Women’s safety and gender equality

Budget Review October 2022–23 Index 

Harriet Spinks

Women’s safety

The Budget October 2022–23 provides what the Government describes as ‘a record Commonwealth investment of $1.7 billion over 6 years to end violence against women and children’ (Women’s budget statement October 2022–23, p. 2). This funding is spread across a range of measures and portfolios:

  • $1.3 billion for initiatives to address gender-based violence under the new National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022–2032
  • $169.4 million over 4 years for 500 frontline service and community workers to support women and children experiencing family, domestic and sexual violence, with support targeted to those in rural and remote locations; First Nations people; culturally and linguistically diverse communities; and the LGBTQIA+ community
  • $42.5 million over 4 years to implement the recommendations of the Respect@Work report
  • $83.5 million over 6 years for consent and respectful relationships education (see discussion of this measure in the Budget review article on ‘Funding for schools and student wellbeing’)
  • $3.4 million over 4 years to support the implementation of 10 days paid domestic and family violence leave (for which legislation was passed in October 2022)
  • $3.0 million over 3 years to the National Family Violence Prevention Legal Service forum, to improve access to justice for First Nations people experiencing family violence (this forms part of the First Nations Justice budget measure, discussed in a separate article in this Budget review)
  • $100 million through the Housing Australia Future Fund, for crisis and transitional housing options for women and children fleeing domestic and family violence and older women on low incomes who are at risk of homelessness (this forms part of the Safer and More Affordable Housing budget measure, discussed in the Budget review article on ‘Housing Australians’).

National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022–2023

The new National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022–23 (National Plan) was released by the Government on 17 October 2022. This is the second such National Plan, building on the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children 2010–2022. The new National Plan was developed by successive Australian Governments and state and territory governments, with input and guidance from the National Plan Advisory Group and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Council on family, domestic and sexual violence. It was informed by consultation with the sector through the National Summit on Women’s Safety in September 2021, targeted consultations with stakeholders and victim-survivors, and a House of Representatives Committee inquiry into family, domestic and sexual violence conducted during 2020 and 2021.

Built around the 4 pillars of prevention, early intervention, response, and recovery and healing, the National Plan sets out an ambitious target of ending gender-based violence in one generation. Specific areas of focus identified in the National Plan include improving the evidence base and data collection, strengthening the workforce in the family and domestic violence sector, addressing the structural barriers to women leaving violence (such as access to housing and social security) and improving the justice response.

The National Plan takes an intersectional approach to gendered violence, acknowledging that certain groups experience multiple layers of risk and disadvantage due to the intersections of gender with factors such as race, sexual identity, disability and socioeconomic status. It also recognises children and young people as victims and survivors of violence in their own right, and identifies actions to address violence against children in each of the 4 pillars of prevention, early intervention, response, and recovery and healing.

The National Plan is a partnership between the Commonwealth and state and territory governments. It will be underpinned by 2 general 5-year Action Plans, plus a dedicated First Nations Action Plan, which will set out the specific actions to be taken and the jurisdictions responsible. These Action Plans are yet to be finalised – the first 5-year Action Plan is expected to be finalised in early 2023. It is likely that the funding in this Budget for measures under the National Plan will be supplemented by further funding as the Action Plans are finalised. The Government has also stated an intention to develop a standalone National Plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women, but has not given an indication as to when this might happen, nor has any funding for this been committed to date.

The new National Plan has been welcomed by advocates and praised as having made some improvements on the previous plan, such as its emphasis on intersectionality, on workforce capacity, and on the role of men and boys in prevention. Advocates have also welcomed the acknowledgment of children and young people as victim-survivors in their own right, highlighting that violence is transmitted through generations, and breaking the cycle of violence will therefore require significant investment in recovery and support for young people.

Funding for the National Plan

While responses to the principles embedded in the National Plan have been generally positive, stakeholders have cautioned that adequate funding will be key to realising the ambition to end violence in one generation. Advocates have expressed disappointment that no additional funding was committed to the National Plan, beyond the $1.3 billion committed by the Coalition in the March 2022–23 Budget (p. 170). However, while the sector may have hoped for more, $1.3 billion is the amount the Australian Labor Party (ALP) had promised in its election commitments. The Budget provides this, matching the Coalition’s funding commitment from the March 2022–23 Budget, but with some redistribution of funds across programs and portfolio areas.

The Women’s Safety measure in Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: October 2022–23 states that the Government will ‘improve the quality of spending on Women’s Safety to enhance the Government’s contribution to the First Action Plan of the National Plan … with no impact on underlying cash over 5 years to 2026–27’ (p. 186). It states that funding will provide for ‘new initiatives’ including:

  • $39.6 million to meet increased demand for the Escaping Violence Payment
  • $25.0 million to trial responses to address perpetrator behaviour
  • $13.9 million for a First Action Plan Priorities Fund
  • $12.6 million additional funding for a pilot program to assist temporary visa holders experiencing domestic violence.

However, these initiatives are not all new – for example, the pilot program for temporary visa holders and the Escaping Violence Payment are existing programs, which are receiving additional funding.

The measure also states that the Government will ‘better target spending by reducing or not proceeding with’ aspects of the Women’s Safety measure from the March 2022–23 Budget, specifically:

  • $59.6 million over 5 years by ‘aligning’ funding for Specialist Family Violence Services with anticipated levels of need (the method of anticipating need is not made clear)
  • $35.2 million over 5 years by not proceeding with a trial of electronic monitoring of perpetrators and a Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence Fund. The measure states that initiatives that were to be trialled under the discontinued Fund will instead be delivered through alternative funding allocations, such as the new First Action Plan Priorities Fund.  

Other measures funded under the Women’s Safety umbrella are identified in the Women’s budget statement (pp. 59–65). These include:

  • $1.0 million to establish an advisory group to ensure engagement with victim-survivors throughout the life of the First Action Plan
  • $5.0 million to strengthen the Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence Commission’s program of engagement activities and to deliver evidence-based advice to Government
  • $23.3 million for Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS)
  • $104.4 million to support Our Watch, Australia’s national organisation for the primary prevention of gender-based violence
  • $55.3 million for additional phases of the Stop it at the Start campaign
  • $40.4 million for Specialised Family Violence Services to expand support to assist people who are experiencing, witnessing or at risk of family and domestic violence
  • Up to $57.9 million for the Keeping Women Safe in their Homes and the Safe Phones programs
  • $100 million to continue the Safe Places program
  • Dedicated funding of $10.7 million to the Northern Territory under the Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence National Partnership, recognising the higher rates of violence and increased complexity of remote service delivery
  • $48.7 million to expand the Family and Domestic Violence Primary Health Network Pilot, which will assist primary care providers with early identification of and intervention in family, domestic and sexual violence
  • $25.0 million to support the Illawarra Women’s Health Centre to establish a women’s trauma recovery centre
  • Up to $39.7 million to support Lifeline Australia to continue delivering DV-alert, a nationally accredited training program designed to help health, allied health and community frontline workers better understand and identify domestic and family violence
  • $87.9 million for the Lighthouse Project, a family safety risk screening and specialised case management pilot, to be extended to all 15 primary family law registries
  • $10.8 million to support No To Violence to deliver telephone counselling and referral services to men seeking support to change their violent or controlling behaviour
  • $34.8 million to establish a new early intervention trial for young men and boys aged 12 to 18 years with adverse childhood experiences including family or domestic violence, and who are at risk of perpetrating family, domestic or sexual violence.

Again, while some of these are new initiatives, many are existing programs which will receive additional or continued funding.

While the funding commitment for the National Plan in this Budget is less than the sector had been hoping for, it is likely that further funds will be committed in the coming years, as the Action Plans are finalised. With the first Action Plan due for release in early 2023, the sector will be watching closely for funding to support this Action Plan in the 2023–24 Budget.

Gender equality and gender-responsive budgeting

The October 2022–23 Budget also includes measures aimed at improving gender equality in Australia, including funding for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to develop a National Strategy to Achieve Gender Equality and support the implementation of gender responsive budgeting and gender impact assessments across the whole of government (Budget paper no. 2, p. 170). While the quantum of funding is small ($3.1 million in 2022–23 only), the measure is significant in that it marks a move towards gender responsive budgeting being embedded across Government and the entire budget process.

Gender responsive budgeting is the application of gender mainstreaming principles to the budget process. It involves incorporating a gender perspective at all stages of the budgetary process, analysing all budget measures for their impact on gender equality, and redesigning budgets to ensure they promote and advance gender equality. Gender responsive budgeting is becoming increasingly common globally, including in OECD countries, although countries have adopted varying approaches and models.

Australia was a pioneer of gender responsive budgeting, with the introduction of a Women’s Budget Statement by the Hawke Government in the 1980s. However, over time, the gendered analysis of budget measures was reduced to a statement of measures which primarily affect women, rather than an analysis of how all measures would affect women. As one researcher has observed, by the end of the Howard Government, commentators were noting that ‘the Women’s Budget Statement had become more of an exercise in government self-justification of its policies and less of an analysis of the budget from a gender perspective; a compilation of the budget initiatives [rather] than a strategy for engaging with budget decision-making’ (p. 11).

Gender equality advocates and researchers have been calling for some time for Australia to return to a process which is more true to the principles of gender responsive budgeting, and the ALP committed to doing so prior to the 2022 Federal Election. The October 2022–23 Women’s budget statement notes that the Office for Women conducted a pilot program of undertaking gender impact assessments on select policy proposals during the October 2022–23 Budget process. The policy areas included the care workforce, housing, jobs and skills, and child care. The pilot gender impact assessments will ‘inform next steps and the evolution of the approach over future Budgets, and consideration of the most appropriate model for the Australian context’, with the intention being for gender responsive budgeting and gender impact assessments to ultimately be embedded across all policy areas and budget proposals (p. 13).


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