Sarah Williams tells us what she thinks about the government's plan to combat domestic violence.

Over the weekend, Sarah Williams became a key part of the domestic violence conversation, after the organisation she started, What Were You Wearing, organised and ran a series of rallies across Australia.

The No More rallies, attended by thousands of Australians, were a chance for domestic violence victim-survivors and their allies to demand action, and practical steps towards putting a stop to the seemingly endless assaults and murders of women by men. Often men they know and trust.

Watch the PM speak at the No More rally. Article continues after the video.

Video via Instagram/@whatwereyouwearing_

23-year-old Williams is a survivor of domestic abuse herself, having experienced extreme violence, rape and consequentially, homelessness. She’s also indigenous, queer and disabled, with lived experience of the barriers faced by marginalised victim-survivors.

Williams was left in tears after Prime Minister Anthony Albanese spoke at the rally, claiming he was initially denied an invitation — a claim Williams said was a "full out lie".

Mamamia spoke to Williams following the Federal Government’s cabinet meeting, which she says was "disappointing".


While the announcement of a $925 million investment into the permanent establishment of the government’s already existing Leaving Violence Payment might sound like a lot, Williams says when compared with other investments, it was disappointing.

The Leaving Violence Payment provides up to $5,000 in financial support to eligible domestic violence victim-survivors to help them escape a violent situation.

But Williams says the announcement is simply an extension of a measure that was already in place, with an eligibility criteria that left many victim-survivors unable to access the payment.

"This is just a copy and paste of what they were already doing. The $5,000 to access financial support has sort of already been a thing and there’s actually been so many barriers to getting it," says Williams.

"For example, when I went through DV and was so close to being murdered, I was not able to access it because I hadn't reported to police. [Another time] I was denied because I didn’t have an AVO. But the police didn’t help me get an AVO. I also think for indigenous, queer and disabled people, people of colour, there are even more barriers."

During the No More rallies, Williams made five demands of the federal government that she says were developed by women and community organisations across the country.

Those demands were: declaring the current situation a national emergency, media regulation on the publishing of images of victims, mandatory victim-blaming prevention training for frontline workers, alternative reporting options and DFV specialist courts, and better funding.


Williams founded What Were You Wearing (WWYW) in 2021, with the goal of providing education, awareness and support for survivors, victims, and the wider community.

Volunteering more than 40 hours per week to her advocacy, Williams was named Newcastle Woman of the Year 2023, won the Community Service Award at the NSW/ACT Young Achiever Awards 2023, and was a finalist in the Australian Human Rights Awards — Young People’s Award 2023.

In 2023, Williams led a campaign which resulted in mandated drink spiking education for all venue and bar staff in NSW. WWYW also developed Australia’s first sexual assault service for music festivals — essentially a safe space for people affected by sexual assault or harassment, now in place at more than 30 festivals every year.

She organised the No More rallies with the hope the government would listen and take action.

While she acknowledges some of the announced measures are actions that have been called for over the years, they don’t tackle the specific problem of men murdering women at an horrifying average of one every four days.

"Banning deep fake porn should have already been a thing, but that’s great.

"The one about addressing misogyny online, I think it’s important because there is so much of it… There are a lot of things that we need to be doing online, but these are weird and strange things in my opinion. 


"A review of the online safety act, that’s good. But I’m also confused about the specific things he’s chosen. I know they’ve been talked about but there have been hundreds of things talked about. I don’t know how these are the things that came out of today to prevent another death tomorrow. In my opinion, they have not too much to do with a woman being killed."

Williams says while the funding is needed, she believes it won’t be going to the grassroots organisations that need it most.

"Where is this money going? I can tell you right now it’s not going to grass roots organisations. They aren’t being funded."

Williams emphasised multiple community organisations across Australia developed the five demands, which were largely ignored.

Delia Donovan, CEO of Domestic Violence NSW (DVNSW), agrees the funding is insubstantial and fails to address the immediate crisis.

"All this announcement does is provide ongoing funding for a pilot previously known as the Escaping Violence Payment. This $5,000 payment is a vital lifeline for victim-survivors when leaving an abusive relationship and absolutely must continue.

"However, this announcement in the absence of increased funding for existing specialist domestic and family violence services does not go nearly far enough to create the change the sector, and Australians are calling for."

Donovan says the first iteration of the program was criticised because of the process and length of time it took for victim-survivors to access the funds.


"For this version of the program to be successful, it must be delivered by specialist domestic and family service providers. The allocated payment must also be in cash, to truly empower victim-survivors, rather than the current arduous process of invoices and reimbursement — as evidenced in our report," Donovan said.

DVNSW’s 2022 report, found 89 per cent of specialist DFV services experienced issues with the Escaping Violence Program, with 72 per cent of specialist workers stating these issues had deterred them from recommending clients apply for the payment. 

Further findings of DVNSW’s report also showed that only 15 per cent of victim-survivors who accessed the program had received the full $5,000.

"This has certainly been a disappointing outcome."

Feature image: Instagram/@whatwereyouwearing_

If this has raised any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)—the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service.

Mamamia is a charity partner of RizeUp Australia, a national organisation that helps women, children and families move on after the devastation of domestic and family violence. Their mission is to deliver life-changing and practical support to these families when they need it most. If you would like to support their mission you can donate here.

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