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Financial Abuse: The What, Who and Why

While there is a growing understanding of domestic and family violence in our community, financial abuse is not always recognised and understood.

Financial abuse is a serious form of domestic and family violence that occurs when an abuser uses money and resources to gain power, and to control their partner or family member. Despite its prevalence, financial abuse can be difficult to recognise.

It is important to be in the know on this topic and familiarise yourself with the signs.

What is financial abuse and how may it present itself?

Financial abuse can be experienced by people from any background, although research shows that this issue disproportionately affects women. It can include but is not limited to the following behaviours:

  • Controlling access to bank accounts​
  • Being pressured to take out loans/debt in partner’s name ​
  • Controlling spending​
  • Hiding money and assets​
  • Preventing partner from working or studying
  • Controlling access to bills/ mortgage/ tenancy agreements

Possible indicators of this form of abuse may include but not be limited to:

  • Unexplained withdrawals from the bank
  • Unusual activity in the bank accounts
  • No access to bank accounts
  • Unpaid bills
  • Unexplained shortage of money
  • Reluctance on the part of the person with responsibility for the funds to provide basic food and clothes etc.
  • Fraud
  • Theft

Who experiences and is impacted by financial abuse?

Financial abuse is a serious and widespread issue in our community, with nearly 1 in 10 Australian’s admit to having been the perpetrator.

According to a  Community Attitude Survey commissioned by CommBank and conducted by YouGov in 2020 almost 40% of the Australian adult population have experienced or know someone who has experienced financial abuse.

Financial abuse can have a long-term impact on the victim-survivor, as well as their children and families.

Why do we need to address it?

Financial abuse is one of the most powerful ways an abuser can keep their partner or family member trapped in an abusive relationship and may also impact on that person’s ability to stay safe and manage day-to-day once they leave.

Financial abuse can leave victims with no funds to purchase essentials such as food and clothing, sometimes causing homelessness. It can also leave them without access to their own bank accounts as well as built up debts leaving them in even worse situations. The psychological impacts may also be significant, with victims often becoming very isolated from any support networks. Some people do not realise that they have been the victim of financial abuse until they have left the relationship.

Thankfully, the Financial Independence Hub can provide help for people who have experienced financial abuse in their journey to long-term financial independence.

Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand’s Financial Independence Hub.

Delivered by Good Shepherd and funded by CommBank as part of their Next Chapter program, the Financial Independence Hub (FIH) is a free, confidential, personalised service supporting people previously impacted by financial abuse across Australia, and in the recovery stages of domestic and family violence, to build their financial independence and achieve their goals – regardless of who they bank with.

The FIH provides free specialist one-on-one financial coaching to help people recovering from domestic and financial abuse to build confidence and capability in managing their own finances, with referrals to support services and, in some cases, access to financial solutions like interest-free loans.

‘Financial independence’ is different for everyone. Each Financial Independence Hub journey will be unique.

How to find out more about the Financial Independence Hub?

  • Head to Good Shepherd webpage
  • Call us on 1300 050 150
  • Email us at

For further information, a range of resources to assist people to recognise the signs of financial abuse and regain financial control.

24-hour help is available –
For emergencies, call 000.
For crisis support and suicide prevention, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
For sexual assault, domestic and family violence support call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732