Thursday, 18 March 2021
Newcastle Electorate: Volunteers, Domestic and Family Violence
I'm very pleased today to launch the 2021 round of the Newcastle volunteer grants program. The Newcastle volunteer grants program offers grants of between $1,000 and $5,000 for eligible not-for-profit community organisations to support, encourage and increase participation in volunteering in local communities. These grants help community organisations support their volunteers by making their volunteering work easier, safer and more enjoyable. Funding can be used to purchase eligible small equipment for use by volunteers; contribute to volunteers' fuel or transport costs; or assist with the cost of training courses, background checks for volunteers and the like. Organisations can also use the funding to conduct activities to promote awareness of, and increase participation in, volunteering opportunities or to adapt their practices to support volunteer safety in the pandemic environment. Expressions of interest will open soon via a link on my website, and I encourage all my constituents to keep an eye out for that.
I also want to draw the attention of the House to the consequences of the Prime Minister's ongoing inability to grasp or understand the consequences of power imbalances and structural inequalities in Australia that underpin gendered violence in this nation. Earlier this week the Prime Minister announced his government's new plan for women who might be able to fund their way into fleeing domestic violence, and that was to dip into their own already diminished and depleting superannuation funds in order to find a pathway out to safety. We already know that the fastest-growing cohort of people experiencing poverty, and homelessness as a result, are women aged over 55, and some of the most vulnerable in that cohort are indeed women escaping family and domestic violence. We know that women are already retiring with, on average, $90,000 less in their superannuation than men; that 23 per cent of women retire with absolutely no superannuation at all; and that at least 14 per cent of women have already cleared out their entire superannuation funds because they lost work during COVID-19. But we have a prime minister who thinks that, if women need to leave a family violence situation, they can simply draw down on their own diminishing retirement savings. So this government is, in fact, asking those very women who are at their most vulnerable, when they need to feel safe and secure, to dip into their own retirement funds—indeed, pushing them into poverty—in order to achieve safety. That is an appalling outcome for our society. It is appalling.
I say to the Prime Minister: here's an idea you might want to think about. How about we hold perpetrators to account? How about we start making perpetrators responsible for their actions? This government must start putting its mind to how it might help women and children to flee this violence, to find safety and to re-establish their lives, by providing safe environments for them and their families without plunging them into poverty. We know there are ways of doing this. The Victorian government has had a terrific model involving flexible supported packages. The government might want to have a look at that. It would indeed provide a lot of comfort to women and children seeking safety now.
We know, despite the Prime Minister and the government often saying that this is all about respect and we just need to be more respectful of women, that gendered violence in this nation is rooted in the structural inequalities between men and women, and violence against women and children isn't a political problem that can be resolved by the same tired old practices of business as usual in politics. It's time to start listening as the women of Australia say, 'Enough is enough.' (Time expired)