Victim-survivors across Australia will have access to trauma-informed, free and independent financial counselling delivered through a specialist family and domestic violence service.
The Morrison Government is providing $5.5 million to the Zahra Foundation Australia for a national expansion of its successful South Australian-based confidential telephone and online service.
Minister for Women’s Safety Anne Ruston said that Australian Institute of Criminology 2021 found one in two women who experienced coercive control, including financial abuse, also experienced physical violence.
“Financial abuse takes many forms including cutting access to money, controlling earning potential, forcing a partner to accrue debt, preventing access to employment or education, theft or coercing a partner into fraudulent or risky financial behaviour,” Minister Ruston said.
“It is critical that victim-survivors have access to specialist financial counselling because we know that supporting women to become economically empowered will help break the cycle of violence.
“The Morrison Government is pleased to be able to partner with the Zahra Foundation, which has been delivering specialist family and domestic violence financial counselling in SA since 2015, to deliver this crucial service to tens of thousands of victim-survivors around the country.”
Minister Ruston said the Morrison Government was committed to addressing family, domestic and sexual violence across the full life cycle – prevention, early intervention, response and recovery.
“We are investing in each of these pillars through our historic $2.5 billion commitment to the delivery of the next National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022-2032 over the first five years,” Minister Ruston said.
Zahra Foundation will seek opportunities to partner with existing services providers such as 1800RESPECT and Financial Counselling Australia to offer a referral-based financial recovery counselling service.
Zahra Foundation was established in honour of Zahra Abrahimzadeh, who was killed by her former husband in 2010 after enduring 20 years of domestic violence, with a mission to address the ﬁnancial abuse and disadvantage women experience as a result of family and domestic violence which can prevent victim-survivors from leaving violent relationships.
Zahra Foundation General Manager Kelly-Ann Tansley welcomed the Morrison Government’s investment which would support victim-survivors to escape violent relationships successfully and permanently.
“Specialist financial counselling is vital to support victim-survivor’s long term recovery because it provides women with economic strength and resilience to take control and build a life free of violence,” Ms Tansley said.
“Financial abuse also frequently presents as a precursor to physical violence, systems abuse and homicide and by identifying it we can help intervene early, before violence escalates.”
The funding also forms part of the Morrison Government’s commitment to the financial counselling sector which is working with industry partners from financial services, telecommunications, energy, and gambling sectors on a voluntary industry funding model for financial counselling from 1 July 2022 that will deliver more support for frontline services for people in financial stress and hardship.
The Government is investing an additional $10.5 million over four years from 2021-22. This includes $1.5 million in seed funding to establish a new, not-for-profit body to manage industry funding, and $9 million for a range complementary initiatives to improve data collection and capability, national coordination and innovation efforts in the financial counselling sector. An evaluation of the model will inform a longer-term approach for ensuring the viability of the financial counselling sector.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au.