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22 July 2022

Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand commends the Federal Government’s continued commitment to women’s safety and gender equality ahead of today’s meeting of federal, state and territory Ministers to discuss women’s safety and gender equality.

The National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022-2032 must put financial security and housing front and centre.

While the Draft National Plan makes recommendations on a range of prevention, response, and recovery measures, it is largely silent on the role of financial insecurity in driving violence, preventing escape, necessitating return, or putting up barriers to recovery.

Financial insecurity and a lack of suitable housing compel women to stay in or return to abusive relationships: at least 1 in 4 women who want to leave a violent current partner are unable to do so because they do not have enough money or financial support.

Victim-survivors of family violence can also experience a ‘long tail’ of financial insecurity, that hinders recovery. This includes low and unstable incomes, reliance on poverty-level social security payments, increased medical and support expenses for themselves and their children due to trauma, and reliance on an unstable rental market due to social housing shortfalls. Our client data shows that most No Interest Loans (NILs) clients rely primarily on social security payments, particularly the Disability Support Pension.

Since the pandemic began, almost a third of Australian women have experienced emotionally abusive, harassing, and controlling behaviours, with financial abuse the most common behaviour. Good Shepherd research indicates 90 per cent of our non-family violence practitioners (including financial counsellors) have seen an increase in economic abuse during the COVID period.

Addressing economic abuse and increasing women’s financial confidence, capability and connectedness is vital for achieving a violence-free future for women. It is therefore imperative that financial security and housing form a key and explicit plank of the National Plan and that they are funded in the October Federal Budget.

It is within the scope of the National Plan to outline targeted, high-impact financial security interventions and set these up for funding, including:

  • A trauma-informed social security system that has adequate payment rates and drops punitive mutual obligation requirements, which have demonstrated harm.
  • A commitment to building social housing, especially for people escaping family violence, longer-term recovery housing, and housing for older women.

Good Shepherd wants a future where women do not have to enter relationships for financial survival, are able to exit abusive relationships before violence escalates without financial fears and can sustain themselves and their children after separation.

This is one of the fundamental drivers behind our Financial Independence Hub in partnership with CommBank, which supports recovery from economic abuse and provides a practical pathway to financial security and stability. The FIH is already achieving transformative outcomes. It can be scaled up to meet increasing demand and can be strengthened by policy measures that support women’s financial security.

Good Shepherd looks forward to a National Plan that centres the voices of experts, including those with lived experience, and draws on well-established evidence to end family and domestic violence and ensure women’s economic security.