Domestic violence advocates call for action on pandemic recommendations

Advocates are calling on the Women’s Safety Council to use tomorrow’s meeting to lock in the four actions experts have been calling for since the start of the pandemic.

Thursday’s meeting between Women’s Safety Ministers is one of the few moments dedicated to the cross-government decision making needed to address the family violence crisis, particularly in the COVID context.

“We’ve seen during this pandemic that when someone trying to escape an abuser can access specialist service support – it can be life saving.” said Hayley Foster, CEO of Women’s Safety NSW.

“When a woman can access the safety support, case management, and safe at home or refuge support she needs in moments of crisis – it can change her life. And when specialist intervention is funded – it can prevent the kind of murders that have been devastating our communities.

But current government funding decisions mean, in so many cases, that’s still not happening.” Ms Foster added.

“At the start of this pandemic family violence experts briefed the Morrison Government on the four areas of action needed for women’s safety during this time of increased risk. But the actions they’ve taken so far haven’t even been close to what’s needed. As a result, there are still massive holes in the safety net women should be able to rely on in times of crisis.” added Renee Carr, Executive Director of campaigning group Fair Agenda.

“Right now, government decisions mean that many of the specialist services women rely on in moments of incredible danger have waiting lists of months. And many victim-survivors trying to access physical refuge or legal assistance can’t get the support they need in key moments.” said Ms Carr.

“The Morrison Government’s decision to not properly resource family violence services means that many women and kids are being left on their own in moments of absolute crisis.” she added.

Early in the pandemic experts warned that COVID-19 would exacerbate safety risks.

“We know that this pandemic is being leveraged by perpetrators to escalate their abuse and control; and that it’s also removing the avenues many victim-survivors rely on to manage their safety, and to build safer futures for themselves and their children.” Ms Foster said.

She added: “During this pandemic government inaction in this area is putting women at significant risk. And we’re seeing that impact particularly on women who have recently joined our communities. In a NSW wide survey of the frontline domestic and family violence specialists that support women after police have been called to a domestic violence incident, 78% of services reported that, for women on temporary visas, lack of access to appropriate crisis accommodation was a barrier to their safety; and 96% identified lack of access to income as a safety risk.

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