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WESNET receives Federal Funding and more Telstra Phones

WESNET is pleased to announce that Telstra has donated 20,000 SmartPhones to our SafeConnections Project and the Federal Government has announced funding for WESNET to train front line services around technology abuse.

The Hon. Malcolm Turnbull, MP, Prime Minister, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, Minister for Women, and The Hon. Christian Porter, MP, Minister for Social Services announced funding for WESNET to strengthen its successful partnership with the Telstra Safe Connections program. Telstra also announced that it will donate 20,000 smart phones to the program to help WESNET provide safe phones to women who are experiencing technology abuse and need a safer phone.

WESNET is Australia’s national women’s peak body for domestic and family violence services. Its SafetyNet Australia project works with communities, police, technologists, and agencies to address how technology affects the safety, privacy and accessibility rights of victims of domestic violence, sexual violence and stalking.

“We are absolutely delighted to receive this funding from the Australian Government as part of its $100 million Women’s Safety Package.” said Julie Oberin, WESNET’s National Chair, “The funding will allow WESNET to significantly expand the program by signing up more services as distribution points for the smart phones and by training front line services staff.”

WESNET has been working in partnership with Telstra since 2014 to give safe phones to women experiencing domestic violence. “We are very grateful to Telstra for donating new smart phones. This means we will be able to help up to 20,000 women experiencing domestic violence to access a safer phone”, said Karen Bentley, WESNET’s Senior Technology Safety Specialist, “and with the funding from Government, we will be able to provide support and training to specialist services, so they know and can recognise how technology abuse might be impacting women experiencing domestic violence.”

As part of the initiative WESNET will also provide its highly regarded Technology Safety Training to frontline agencies and agencies like 1800-Respect and DV Alert, so that crisis line and training services know more about how technology abuse occurs and how to help women access a safer phone through the program.

Recent Australian and US studies show that there is now an almost total overlap between domestic violence and technology abuse. Women in Australia experiencing domestic violence are now likely to also experience technology facilitated abuse such as stalking and tracking through their smart phones.

WESNET strongly believes that women shouldn’t have to avoid technology to avoid abuse. “It’s critical for women and girls to become tech savvy and not shy away from technology,” says Julie Oberin. Women need to embrace technology and know how to use it safely to access services and resources, and importantly how to collect evidence against perpetrators”.

WESNET runs the Safety Net Australia project: helping women experiencing domestic violence (and other forms of violence against women) to safely use technology to search for help and decrease isolation, while using technology evidence to assist police and courts to hold abusers and stalkers accountable for misusing technology. The project was founded in the USA by WESNET’s sister agency, the United States National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV).

WESNET thanks both the Australian Government and Telstra for this significant support for this important work.

The PDF version of the Media Release WESNET 17 March 2016

(Image: LtoR The Hon. Christian Porter, MP, Minister for Social Services, Karen Bentley, Senior Technology Safety Specialist, WESNET, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, Minister for Women, and Mr Andy Penn, CEO of Telstra, at the launch by the Prime Minister, The Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP, in Canberra on 17 March 2016. )

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