In 2015, 79 women were killed as a result of domestic violence.
Many of them were named; Melinda Horner, Maureen Boyce, Jody Meyers were some of them.
Many were not.
But even though we don’t know their names, they were women with mothers, often with children. They were women who loved and had been loved.
For too long, domestic violence has been hidden in our community. But that is now starting to change, thanks to the extraordinary work of victims, advocates and supporters, people like Rosie Batty, David Morrison, Sarah Ferguson, the researchers and team at Destroy the Joint to name a few.
And, thankfully, political leaders are now starting to give domestic violence more attention and more support.
The Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten, along with senior ministers Tanya Plibersek and Senator Katy Gallagher launched a renewed focus on tackling gender inequality at a Women’s Policy Launch in Sydney today.
Central to that launch was an announcement that Labor would invest $88 million over two years in a new Safe Housing program, to improve transitional housing options for women and children escaping domestic and family violence by filling the gap between crisis housing and longer term arrangements.
In September of last year, the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a $100 package to tackle family violence, and announced further cash injections in the 2016 Budget.
Let’s break down everything you need to know about how the major parties plan to support women escaping family violence before you vote.
Housing and frontline services.
Domestic violence is the leading cause of homelessness in Australia. And the threat of homelessness can be a major factor in a woman’s decision to stay or leave a violent situation.
As noted above, Labor plans to invest $88 million over to years to fill the gap between crisis accommodation and long term house arrangements.
Also as noted above, the Coalition announced a $100 million package last year.
Labor also plans to invest $15 million in ‘Safe at Home’ grants, which they say will help people affected by family violence to stay in their own home.
As part of their September 2015 package, the Coalition has provided $17 million for initiatives to make staying at home safer.
Fair Agenda, a women’s advocacy group criticised the Coalition after their 2016 Budget announcements, suggesting that the Coalition was only providing $33 million in the budget to tackle family violence and describing it as woefully inadequate.
“The government has essentially decided to leave thousands of women without the service support they need to be safe,” wrote Renee Carr from Fair Agenda.
However, the Coalition point to other measures up to $100 million in this space as proof that they’re serious about properly funding frontline services.
Family Violence Leave.
The trauma of domestic and family violence is often compounded by workplace and financial uncertainty.
The ALP has committed to making five days of paid domestic and family violence leave a universal workplace right.
In making the announcement last year, Labor referenced Rosie Batty’s advocacy. “The ability to maintain your employment, keep your job, it helps secure somewhere to live, it helps you to have that ongoing working contact with your colleagues, it’s a really important part of your journey,” she said.
In May, the Coalition’s Minister for Women Senator Michaelia Cash suggested that domestic violence leave would be a “perverse disincentive” for employers to hire women, and a Fairfax report noted that Senator Cash rejected a push from the Human Rights Commission to include the entitlement in a Public Service workplace agreement.
A number of employers, including NAB, Telstra, IKEA and Virgin Australia already offer domestic violence leave to their staff.
Earlier this year, National Legal Aid conducted an audit and found that work domestic violence was a factor in 79 per cent of legal aid family law matters.
This means that proper funding of community and legal aid services is critical to supporting women who are experiencing domestic violence.
Labor has committed to investing in frontline legal services for women threatened by violence to the tune of $42.9 million, as well as $4.5 million specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their children.
The Coalition announced $1.4 billion for legal aid over four years in their budget. It’s not clear, however, how much of that funding is specifically for women experiencing domestic violence.
Prevention of family violence.
At the heart of family violence is entrenched attitudes about the place of women in our community, and gender inequality. If we’re serious about ending family violence, then we must be serious about ending the causes of family violence.
That means, we need to seriously tackle men’s attitudes towards women at home, in the community and in the workplace.
It’s only when women are truly equal in our community that we will have succeeded.
As part of their announcement today, the ALP committed to continued funding for peak prevention organisations including OurWatch and 1800RESPECT.
As part of their September 2015 Family Violence package, the Coalition announced $5 million to expand 1800RESPECT, the national telephone and online counselling and information service, to ensure more women can get support, and $2 million for increased funding for MensLine for tools and resources to support perpetrators not to reoffend.
Additionally, today the ALP outlined their commitments to closing the gender pay gap and women’s workforce participation.
In short, both Labor and the Liberals are serious about ending family violence, but questions remain about who is giving it higher priority.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.