“This Budget is devastating and dangerous for women experiencing family violence.”

Last night’s budget included a funding increase of just $33 million next year to address violence against women and children – a woefully inadequate response to the family violence epidemic, and a decision that will have dangerous consequences for those affected by family violence.

The government has essentially decided to leave thousands of women without the service support they need to be safe.

Our Prime Minister has said that family violence is a national priority – but his budget announcements don’t reflect that. His decision to leave thousands of women without access to the services they need to live free from danger is devastating.

Fair Agenda's press conference in Canberra earlier this year. L to R: No To Violence/Men's Referral Service, National Association of Community Legal Centres, Family Violence Prevention Legal Service, Fair Agenda, Dr Ann O'Neill.

It’s good to see new funding committed, but let’s put this in perspective. Just weeks ago the Victorian Government announced $572 million (over two years) in additional funding just to address urgent family violence service and system gaps in that one state. What we needed last night was for the federal government to match that level of funding nation-wide -- that would have been $4 billion over two years.

Instead the federal government will continue to inadequately fund a range of critical services, including:

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    • Family Violence Prevention Legal Services – a vital specialist service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who face a vastly increased risk of murder and hospitalisation as a result of family violence. Only 14 FVPLS centres are funded nationally; leaving many women without access. They need an additional $28 million to ensure women coverage nationwide.
    • Community Legal Centres – these help over 215,000 people each year and are forced to turn away more than 160,000 people a year, including women affected by family violence. Family violence and family law work are the top two areas of demand for CLCs across Australia. They not only didn’t receive the additional $14.4 million funding they need to meet this existing demand; the Turnbull government also maintained $34 million worth of cuts over the forward estimates. That means that from 2017 the capacity of community legal centres will be cut by 30%. That’s a devastating cut for a service that helps women navigate things like AVO processes, family law, child protection, and financial abuse.
    • Specialist domestic and family violence services – which aren’t resourced to respond to all police referrals, or to meet demand for crisis or outreach are expected to receive some fraction of the additional $33 million this year. To put that in context Victoria recently committed $103.9 million additional funding (over two years) to address funding deficiencies in this area in just one state.
    • Perpetrator programs - which need $38 million funding, also appear not to have additional funding.

The Treasurer has said that this government will ‘afford the things that need to be afforded’. Last night’s budget shows us that apparently keeping women safe doesn’t fall into that category. It’s absolutely critical that we as a community keep coming together to demand action on this issue, until it does.

This post originally appeared on Fair Agenda.

Watch Respect, the The Australian Government's anti-domestic violence ad.

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. 

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