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Welcome initial funding needs to be followed with further investment in safety

The national alliance of organisations working to end all forms of violence against women has welcomed the announcement today of $150 million of Federal government funding to support women and children subjected to violence through the coronavirus pandemic, and noted more will be needed to manage this emerging crisis.

“This funding is badly needed and very welcome. We are heartened that the Federal Government has finally started to act on the expert advice and evidence from here and around the world – that this pandemic is increasing violence against women and their children and that we need to act urgently to increase support. Today’s announcement is a welcome start to address this problem, but it’s vital it’s not the last,” said AWAVA Program Manager Dr Merrindahl Andrew.

Demand for services is already increasing as abusers escalate their violence and people subjected to abuse find their usual support options cut off, with several services reporting increases of 20-30% on top of already escalating need following the murders of Hannah Clarke and her children. 

“Today’s commitment is a positive start to begin addressing this crisis, but the scale of the funding has to be much larger to have a hope of ensuring the number of women and children who will need our assistance during this period are able to access the intensive support they will require  in diverse and challenging situations during this pandemic,” Dr Andrew said.

“More funding is still needed in key areas. We estimate that the Keeping Women Safe in their Home program alone needs $180 million to meet demand Australia-wide, enabling women and children to stay in the family home where it is safe to do so,” Dr Andrew said.

“For women’s safety, during this time we also need massive, urgent investment in crisis accommodation, specialist outreach and case management services so women can be supported to develop safety plans and set up safe living situations for themselves and their children,” Dr Andrew said.

“As we shift to online and phone support, WESNET’s safe phones program, which provides safe smart phones and tech safety advice to victims/survivors and frontline workers, will be absolutely critical. Yet the government still has not announced funding to continue this service beyond 30 June – funding must be restored immediately if we are to ensure women have the technology they need to access services during this time.”

“Further changes are needed for women’s safety at this time, including additional funding for disability support pensions, increasing refuge capacity, making women on temporary visas experiencing violence eligible for all health, services and income support, ensuring access to contraception and abortion, and ensuring victims/survivors can rely on civil protection orders. We call on the Government to act on these changes next,” Dr Andrew said.

“It is positive that the new COAG Women’s Safety Council is meeting to work out how the funding should be delivered. We urge the Council to address these gaps, and to draw on the expertise of victims/survivors and the specialist services working to support them,” Dr Andrew concluded. 

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