Additional Government funding to keep Australians safer online

The eSafety Commissioner has welcomed an additional $24.7m in direct funding as part of the 2021-22 Federal Budget.

Julie Inman Grant, Australia’s eSafety Commissioner, said the additional funding will ensure that the work of her agency will be strengthened and will address the impact of online abuse on the most vulnerable, particularly women and children.

“We see women overrepresented in all forms of online abuse reported to us at eSafety,” Ms Inman Grant said.

“This funding will give us the opportunity to pilot new technologies that can assist in the better detection of intimate images reported to us that have been shared without consent.

“We know that detection and the rapid removal of these images is critical in helping minimise the distress women experience.”

While women are firmly in the focus of the budget announcement, so too are children.

eSafety research conducted in 2020 found that 27 per cent of children in domestic and family violence situations have experienced technology-facilitated abuse such as online monitoring.

“Funding of $3 million will see eSafety deliver further prevention initiatives and education programs that empower women in situations of domestic violence and importantly help protect children who are often caught in the cross-fire,” Ms Inman Grant stated.

Resources will also be developed to support frontline workers, school welfare officers and teachers to identify warning signs and to take appropriate action when it comes to working with children.

Ms Inman Grant said the funding boost is timely given the substantial increases eSafety has seen in reports across all forms of online abuse.

“This funding will allow us to expand the number of eSafety investigators to meet the needs of our community and the ever-increasing number of reports we are receiving,” Ms Inman Grant said.

“I see this budget allocation as recognition of the fundamental role eSafety plays as a safety net in keeping Australians safe online; not only through the removal of harmful content and the investigation of the most serious cases of online abuse, but importantly through research and education programs aimed at prevention through resources, advice and support.”

The federal budget announcement also includes $5.2m ($700,000 in direct funding) for a Department-led Online Safety Awareness Campaign to inform Australians of eSafety’s new and strengthened schemes following the passage of the Online Safety Act, which is expected later this year.

Funding summary:

$21 million for a women’s online package including:

  • $15 million over two years for eSafety to increase its investigations capability and insights capacity for serious online harms
  • $3 million for a pilot program to use innovative technology to identify intimate images shared without consent and assist in the rapid removal of this harmful material
  • $3 million over four years to address technology-facilitated abuse involving children.

$3 million over four years will allow eSafety to develop targeted online safety education materials for parents, carers and families as part of the National Strategy to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse.

$700,000 as part of a $5.2m national Online Safety Awareness Campaign to inform Australians of the new and strengthened schemes following the passage of the Online Safety Act.

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