WESNET BLOG, MAY 2023
Ahead of this week’s Budget, the Minister for Finance and Minister for Women, Senator the Hon Katy Gallagher, promised ‘a very, very strong budget for women…as it should be’.
With the continuation of the Women’s Budget Statement, and a commitment to rolling out gender-responsive budgeting over the forthcoming years, women are more visible in this budget than they have been for many previous years. But what does the Budget deliver for the domestic and family violence (DFV) sector?
For those of us working in the sector, there are two key concerns:
- Facing the day-to-day impacts of DFV, is the Budget providing adequate support for the delivery of DFV prevention, intervention, response and recovery services and programs?
- And, knowing what we know about the drivers of violence against women, is the Budget working to deliver improved equality for women in the long-term?
There are two key budget measures aimed specifically at addressing domestic and family violence: ‘women’s safety’ and ‘women’s safety – First Nations women’.
These measures represent new money – that is, money that is additional to the $1.7 billion investment in the October Budget for women’s safety initiatives. With the first of the two five-year Action Plans (that will operationalise the National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children) yet to be released, it is difficult to determine in isolation if the new money is hitting the right gaps. There is no new money, for example, for DFV workforce, and no information on how the ‘500 worker’ 2022-23 measure which was allocated $169.4 million over 4 years is travelling.
As anyone working in the sector knows, firstly, the way that funds are delivered is just as important as the quantum and secondly, it is never enough to meet critical demand. WESNET continues to advocate strongly for a higher level of federal government engagement with the DFV sector – including funding for a peak body, support for standardisation and coordination nationally, and rectification of the ongoing neglect of the DFV workforce. The federal government must share the heavy lifting to address a national problem.
That said, we are pleased to see any additional support, and particularly pleased to see the acknowledged need for new additional funds for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children. All up, we see an additional $495.1m for the two budget measures, including initiatives outlined below.
- $159 million to extend the National Partnership on Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence Responses with state and territory governments.
- $24.3 million to pilot an additional referral pathway for the Support for Trafficked People Program and restructure the program to better meet the needs of victim-survivors.
- $8.5 million for initiatives aimed at early intervention, including developing a national perpetrator risk assessment framework for frontline service providers, extending Mensline Changing for Good Service and developing a national perpetrator referral database of services to improve uptake of intervention services.
$194 million over 5 years to support Australia’s first dedicated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan for family violence. This includes:
- $145.3 million to support activities which address immediate safety concerns for First Nations women and children who are experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, family and domestic violence
- $23.2 million to partner with local organisations to design, deliver and evaluate community-led, place-based, trauma aware and culturally responsive healing programs for First Nations children and families who are impacted by family violence or at risk of engagement with the child protection systems
- $17.6 million to deliver on family safety initiatives under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan
- $7.8 million over 5 years to support the development of a standalone First Nations National Plan for Family Safety, including governance, secretariat and data arrangements.
- $10 million to expand the family violence provisions within the Migration Regulations 1994 to most permanent visa subclass to ensure that visa applicants, including secondary applicants for permanent visa subclasses, offshore temporary Partner visa applicants and Prospective Marriage visa holders, do not feel compelled to remain in a violent relationship to be granted a permanent visa.
- The Government also announced it is extending the current Temporary Visa Holders Experiencing Violence Pilot to January 2025 (paid for using existing funds).
- $33.1 million to fund the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia and the Family Court of Western Australia to continue and expand the Family Law Priority Property Pool program nationally.
- $13.4 million to extend the Lawyer-assisted Family Law Property Mediation program to assist separated couples to mediate and reach an agreement on a family law property division.
- $7.4 million to introduce a financial assistance scheme to enable eligible respondent parents impacted by international parental child abduction to have equivalent access to legal representation as applicant parents.
- $5.3 million for a package of early alternative dispute resolution intervention measures designed to divert families from contested Hague Convention proceedings and improve safety outcomes.
- $5.7 million to improve the capability in the Attorney General’s Department to obtain and make evidence about family violence available to the courts in Hague Convention cases.
- $6.5 million to strengthen sexual assault and consent laws and improve justice responses to sexual violence. This includes funding for a ministerial-level national roundtable, an independent national inquiry by the Australian Law Reform Commission into justice responses to sexual violence across Australia, and the establishment of an expert advisory group to inform the inquiry.
- $12.1 million to develop and distribute social media resources for young people on consent with advice from an expert advisory group and to support community-led sexual violence prevention pilots.
On the back of the prominence given to the Sam Mostyn–led Women’s Economic Equality Taskforce and in response to the crippling cost-of-living crisis, Budget 2023-24 has a focus on women’s economic equality, and on addressing the most pressing economic pressures for the most vulnerable. In this context, the extension of the single parenting payment and the abolition of ParentsNext are most welcome. It is likely that domestic violence underlies a significant proportion of welfare dependency and that decreases in income and increases in mutual obligations add additional pressures, further compromising women’s and children’s safety.
Along with other important – albeit very modest – changes to income support, and further spending on housing, another articulated focus of the budget is on the care economy and workforce – with funds directed to support aged care workers and early childhood educators.
The Budget beds down some important and more urgent investments in long-term gender equality, and they are steps in the right direction, even if, for the most part, baby steps. This is by no means a revolutionary budget.
Much more needs to be done in better valuing women’s work across the paid and unpaid economy; making education, training, housing, child care and aged care more accessible and affordable; improving women’s superannuation balances; and in addressing women’s health and reproductive health needs. More also needs to be done in recognising the impacts of racism, ageism, ableism and homo/transphobia.
WESNET welcomes the many good things in Budget 2023-24 but continues to call for more that will both directly assist women and children escaping violence, as well as for measures embedding gender equality into systems and structures across the community and economy into the future.