Janet Phillips and Helen Portillo-Castro
With an increased public and political focus on family and domestic
violence, there have been calls for further funding measures to reduce the
levels of this form of violence nationally. On 24 September 2015, the Australian Government announced funding for
a Women’s Safety Package. This Budget includes
additional funding of $100.0 million over three years for women’s safety
anti-violence measures (which may be spread across multiple portfolios) is not always
specifically identified in the Budget. The following outlines the
Australian Government’s measures included in the 2016–17 Budget that relate to
women’s safety or domestic and family violence.
New initiatives to
break the cycle of violence
The Australian Government’s main strategy to
reduce the levels of domestic violence in Australia is outlined in the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children
2010–2022 (the National Plan).
Funding for the National Plan is included
under a broader category of ‘National Initiatives’ within the Social Services Portfolio
(Program 2.1: Families and Communities). In the 2015–16 Budget, a total of $119.5 million over four years was
allocated to National Initiatives. The bulk of this funding (approximately
$100.0 million) went to the National Plan.
In September 2015, the Australian
Government announced new funding for a Women’s Safety Package that
included a variety of measures. The Mid-year Economic
and Fiscal Year Outlook 2015–16 (MYEFO) outlined further details about
the allocation of $101.2 million over four years under this package, including
$59.7 million for Safe at Home programs and counselling and technology
trials; $36.5 million for integrated service models and other initiatives to
improve support services; and $5.0 million for an expansion of the Safer
Schools website promoting respectful relationships.
The 2016–17 Budget allocates additional funding of $100.0
million over three years which will ‘build on the $101.2 million that was
provided in the Women’s Safety Package’. However, some
$32.2 million of this funding is redirected from the Department of Prime
Minister and Cabinet’s Indigenous outcome (Program 2.3: Safety and Wellbeing).
The measure will focus on prevention and access to services
and support, including targeted assistance for Indigenous and culturally and linguistically
diverse women and their children. The measure will also
‘draw on the recommendations of the Third Action Plan’ (part of the National
Plan), due for release in mid-2016.
The Australian Government has committed
$9.9 million for the development of a Domestic Violence Order sharing system, the
National Order Reference System, which allows for police and partner agency
cooperation across state and territory borders. This measure also ‘builds on
the Women’s Safety Package’, but this funding ‘has already been provided for by
The Australian Government provides funding to the states and
territories for legal assistance services through the National Partnership
Agreement on Legal Assistance Services. This assistance includes services
provided by family violence prevention legal services.
The Women’s Safety Package announced in
September 2015 included $15.0 million for specialist domestic violence legal
support. This amount was
included, but not specifically identified, in the Women’s Safety Package section
of the 2015–16 MYEFO.
Some stakeholders had argued that family
violence prevention legal services specifically for Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander people should be established as
stand-alone services with a direct allocation of additional funding through
five-year funding agreements.
There are no specific measures in the 2016–17 Budget that allocate additional
funding for family violence prevention legal services, including Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander legal services. However, it has been
reported that the Government has advised the National Association of Community
Legal Centres that some of the additional $100.0 million in funding for
the Women’s Safety Package may be allocated to the legal assistance sector,
although the quantum and distribution of such funding has not yet been
For further detail about funding under the National
Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services see ‘Legal aid and legal
assistance services’ in this Budget Review.
In the lead-up to the Budget, many stakeholders commended
the Australian Government for its commitment to reducing domestic violence
through the implementation of the National Plan, but expressed concerns over
gaps in funding for front line services which ‘continue to struggle to meet
rising demand’. Many expressed concerns over
inadequate or inappropriate services. For example, some stakeholders noted that
many of the major domestic violence services are funded through homelessness
programs, treating the issue as ‘simply a crisis of accommodation’ rather than
‘an entrenched, ongoing social problem’.
Calls for long-term, securely funded, targeted
programs such as a ‘Commonwealth/State Women’s Refuges and Housing
Program,’ as suggested by the Women’s Electoral Lobby, have not been provided
in the 2016–17 Budget. Subsequent stakeholder
reaction has been largely critical with many arguing that front line domestic
and family violence services remain under-resourced.
M Turnbull (Prime Minister), M Cash (Minister for Women, Minister for
Employment, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service), G
Brandis (Attorney-General), S Ley (Minister for Health), C Porter (Minister for
Social Services), N Scullion (Minister for Indigenous Affairs), M Fifield
(Minister for Communications) and S Birmingham (Minister for Education), Women’s
safety package to stop the violence, media release, 24 September 2015.
Further details were provided in S Morrison (Treasurer) and M Cormann (Minister
for Finance), Mid-year
economic and fiscal year outlook 2015–16, p. 218.
DSS, ‘Families and Communities Programme: National
initiatives guidelines overview’, DSS,
Canberra, November 2014.
M Thomas and A Dunkley, ‘Domestic
violence’, Budget Review 2015–16, Research paper series,
Parliamentary Library, Canberra, May 2015.
All online articles accessed May 2016.
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