Wednesday, 24 November 2021
Questions without Notice
Domestic and Family Violence
My question is to the Minister for Women's Safety, Senator Ruston. The Women's Safety Summit's statement was clear: affordable and accessible short- and long-term housing is fundamental so that women aren't having to choose between violence and homelessness. Commissions may be useful, but how many additional houses or crisis accommodation places will the domestic family and sexual violence commissioner, announced overnight, create? Where is the funding to put a roof over people's heads and ensure that victim-survivors have somewhere safe to go when they escape? And does the government support national tenancy protections for victim-survivors?
I thank Senator Waters for her question and for her ongoing interest in this really vital area of Australian policy. The coalition government, under which I am the Minister for Women's Safety, is absolutely committed to putting in place a range of measures to make sure we support women who are making that extraordinarily brave decision to leave a violent relationship. Obviously part of that package has to make sure that there is a safe place for them to go. So far, in both the 2021-22 budget and in the Fourth Action Plan, we have provided support to the states and territories, particularly in rural and regional Australia, including a program called Safe Places, which has provided accommodation for 6½ thousand women and children escaping violence every year so that they have a safe place to go.
In addition to that, we are also working with the states and territories around a program called Keeping Women Safe in their Homes because we need to change the dial here. Instead of making the victim-survivors the ones who suffer the pain, we need to make sure that the perpetrators are held to account, and the best way to hold a perpetrator to account, when it is safe to do so, is to make him leave the home so she and the children can stay there with the support mechanisms of their family, friends and their school and so they don't have to leave with nothing. But only when it's safe to do so.
We also announced as part of the 2021-22 budget the escaping violence payment. It's a two-year program that we're trialling to make sure we get it right. That $164 million-plus program provides $5,000 to women who are leaving a violent relationship so that they can have the necessities to be able to set up a safe new home for themselves and, when they have children, their children. One of the things we have heard very clearly is the fact that putting down a bond on a new place to be able to rent sometimes is the most important thing that women are requiring that assistance for. We will continue to work with you, Senator Waters, and everybody else to end violence against women and their children. (Time expired)
The second edition of Our Watch's toolkit, Change the story, was released today. It confirms the need to address the drivers of violence against women. Will the government fund comprehensive expert-led respectful relationships programs from early childhood education onwards to dismantle the rape culture and gender stereotyping at the heart of gendered violence?
One of the fundamental things we have to do as part of the next national plan is to not just provide support for response, albeit that is an important component of what we do in addressing gender based violence, but we have to stop it before it starts. Prevention is the No. 1 thing we must do, because if we are genuinely going to end violence against women and their children we have to stop it from happening in the first place, so it's extremely important we put in place a number of programs.
To your point on consent and respectful relationships, they are the absolute fundamental underlier for making sure that we have a country that is free from violence, because, as we all know, whilst all disrespectful behaviour does not end up in violence, we can be absolutely assured that every single circumstance of domestic, family and sexual violence starts with a disrespectful action. We must address that in the next plan.
The women's safety sector have been calling for an investment of $12 billion over 12 years as part of the new national plan to meet existing demand as well as projected service demands. The government's commitments to date and overnight fall well short of that. Can the minister confirm whether the government ever intends to lift its contribution so that family, domestic and sexual violence services are not forced to turn people away when they seek help?
This government's record stands very strongly. In May this year, the 2021-22 budget made a down payment on the next plan of $1.1 billion, the largest ever investment in women's safety this country has seen and that is running in parallel to the final stages and expenditure of the fourth action plan as well as ongoing measures—for instance, 1800 RESPECT, which is an ongoing measure that is funded into the future. This government has shown a very strong commitment to making sure that the resources are available, not just as you talk about in responding to the horrible situation of domestic violence but in making sure that we deal with prevention, early intervention and also the recovery so we make sure that we are providing the resources on the whole journey that we see through domestic violence. I'd like to think, Senator Waters, that you and I were on a unity ticket to end the violence against women and their children. (Time expired)
Opposition senators interjecting—