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Larissa Waters: We must return funding to family violence services.

Queensland Senator, Larissa Waters, writes about the findings in the interim report of the Senate’s groundbreaking inquiry into domestic violence.

Women are living with men who they fear will kill them because those women have been turned away from overrun refuges and the only alternative is sleeping on the street.

Desperate phone calls are ringing out at crisis line centres because there simply aren’t enough staff to answer endless cries for help.

Volunteer law students are filling in at women’s legal services because there isn’t enough funding to keep paying qualified lawyers, despite the tragically high demand for their important advice.

These are some of the harrowing realities we’ve heard through the Senate Inquiry into domestic violence, established by the Greens.

Queensland Senator, Larissa Waters.

Women’s legal services, refuges and call centres have spoken at the Inquiry’s hearings in most capital cities.

Their front-line experience has not only further opened our eyes to the horrific extent of domestic violence in Australia, but it has also offered ways forward.

The Inquiry committee, made up of senators from all sides of politics, has been working on recommendations to solve our national domestic violence crisis.

Read more: This is one of the most powerful anti-domestic violence campaigns we have ever seen.

Last week, we tabled our interim report in the Senate.

The final report is still some months away, given the volumes of information collected through more than 150 public submissions and six hearings in five cities.

However, the Committee decided to put forward interim recommendations before the federal government hands down its budget in May.

Many of the challenges frontline services currently face are as a result of funding cuts in last year’s budget.

Recommendation #1: Restore funding.

We simply cannot allow this to happen again in this year’s budget.

This is why the Inquiry committee made sure that our strong recommendation that those cuts desperately need to be reversed was formally tabled in the Parliament before this year’s budget is finalised.

Read more: Tony Abbott wants to raise “awareness” about family violence…while taking money away from services.

It’s vital that when we think about domestic violence funding, we remember that no matter what a woman’s financial background is, if she is in a controlling relationship, she may not have access to any money.

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Her partner may have cut off her access to even her own money, as well as her relationships with family and friends.

We hear a lot of talk about ‘why do women go back?’ There are many reasons and one for many women is that, financially, they don’t have any other option apart from homelessness.

This is why women’s shelters and affordable long-term accommodation are just so crucial to giving women the chance to stay away from violence.

Last year’s budget saw more than $200 million cut from homelessness and rental affordability programs, including money to build new women’s shelters.

Read more: Bill Shorten speaks exclusively to Mamamia about funding cuts to family violence services.

On top of this $240 million was cut from a grants program, part of which went to domestic violence crisis centres.

Not only did last year’s budget raid funding for accommodation services, it also took funding from community legal centres and Legal Aid, which women turn to for free legal advice.

“We hear a lot of talk about ‘why do women go back?’ “

It’s important that women have the law on their side to keep violent partners away from them and their children.

The Senate Inquiry has heard time and time again from frontline services that these funding cuts are having a real impact.

Although workers in the sector try to stretch their precious funding as far as possible and tirelessly work hours of unpaid overtime, they simply do not have the resources to help all of the women who reach out to them.

The Senators on the Inquiry Committee have agreed that funding needs to be given back.

It’s now up to Prime Minister Abbott, the self-appointed Minister for Women, to make that happen, and that will mean taking money from the big end of town, which he let get off scot free in last year’s budget.

PM, Tony Abbot and Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty

The Prime Minister has often spoken publicly about domestic violence and this year appointed the incredible Rosie Batty as Australian of the Year.

For more: Tony Abbott’s new commitment to family violence rings false.

But, as Rosie herself is saying, words are not enough. Women need services with long-term secure funding to support them to leave domestic violence for good.

Otherwise, women may be forced back into to violence, even if they have made the difficult and brave decision to leave.

Support the Senate Inquiry’s call to the Prime Minister to restore funding cut from domestic violence services. Sign the petition: http://larissa-waters.greensmps.org.au/campaigns/its-time-end-domestic-violence

Queensland Senator Larissa Waters is the Australian Greens spokesperson for women.

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