Welcome reprieve for frontline domestic violence services in NSW in a $21 mil joint rescue package

The Attorney General and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, Mark Speakman today announced a $21 million joint rescue package for the frontline domestic violence services sector to assist them in dealing with the increased severity of cases and complexity of work as violence and abuse has continued to rise behind closed doors during the pandemic…

The full details of the package are yet to be announced, but the vast bulk of these funds will go to frontline domestic and family violence services…

“These are the services that reported an increase in client numbers of more than 10 per cent in March this year” says Hayley Foster, Women’s Safety NSW chief executive officer…

Women’s refuges will likewise receive a welcome boost, with a number of services reporting a surge in direct referrals as lockdown restrictions ease….

Women’s Safety NSW understands there will be a range of other important inclusions announced by the NSW Government shortly. However, notes there are still some important gaps as well as key considerations for future funding allocations of the Commonwealth $150 million COVID-19 Women’s Safety package.

“We need to ensure we are evidence-based in targeting our funding” says Foster…

Foster says key priorities are ensuring victim-survivors can access safety and support through online WebChat, something that is not currently available in NSW, and that culturally safe and specific avenues for accessing support for younger people, people with disabilities and people from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Culturally and Linguistically Diverse and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer communities are made available.

Notably, there is still no targeted support for women on temporary visas experiencing violence in this package, and this group is at particular risk… as tragically highlighted last week when international student, Kamaljeet Sidhu was found allegedly murdered by her husband who she had continued living with after obtaining an apprehended violence order for her protection a month earlier.

“The reality is, we need to act quicker and smarter when it comes to tackling this crisis”, says Foster. “For around eight weeks now, we’ve been providing some very nuanced advice to the government on an almost daily basis as to what needs to happen and in the end this first round of funding has been distributed in a fairly blunt manner.”

Women’s Safety NSW also warn the NSW Government that any band-aid measures during the COVID-19 crisis will need to be accompanied by longer-term, sustainable support.

“The country’s domestic violence crisis isn’t going away anytime soon. We’re heading into a deep economic downturn, and we know that with recessions come increased violence against women and children,” says Foster. “What we need is a coherent, coordinated, sustainable plan with flexible features built in so that we can be confident women, children and families impacted by violence and abuse have real options for achieving safety in their homes.”

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