On Wednesday morning Prime Minister Tony Abbott met privately with Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty, and promised to help abused women fleeing across borders by bringing in a national scheme for domestic violence orders.
The PM also announced the appointment of Ms Batty and retired Victorian Police Commissioner Ken Lay to a new panel advising COAG on family violence. He said in a press conference in Melbourne: “I’m the father of three daughters, I’m the brother of three sisters. The last thing I want to see tolerated is violence against women.”
Abbott said “domestic violence should be compared to other serious crimes,” and he repeated the often quoted harrowing statistics that one in three women will suffer from domestic abuse in their lifetimes, and that one woman dies every week in Australia because of domestic violence.
But Greens Senator Larissa Waters, and a peak body representing women’s services, slammed the announcement, saying it comes after Abbott’s government has gutted many of the programs aimed at preventing violence and supporting women.
Women’s Services Network Australia (WESNET) chair, Julie Oberin, told the Hoopla that many of her member groups had suffered cuts in recent funding rounds.
“There are cuts to community legal services, which includes women’s legal services, and there are also cuts to Aboriginal family violence prevention services, and to some programs aimed at male perpetrators,” said Oberin, whose organisation represents women’s refuges, safe houses and information services.
Oberin said WESNET is calling on the Abbott government to establish a royal commission into domestic violence. The Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women Michaelia Cash called a royal commission unnecessary, saying: “This government already accepts the evidence that we have an epidemic when it comes to violence against women and children.”
“If the Abbott Government is serious about eradicating domestic violence, it needs to reverse its funding cuts for the services that women escaping domestic violence rely on.”
She added: “Domestic violence is the biggest cause of homelessness in women. Too many women are faced with the unbearable decision of living with violence or homelessness.”
The cuts Senator Waters says wants reversed include:
- $43 million over 4 years from the legal assistance sector – federal funding for the entire sector is now uncertain as the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services is currently being renegotiated
- The National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS), worth $4.5 billion over 10 years, which was abolished in the 2014 Budget
- The National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH) will expire on 30 June 2015, and annual funding of $115 million has been extended for one year, rather than the usual five years. NPAH funds workers in community organisations to undertake work which often includes assisting victims of domestic violence find safe and affordable accommodation.
What do you think of the PM’s announcement today?