Story by: Paul Karp
The Coalition has pledged an extra $328m over three years to fight domestic violence, with frontline services, safe places and prevention strategies to receive the biggest grants.
The commitment is contained in the fourth action plan, released on Tuesday, the final stage of the 2010-22 national action plan decided by federal and state governments.
In the foreword, Scott Morrison and ministers Kelly O’Dwyer and Paul Fletcher explicitly link the “scourge of domestic violence” to the government’s “first priority … to keep Australians safe and secure”.
Morrison said the “the largest ever commonwealth contribution” to the national plan would bring the total commonwealth investment on countering domestic violence to $840m since 2013.
Of the new funding, $82m is for frontline services, $78m is for safe places for people affected by domestic and family violence, $68m for prevention strategies, $62m for the 1800RESPECT hotline service and $35m for support and prevention measures for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
The investment in safe places includes $60.4m for 450 emergency accommodation places to assist up to 6,500 people a year, and $18m for the Keeping Women Safe in their Homes program, which provides women with services such as security upgrades.
The $18m commitment matches one made by Labor in November, after federal funding for the Keeping Women Safe in their Homes program was due to expire.
Our Watch reports on average one woman a week is murdered in Australia by her current or former partner, with one in three women having experienced physical violence against them since the age of 15, while one in five will have experienced sexual assault.
Women in Australia are almost three times as likely as men to experience violence from their partner, four times as likely to be admitted to hospital, while one in six Australian women will have experienced physical or sexual abuse by either their current or former partner.
Morrison said he had heard the accounts of survivors and seen the statistics and “it’s just not good enough”.
“A culture of disrespect towards women is a precursor to violence, and anyone who doesn’t see that is kidding themselves,” he said.
“This is about changing attitudes to violence, and helping those who think violence is an option, to stop.
Fletcher, the families and social services minister, said the government would act “against the different forms abuse can take” including financial and technology-facilitated abuse.
He also trumpeted “specific measures targeted to address the risks faced by women with intellectual disability and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women”.
On Monday Labor made a $60m commitment over four years for 20,000 support packages to provide people experiencing family violence with housing, transport, utilities, medical care or security.
In 2015 the Abbott government was forced to reverse a planned $25m cut to legal aid services due to fears it would harm Indigenous people and victims of domestic violence.
Since then the Coalition has legislated five days’ unpaid family and domestic violence leave as a workplace right and announced a number of measures to improve access to justice for victims.
The package, announced by the minister for women, Kelly O’Dwyer, in November, included ongoing funding for Legal Aid programs, banning cross-examination in family law courts by the alleged perpetrator of violence and easier access to mediation services to avoid court when splitting property.
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