Budget Needs a Gendered Approach

The Federal Government has a choice in its next Budget, to continue to impose a burden on the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people or commit to a fairer, more equitable budget. That is the crux of McAuley Community Services for Women’s submission to the Federal Government’s budget consultation.

CEO Jocelyn Bignold says: “It is important that we see restoration of funding to essential programs and support services and an ongoing and increased commitment to programs including family violence, homelessness and affordable housing, mental health and to increase individual participation in education, training and employment.”

The submission focuses on three main areas: family violence, homelessness and affordable housing, and access to adequate income support. The raft of recommendations include:

  • A reinstatement of the $200 million (that was cut in the 2015/16 budget) to respond to the increased reporting of family violence, inclusive of legal assistance, housing, police, courts and counselling.
  • An increase in funding and roll out of a financial and economic model of prevention and response funding against the projected costs of $15.6 billion outlined in the National Action Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women.
  • Fully fund a national ‘safe at home’ program complete with technological safety mechanisms for women and children.
  • Make financial abuse, in the context of family violence, a priority area for family violence research, including the development of a diagnostic screening tool for use by key service providers, aimed at prevention, early intervention and later stage intervention strategies for combating financial abuse.
  • Fund a review of existing homelessness and housing priorities with a gender analysis with the view to the development of efficient and effective models to tackle homelessness and pathways to housing and training and employment.
  • Negotiate with State and Territory Governments and to fund a National Affordable Housing Strategy as recommended through the Senate Economics Reference Committee paper Out of Reach: The Australian housing affordability challenge (May 2015).

McAuley Community Services for Women has also contributed to the Victorian Government’s budget consultations. In it, we congratulate the government for introducing leave to people experiencing family violence while encouraging all departments to take on our Engage to Change training program to help employers and employees better understand the prevalence and impact of family violence on staff and themselves.

Children are also highlighted in our submission in which we call for specialist children’s programs within family violence to be funded.

“Children’s specific needs are often not prioritised in the family violence system, and yet one in four children experience or witness family violence. Children are present at about one third of family violence incidents reported to Victoria Police,” Ms Bignold said.

The final major recommendation is to educate and resource the legal system to provide additional support for women and children during court sessions.

The inquest into the death of Luke Batty revealed a number of gaps and flaws to address in criminal justice and family violence processes and systems.

“Coroner Ian Gray made 29 recommendations to improve the family violence prevention and response system, including holding perpetrators to account, improving collaboration and information sharing between different agencies within the system, and funding family violence advocacy positions. We believe all recommendations should be funded and followed through,” Ms Bignold said.