WEL's 2017 Ending Violence Against Women and Girls Campaign
This year WEL continued to campaign for secure and increased long-term funding for specialist domestic violence services including women’s refuges/shelters and safe-houses. Despite the increased media attention given to the rates of violence against women in Australia, with the exception of Victoria, funding to frontline services that respond to the immediate and longer term needs of women and children experiencing and escaping domestic and family violence remain inadequate.
For over two years WEL has been advocating for a dedicated Women and Children’s Safety Program. Traditionally women’s refuges and associated services have been funded under the Commonwealth/State homelessness program. WEL advocated for the portion of those funds that resource women and children’s domestic violence services to be shifted into a separate, dedicated Women and Children’s Safety Program. The need for a separate program was initially identified through consultations with the NSW sector following the loss of specialist women’s domestic violence services in NSW homeless reforms. Specifically, the NSW State Government’s Going Home Staying Home reforms applied a generalist homelessness lens to a reform and resulted in women’s specialist domestic violence refuges and their associated services losing approximately 80% of their services in NSW.
WEL’s analysis of the NSW reforms was that a separate Women and Children’s Safety Program, funded through a Commonwealth/State agreement would safeguard women’s specialist services that work to respond and prevent domestic and family violence. Whilst there was a high level of organisational, bureaucratic and political support for the program there was also some opposition.
After further consultation, WEL refocused the campaign towards achieving prioritisation of women’s specialist domestic and family violence services within the Commonwealth/State Homelessness Program. We worked in partnership with the Equality Rights Alliance (ERA) and Australian Women Against Violence Alliance (AWAVA) in advocating for a prioritisation of women specialist services in the Commonwealth National Housing and Homelessness Agreement (NHHA).
In October the Commonwealth released the Primary Commonwealth Agreement. The 3 main categories in the agreement are: general housing, homelessness and improvement in data collection. Domestic and Family Violence is one of five primary cohorts in the Supplementary (Bilateral) Agreements to be negotiated with States and Territories.
WEL has written to the Federal treasurer recommending the following elements be included in supplementary components of the Agreements during the negotiations with States and territories:
- A nationally agreed definition of women’s specialist domestic and family violence (D&FV) refuges/shelters/safehouses.
- Outcome measures based on this definition in each of the new bilateral agreements.
- Treating Specialist women’s D&FV services as a priority program, with quarantined funding in each State/Territory for these services.
- Enhancing services that work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, women with disabilities, women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, LGBTQI services; services for women who live in regional, rural or remote areas and services for women exiting prison.
- More funds for specialist women’s D&FV services. The national level of funding is inadequate and many women and their children are turned away from homelessness shelters.
- Equitable access to services. WEL advocates that Commonwealth and state governments match the Victorian Government’s commitment of $1.9b new money in its 2017 state budget.
- Direct funding to providers and services with demonstrated expertise and experience.
The above elements have been shared with WEL’s State and Territory supporters and National Alliances.
WEL still sees merit in a moving domestic and family violence services funded under the Commonwealth/State homelessness and housing agreement into a dedicated Women and Children’s Safety Program.
Other VAW campaign activities
· Partnering with Sydney University on research projects
· Ongoing work on design specifications for research project on evaluating the effectiveness of women’s refuges
· Planning session to develop and cost strategies for next 12 months
· WEL at national Department of Social Services workshop on 3rd Action Plan of National Plan to Reduce Violence Against women and their children
· Teleconference with DSS following the release of the Commonwealth Primary Agreement