If a Budget is a reflection of government values, then Budget 2020 paints a bleak picture of this government’s priorities:
- No new funding to see the Closing the Gap targets met
- No new funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family Violence Prevention and Legal Services
- No funding at all for the National Family Violence Prevention and Legal Services peak body ‘the Forum’
- Nothing to stem the devastating number of Black deaths in custody
- No new funding to address the crisis of family violence unfolding across the continent
There has been a great deal of commentary about the glaring absence of women from Budget 2020 despite women bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 recession - and none more so than First Nations women experiencing, or at risk of, family violence.
Watch: Women and violence: the hidden numbers. Post continues below.
‘The Forum’ is the peak body representing 14 member organisations across Australia that provide holistic, frontline specialist, culturally safe legal and non-legal supports to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experiencing or at risk of family violence – predominantly women and their children.
As of December 31 this year, the Forum has no guaranteed future funding - and there is nothing in the Budget to save it. There is nothing to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women can maintain their voice and continue to have their say in the national conversation about ending family violence.
In May 2020, Change the Record published the first national report into the impacts of COVID-19 policies on First Nations people called ‘Critical Condition’. Drawing on the extraordinary frontline work of the Forum’s member organisations in every state and territory, Critical Condition told the stories of women being denied safety by police, mothers denied access to their children, women unable to access the courts, and growing fears within the sector of an impending explosion of family violence when the restrictions are lifted
Violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women devastates communities and families. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are 34 times more likely to be hospitalised from family violence and 10 times more likely to be killed as a result of violent assault.
This paints a devastating picture – but we should not forget that up to 90 per cent of violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples goes unreported, and so there is a far more devastating picture that is going unseen. The Forum has advocated strongly for an ambitious numerical target to be set as part of Closing the Gap process to commit states, territories and the Commonwealth to tackling this crisis.
Critical Condition found that chronic housing shortages have left Aboriginal women and children without safe and secure accommodation during the pandemic, putting them at immediate risk of harm, and impacting on prospects of reunification with children and babies in out of home care.