Anti-violence funding 'lacks transparency and cohesion'

THE Federal Government is defending its budget spend on domestic violence in the face of wide-spread criticism from community leaders and politicians.

Treasurer Joe Hockey delivered just $16.7 million specifically for domestic violence on May 12.

The money will partially fund a $30m national awareness campaign.

The attack on the government this week included outrage by Australian Women against Violence Alliance and Women's Services Network head Julie Oberin who has just been appointed to the federal advisory panel to reduce violence against women.

While the budget commitment was small, the Coalition has pledged at least $837m to fund victim support services and ongoing anti-domestic violence campaigns and programs.

About $500 million will go to frontline agencies; $230m will be spent on the two-year National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness to help female family assault victims; $100 million will pay for the second stage of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children; there will be ongoing funding for organisations such as OurWatch and 1800RESPECT; and more than $7 million has been committed to help people from ethnic and indigenous communities.

"As the Treasurer stated, we have set aside additional money in the budget and the Prime Minister will have more to say in the near future," Michaelia Cash, the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women, told APN Newsdesk.

Ms Oberin said there were serious question marks over violence funding.

"There is concern across the women's sector that funding for anti-violence initiatives lacks transparency and cohesion." Ms Oberin said.

"Why does the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children not appear as a dedicated funding stream in the Commonwealth budget?"

Senator Larissa Waters, the Australian Greens spokeswoman for women, said the budget failed victims - particularly on housing and legal aid services.

"For all of the government's rhetoric about domestic violence, its budget is a missed opportunity to address this tragic national crisis," Senator Waters said.

"After the interim senate inquiry report, the government reversed some of the worst funding cuts to legal centres and extended a homelessness program for a limited period.

"But what was needed was a full reversal of the cuts and a funding injection for domestic violence prevention, crisis response, legal assistance and long-term affordable housing.

"Cuts of $44 million from new emergency housing, a $15 million cut from legal aid, cuts to grants for domestic violence services and cuts to long-term affordable housing were all locked in (to the budget).

"The government has ignored the overwhelming calls for an urgent funding boost for domestic violence primary prevention, crisis response, community legal centres and affordable housing."

Australian Greens legal affairs spokeswoman Senator Penny Wright said plans to increase Family Court fees could hurt women.

"Cost is the most common barrier for people seeking legal help and court fees are already too high," Senator Wright said.

"There are already people out there saving week-by-week to cover the cost of their divorce application - some who are victims of domestic violence - who are now going to be slugged with a 50% increase.

"It is completely inappropriate to target family breakdown as a cash cow for the government."

Equality Rights Alliance program manager Helen Dalley-Fisher said primary prevention and specialised domestic and family violence and sexual assault services missed out on much-needed budgetary support.

"The extension funding of the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness and the ongoing funding of the National Affordable Housing Agreement are welcome inclusions in the budget" she said.

"However, this funding is still not sufficient for services to meet growing demands and women and children will continue to be turned away."

National Association of Community Legal Centres head Michael Smith said community legal centres were turning away 150,000 people each year.

"With a new commonwealth funding model, cuts to some community legal centres that support women experiencing family violence are now expected in at least three states," Mr Smith said.

"This is on top of an already dire situation for community legal centres that are already turning away 150,000 people each year."

YWCA Australia CEO Caroline Lambert said committing money to fighting gender inequality through programs such as Our Watch was not enough to end the epidemic.

"There is a need for additional funding for primary prevention initiatives that prevent this violence from occurring in the first place," Dr Lambert said.

Australian of the Year Rosie Batty
Australian of the Year Rosie Batty Warren Lynam

Panel assembles to address DC epidemic

EIGHT high-profile women are on the panel charged with helping the Council of Australian Governments address Australia's rising domestic violence epidemic.

Australian of the Year Rosie Batty and former Victorian Police Commissioner Ken Lay will lead the panel.

They will be joined by Heather Nancarrow, Julie Oberin, Tracy Howe, Ed Mosby, Vicki Hovane, Maria Hagias, Darren Hine, Sue Salthouse and Bess Price.

Each panellist has expertise in the domestic violence arena and each was nominated by their home state or territory.

Michaelia Cash, the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women, said the panel's main goal was advising COAG on the best way to approach the domestic violence that is claiming two lives a week across the country.

The panel will report back to COAG by the end of this year when COAG, made up of all of Australia's state and territory leaders, will agree on a scheme that allows domestic violence orders to cross Australian borders; develop national standards for how communities intervene against perpetrators and hold them accountable; and a national approach to dealing with online safety and the misuse of technology.

 

By the numbers...

  • $500 million to frontline services supporting to vulnerable Australians including women experiencing violence.
  • $230 million to extend the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness for two years to 2017, with funding priority given to frontline services focusing on women and children experiencing domestic and family violence, and homeless youth under 18.
  • The Federal budget restores $25.5 million for Legal Aid Commissions, Community Legal Centres and indigenous legal service providers, aimed to support victims of domestic violence.
  • $100 million funding by the Commonwealth over four years to assist with the implementation of the Second Action Plan, along with the ongoing funding of ANROWS, OurWatch and 1800RESPECT.
  • $120,000 to support women from ethnic backgrounds through the court system
  • $1 million for White Ribbon to focus on ethnic and indigenous community engagement;
  • $6 million towards an $18 million Northern Territory Domestic and Family Violence Reduction Strategy.

SOURCE: Federal Government

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