10 May 2017

Violence against women:  Some Budget positives but big gaps remain

The Australian Women Against Violence Alliance (AWAVA) has welcomed some budget announcements on family law and homelessness services, but remains concerned that without substantial investment and collaboration, we will not be able to prevent or properly respond to violence against women.


“AWAVA is relieved that homelessness services will continue to be funded, including refuges and shelters for women and children facing violence, and that these services can look forward to funding certainty under a new national agreement,” AWAVA Program Manager Merrindahl Andrew said.


“Yet the funding announced last night only forms a basic platform for what is needed: a genuine and shared effort to resource services so that they can meet all the needs of the diverse groups of women who are attempting to build lives free of violence.”


“Measures restricting income support and tertiary education also have the potential to undermine the enabling environment for women, as financial independence and access to education are key to women’s safety and well-being. We also need a more well-developed and consultative approach to addressing housing affordability, which disproportionately impacts on women.”


In 2013, 46% of domestic violence service providers reported being unable to meet demand for services, and 59% of domestic violence services reported having to limit service levels to try and meet demand (COAG Advisory Panel on Violence against Women, Final Report 2016). Since then, demand has continued to rise, while (with a few exceptions) funding nation-wide has not.


Having to limit service levels to try to meet demand means that services such as refuges and shelters are less able to respond to the diversity of women’s needs, restricting their capacity to expand programs for groups including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and women with disabilities. Stabilising funding is only the beginning of what must be a much more ambitious commitment.


The Victorian government has allocated $1.9 billion to preventing and responding to family violence in just one state. By contrast, the 2017-18 Australian Government budget includes only around $50 million of “new money” on initiatives relating to violence against women.


Most of the new spending is in the area of family law and family violence, where it is greatly needed.


“Along with its member organisation Women’s Legal Services Australia, AWAVA welcomes the commitment to introduce a legislative ban on direct cross-examination of victims/survivors of domestic violence in family law proceedings, and looks forward to learning more about the implementation of measures to achieve this aim. We also welcome the reversal of funding cuts for Community Legal Centres, and the additional investment in family consultants and domestic violence units,” Ms Andrew said.


AWAVA reiterates its call for rigorous, transparent reporting of all Commonwealth spending relating to violence against women, across the different portfolios, to enable monitoring by civil society and as a platform for collaborative efforts. Consultation with the federally-funded National Women’s Alliances is another important means by which the Australian Government can help advance gender equality.