All words – no action. Ministers come up short amidst domestic violence crisis

Women’s safety and domestic violence agencies across the country are crestfallen today as the nation’s Women’s Safety Ministers delivered their communique from their 7 August 2020 meeting. Despite overwhelming evidence of the nation’s biggest ever domestic violence crisis and substantial gaps in support systems for victims and abusers, no new measures are to be taken.

“It’s really quite devastating” says Hayley Foster, Chief Executive Officer of Women’s Safety NSW. “We have thousands of women and children at threat needing critical supports and have been quite explicit about the gaps that need to be filled so they can be safe.”

Women’s Safety NSW and partners across the country advised Ministers going into this meeting of the serious impacts the pandemic has been having on victims of domestic and family violence and the key reform measures that need to be implemented with urgency.

These include:

  1. Properly funding the specialist services that support victim-survivor safety, and intervene with perpetrators so that these are accessible no matter where one lives;
  2. Ensuring every woman subject to violence is able to access the income and material support she needs to be safe and escape her abuser; and
  3. Ensuring the legal system prioritises safety – including improving AVO standards and putting safety first in family law.

“What we’ve been clear on is that we’re not investing nearly enough in addressing this problem” says Foster. “In fact, we’re coming off such a low base level of funding, we actually need to be spending four times as much if we want to ensure victims and abusers across the country have access to services they need whilst also tackling the root causes of the problem.”

The Australian Women Against Violence Alliance (AWAVA) has urged the government invest in a $1 billion per annum plan to address violence against women, a scourge which costs the Australian economy more than $21.7 billion per annum, the largest share of which is borne by victims, but $6 billion of which is borne by the Commonwealth Government to pay for their share of the consequent health services, criminal justice responses and social welfare costs.

Women’s Safety NSW is concerned that this quarterly meeting opportunity between the nation’s Women’s Safety Ministers has been wasted.

“We know that a decision was taken in May for these meetings to move from being monthly to quarterly, so this was a critical opportunity which was sadly missed” continued Foster.

Foster describes a continuation of a disconnect between the rhetoric and the action when it comes to governments’ approach to addressing violence against women in Australia.

“Today’s communique was unfortunately a continuation of the status quo” says Foster. “There is a lot of concern and commitment being expressed in words, but not a lot of action.”

“What we need now is for governments to come to the table with their ears open and their sleeves rolled up. It’s time to treat this issue with the seriousness it deserves and to get on with implementing the sound, evidence-based policy needed to keep women and their children safe.”

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