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Good Shepherd Statement on National Women’s Safety Summit

Ahead of the National Women’s Safety Summit, Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand has outlined economic security at the heart of its vision to address family and domestic violence in Australia. This follows an increase in family violence throughout the COVID-19 period, with research showing the pandemic has coincided with the onset or escalation of violence.

The Federal Government’s National Women’s Safety Summit begins today, bringing together Good Shepherd and other expert voices. Throughout these discussions, Good Shepherd will shine a light on economic abuse and the critical role of financial confidence, capability and connectedness to achieving a violence-free future for women.

CEO of Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand Stella Avramopoulos believes these objectives are the foundations of safer lives.

“Women’s economic insecurity enables and exacerbates family and domestic violence.”

“Good Shepherd wants a future where women do not have to enter relationships for financial survival, are able to exit abusive relationships before violence escalates without financial fears, and can sustain themselves and their children after separation.”

“If a woman is economically insecure it reduces choices, making it more likely that violence will be perpetrated, continue across a relationship, and difficult to escape.”

“If we’re serious about ending family and domestic violence, women’s economic security has to be a major prevention strategy.”

A range of economic inequalities keep women trapped in abusive relationships. Many of these inequalities have worsened during the pandemic, including:

  • Over 900,000 women are under-employed, meaning they can’t get the hours and pay they need.
  • There are 100,000 more women on JobSeeker than before the pandemic, trying to survive on payments below the poverty line.
  • Early super release has imperiled the financial security of younger women, by eroding small super balances or wiping them out entirely.

Good Shepherd has set out policy priorities for government to act on at the Women’s Safety Summit, and in developing the next National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children (attached below).

These policy priorities should form part of a broader program of government action to build women’s economic equity and safety, complementary to workforce participation, wage and retirement income measures.

Ms. Avramopoulos welcomed the opportunity to be part of the summit and was clear on what Good Shepherd wants it to deliver.

“The words spoken at the summit must result in a tangible roadmap for a woman trying to find a way out of an abusive relationship. It should speak directly to them and help them feel confident and capable of leaving, while connected with the right support.”

Good Shepherd policy priorities include:

  • A $7.6 billion expansion of social housing for women leaving abusive relationships. This is needed as soon as possible to make a tangible difference to women’s safety. This would also create 47k new jobs and deliver a $15.3 billion economic boost.
  • Investment in longer-term crisis housing that provides women with immediate safety and puts them on the path to recovery. Crisis housing is too short-term for women with acute financial or recovery needs, and they are being put at risk. We need longer-term options.
  • A commitment to financial support for women leaving abusive relationships, so they can cover housing, health, counselling, security and other essential costs when re-establishing their lives. ‘Escaping Violence Payments’ have been piloted at $5000; this needs to be doubled to help women and children achieve safety.
  • Investment in frontline family violence services so they can respond quickly to increased demand and case complexity (e.g. escalation of family violence during the pandemic).
  • Making economic abuse a priority in the next National Plan. It’s time to move on from piecemeal action and build the capacity of government, industry and community services to prevent, identify and address economic abuse, and help women recover and achieve financial independence.
  • Implementation of a national family and domestic violence risk assessment and management framework, for use in the family law system and by police and other bodies responsible for perpetrator interventions and monitoring.
  • Raising JobSeeker and related payments to at least $65 a day (to bring them into line with the Age Pension) to ensure women have sufficient financial resources to be independent of abusive partners. At current rates too many women, including mothers, remain financially insecure and feel forced to return to violence.

For more information or for media comment from Good Shepherd CEO Stella Avramopoulos please contact Shannon Gill on 0418 162 761.