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The onset of COVID-19 quickly brought everyday life to a halt and exacerbated many of the hardships faced by vulnerable Australians. It has been well established that the impact on women has been serious and disproportionate. Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand welcomes the Federal government’s focus on an inclusive budget that identifies specific initiatives to support women, children, and their families.

In a Roy Morgan study commissioned by Good Shepherd, it was found that 42 per cent of all working Australians became economically vulnerable because of the pandemic – this percentage was higher for women, migrants, young people, and those on lower and average incomes. “Through the delivery of our No Interest Loans programs (NILS), financial counselling and family violence support, we have seen the impact of COVID-19 on everyday Australians; people who are newly vulnerable, who have not ever needed to engage with support prior to now”, said Ms Stella Avramopolous, CEO of Good Shepherd.

Ms Avramopolous continued saying, “the record investment in the 2021-22 federal budget is welcome and will assist members of our community who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and beyond, however, there is more to do. Based on the more than 20,000 financial conversations with individuals touched by financial hardship Good Shepherd has conducted through its Household Relief Program we believe the government must shift away from one-off funding announcements and move to a program of policy reform that acknowledges and supports the link between financial security, stronger families, and mental health”.

Notwithstanding this, Good Shepherd welcomes the investment in funding for domestic violence prevention with over $1.1b being contributed to family and domestic violence prevention, including the well-rounded focus on emergency accommodation, counselling, legal support, cash payments and reform to the family law system. The promotion of Good Shepherd’s DV-NILS program to increase awareness of this pathway of support is an additional opportunity we welcome; we would further encourage the government to acknowledge financial abuse as a key experience of family violence and ensure support extends beyond financial literacy programs. We look forward to working with the government on implementing strategies to respond to family and domestic violence that support new and innovative measures for sustainable change.

The investment in Aged Care and Child Care also presents significant opportunities for increasing women’s workforce participation. “We need a continued focus on the female dominated workforce that addresses both the systemic challenges and barriers to employment that existed before the COVID-19 crisis that have only been exacerbated”, Ms Avramopolous continued. “We encourage the government to continue its focus on investing in women’s workforce participation including addressing insecure, precarious and casualised work”.

As Australia’s oldest charity working to support women, children and families experiencing abuse and disadvantage, Good Shepherd has walked alongside those more significantly impacted by COVID-19. Today’s budget is a step towards wellbeing and strengthened economic security with much more still to done.