Monday, 18 October 2021
Questions without Notice
Domestic and Family Violence
Congratulations on your election earlier today, Mr President.
My question is to the Minister for Women's Safety, Senator Ruston. Can the minister outline to the Senate how the Liberal and Nationals government is assisting women who are escaping domestic violence?
Mr President, I too add my congratulations on your appointment to the auspicious role of President of this amazing place.
I thank Senator Chandler for her question, a question that is so incredibly important to all Australians. It's about ending violence against women and their children. Sadly, we know that one in six women, from the age of 15, will experience violence at the hands of a partner. It is an absolute blight on our society, and I can assure everybody in this chamber that this government is committed to doing something about it.
We must aim to prevent violence before it happens, but unfortunately when it does happen we also need to be there to support women and their children, to help them rebuild their lives. That's why today I was pleased to announce the escaping violence payment, which is a $144.8 million initiative that is part of the $1.1 billion investment in women's safety in the budget. The payment aims to help 12,000 women—however, it is a demand-driven payment—to make sure that we provide them with the necessary supports so that they are able to overcome the financial barriers to leaving violent relationships and, in doing so, alleviate one of the main reasons why women stay in violent relationships or potentially go back to violent relationships.
The flagship investment will give women more security when they make that extraordinarily brave decision to leave a violent relationship and all of the forms of domestic, family and sexual violence, including physical violence, coercive control and financial abuse. The escaping violence payment is up to $5,000 to help women rebuild their lives free of violence. Fifteen hundred dollars of this will be in cash, perhaps for something as simple buying as the kids a new lunchbox. The other $3½ thousand can go towards things like paying for rental bonds, whitegoods, school fees et cetera. It's not taxable, it's not reportable and it doesn't impact on other payments. I look forward to continuing to update the Senate on this initiative.
It is an extraordinarily important issue and one which we know that we must continue to address as we work towards developing the next National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children. Since the first plan was implemented, in 2010, our understanding of what violence is and how it manifests has certainly grown. New and emerging forms of domestic violence—things like coercive control, financial abuse, technology facilitated abuse—are absolutely insidious and make it near impossible, in some circumstances, for women to gather the resources to make the decision to actually leave an abusive relationship. These barriers to leaving an abusive relationship are exactly what the escaping violence payment is making sure we address. Importantly, as I said, the payment is not means-tested in the traditional sense. We want to make sure it's available to every women no matter where she comes from, because we know it's not uncommon for bank accounts to be frozen or credit cards to be cut off. It doesn't matter what size the house the woman comes from; she needs our support— (Time expired)
I'm really pleased that, as of tomorrow morning, the UnitingCare Australia Consortium, our preferred and selected partner, will start the three-year trial to support this program. UnitingCare has extensive experience in supporting victims-survivors of domestic, family and sexual violence, and they also have a footprint that covers a huge amount of Australia. The support that is being provided under this program will be tailored to meet the individual circumstances, and we will also be working, through UnitingCare, with state and territory governments to make sure that we have seamless support for women when they leave a domestic violence situation. Eligible applicants must be experiencing domestic violence and have had changed living circumstances, or may find themselves in changed living circumstances, and be under financial stress. Evidence can include, but is not limited to, things like domestic violence orders, referral from a domestic service provider— (Time expired)