diverse women, and women with disability were announced in this year’s budget.
This included $57.6 million to work with communities to break the cycle of violence through culturally safe, community-driven, trauma-informed solutions, $10.3 million over two years to support women on temporary visas experiencing violence to access emergency relief, and $9.3 million over three years to develop resources to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls with disability.
But Change the Record co-chair and chair of the National Family Violence Prevention and Legal Services, Antoinette Braybrook, said the funding failed to meet the national crisis of family violence against First Nations women.
“We have been clear, to provide the crucial front-line services our women need, our 14 family violence legal prevention services require an additional investment of at least $28 million per year,” Braybrook said.
“The 2021 budget delivers less than a quarter of that vitally needed funding, and contains no dedicated funding for our National Family Violence Prevention and Legal Services Forum, denying First Nations women a voice shaping the policy decisions that affect our lives.”
If you or anyone you know is experiencing, or at risk of family and domestic violence, call 1800 RESPECT.