Earlier this month, superannuation fund, HESTA announced it would be pushing for women to be able to use their super to deal with debts and other financial problems caused by domestic violence.
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We couldn't agree less.
Financial control and abuse are often the key reasons for women’s lack of finances following violence, and using superannuation to cover debts incurred by the partner only exacerbates this injustice.
Indeed, lack of superannuation already contributes to poverty for older women more generally, and accessing it early would only increase this problem for a cohort who already face financial challenges. Many women face poverty in retirement, especially if they rely on the rental market, as women escaping violence often need to do.
Below, sign our petition, calling on Hesta to retract their statement, and join us in asking the Government to better fund Domestic Violence services and refuges.
WEL notes that a report last year for Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) on improving women’s economic security following domestic violence identifies alternative strategies to promote better economic outcomes for women following violence.
Firstly, there is a need to improve income support, as well as immediate housing and support options including refuges for women following domestic violence.
There is also a need to improve redress for financial abuse and Family Court outcomes. Strategies include improving consumer policies; avenues for resolving debts and small property matters; and availability of legal representation. Increased access to community legal services and financial counselling would contribute to improved financial outcomes.
Access to affordable long term housing, education, training and employment would also promote women’s future economic wellbeing.
HESTA is a super fund that covers a high proportion of women workers in the health and community services sector.
We would welcome HESTA's support for our campaign to convince the Federal Government to adequately fund refuges and post violence pathways for women, not to encourage a path for women to use their already low superannuation savings to deal with the debts and other financial problems caused by domestic violence.
Indeed, overall, action on financial problems caused by domestic violence is increasing. for example, the Commonwealth Bank and Domestic Violence NSW recently partnered to produce a guide to addressing financial abuse. It provides a information on protecting finances and building financial independence after domestic violence, that do not involve women having to use their superannuation.
Let's not introduce a precedent where women must use their superannuation to escape domestic violence.