Support for Women Escaping Domestic Violence
As many as 1 in 6 women will experience domestic violence at some point in their life – a truly shocking number – and we have seen evidence that, through the pandemic, this number has risen.
Domestic violence occurs across all ages, across all socioeconomic and demographic groups. Its victims are invariably women and children. And no one is immune from its effects. I have heard from police that domestic violence rates are disproportionately high here in the Eastern Suburbs, with private lives of fear and abuse often masked by outwardly content public lives.
Since I was elected as the Federal Member for Wentworth in 2019, but particularly through the pandemic, I have discussed this harrowing issue at length with several domestic violence organisations active in the Eastern Suburbs. Groups such as the Lokahi Foundation, Bondi Cottage, Lou’s Place, Wayside Chapel, the Women’s and Girls Emergency Centre and the Run for Good Project provide support to victims of domestic violence. To help raise the voices of these organisations, I arranged an online discussion forum in early October with my colleague, the Minister for Women’s Safety, Anne Ruston.
Those who have not experienced domestic violence may wrongly believe that domestic violence could be fixed by those women simply leaving their violent partners. The onus to go should never be on the victim, though too often it is. Yet what I have heard from domestic violence organisations and those with such a lived experience is that women find it hard to flee such relationships because they do not have the means to support themselves if they do. The obstacles can be formidable.
Frequently the victim must care for her children, who usually accompany her, yet she may well have lost access to shared bank accounts and is much too afraid to contact the partner. Fortunately, several organisations in our electorate help with this, assisting them in finding temporary housing, work, clothing, food and other essentials.
The 2020 trial of the early access to superannuation revealed that many women accessed the scheme to gain cash to support themselves and their children in the early weeks and months after having fled domestic violence.
The government is now introducing an Escaping Domestic Violence payment. This payment will provide women with up to $1,500 in cash and $3,500 of in-kind assistance to cover things such as rental bonds, school fees, utilities and clothing. This will not be a cure-all, but I hope that it will provide some financial security for those women who make the brave and difficult decision to leave an abusive relationship. You can find out more by contacting my office. Domestic violence and abuse is never okay and must never be tolerated.