WESNET is grateful to the Australian Government for recognising the value of our Safe Connections phones program, which is globally recognised as a unique program that saves and changes the lives of victim-survivors of domestic and family violence.
WESNET’s current Safe Connections program provides between 500 and 600 smartphones a month to women impacted by domestic and family violence all across Australia. The brand-new smartphones, donated by Telstra, come with prepaid credit and are provided to women and dependent children through WESNET’s network of over 230 frontline services.
The new funding will enable WESNET to extend the reach of the program and help ensure the safety of thousands more women and children.
“It is a huge relief to frontline services all over Australia that the government will maintain the funding for the program to be able to continue,” said Karen Bentley, CEO of WESNET. “We have been getting by on short-term funding extensions of between 6 and 12 months since June 2018, and we have had to limit the number of services able to join the program. Many more women will be able to safely access a brand new smartphone and prepaid credit because of this new funding.”
The brand new smartphones which are donated by Telstra to WESNET can be a life-saving tool for a woman escaping violence, ensuring she can safely remain in contact with support services and providing privacy and security as she manages her safety. Many women experiencing or escaping violence have limited access to technology, and many have their existing devices compromised by their abusers. Location features in today’s phones can lead an abuser straight to the victim-survivor.
The Safe Connections phones are distributed through WESNET’s network of frontline agencies by staff, who have been trained by WESNET technology safety specialists, so they understand how technology can be misused by perpetrators as part of domestic and family violence. This unique combination of both trained professionals and a brand new smartphone means that survivors not only receive a safe new phone, but also information and education on how to use their technology safely into the future.
“With the rapid changes of technology and increasing rates of violence against women and children, this funding will help ensure that more women’s specialist domestic and family violence services can respond to technology-facilitated abuse, now and into the future, and save the lives of women and children fleeing violence. The expertise of WESNET ensures we have a strong and robust national domestic violence sector that is engaged in seeking new and innovative responses to end violence against women and children including through the globally recognised Safe Connections program,” said Angie Piubello, Domestic Violence Case Worker and WESNET Board Member.
Through the Safe Connections program, over 36,000 phones have been given to date to women and children in need via WESNET’s network of participating services. Around 70% of women receiving a new Safe Connections phone have either fled violence or are planning to leave, which are the times when women are most in danger of being hurt or killed by a current or former intimate partner.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence:
- In an emergency, call the police on 000
- Call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) to speak with a trained counsellor from the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence Counselling Service
- Access online counselling at 1800respect.org.au
About the Safe Connections Program:
Established in 1992, the Women’s Services Network (WESNET) is the Australian national women’s peak advocacy body which works on behalf of women and children who are experiencing or have experienced domestic or family violence. With almost 350 members across Australia, WESNET represents a range of organisations and individuals, including women’s refuges, shelters, safe houses and information/ referral services.
The objectives of the Safe Connections program are to:
- Help women and their children impacted by family and domestic violence to remain connected with their support networks and enhance their safety, social inclusion, and wellbeing.
- Provide a new smartphone with pre-paid credit and information on the safe use of technology to women and children who have experienced family and domestic violence, sexual assault, and other forms of violence.
- Provide training to frontline workers about supporting victim-survivors with tech skills and problem-solving around tech safety.
To learn more about WESNET’s Safe Connections Program please visit: https://wesnet.org.au/ourwork/telstra/