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A great step forward but we need a giant leap to end FDV

The Federal Government’s $1.7 billion commitment to women’s safety initiatives announced in this year’s budget is a much welcome and critical step in the journey to end family and domestic violence in Australia.

The announcement represents a record spend (over six years) – in the history of any previous Government – for the safety, and protection of women and children against domestic and sexual violence, for which the Albanese Government should be commended.

It is a crucial that initiatives are put in place and more assistance is provided for women and children in crisis so we can save lives and end life-long trauma in our communities.

There are many positives outlined in the raft of commitments including additional crisis, transitional and social housing, a boost to the Escaping Violence Payment (up to $5,000) and almost $100 million in recovery support.

There are also positive measures such as greater support for women in the workplace through more affordable childcare, expanded parental leave and the implementation of the Respect@Work recommendations to address sexual harassment in the workplace.

“At Ruah, every day we see the struggles women and children have in escaping family and domestic violence and then moving on to rebuild their lives,” said Tanya Elson, Ruah’s General Manager, Family and Domestic Violence.

Assisting women and children in crisis with the immediate fundamentals of finding safe and affordable housing and then gainful employment, education and childcare are some of the first important steps. This is where the Government has focused its immediate attention.

It is also important to recognise that healing and recovery are the next critical steps and not always an obvious part of the solution equation.

“The healing and recovery process can be long-term and requires targeted and timely intervention and support services, for women, and for their children,” explained Tanya.

“And we know that to break the intergenerational cycle of violence we need to provide specialist support to children who have suffered family and domestic violence early in their lives.”

Children who have experienced family and domestic violence are five times more likely to receive a mental health support service by the time they turn 18-years-old.

This is exacerbated by the fact that there is currently a six-year delay between police or health contact in relation to family and domestic violence and children and teenage victim’s access to mental health support.

We need to do better, especially when you consider that children who have experienced family and domestic violence are also more likely to experience it or use it in their adult life – and so the cycle continues in our communities.

Changing the culture around family and domestic violence is part of the solution and Ruah welcomes the funding that has been earmarked for primary prevention initiatives, including $35 million for early intervention with at risk young men and boys.

Providing more support for recovery – such as the $25 million for the Illawarra Women’s Trauma Recovery Centre, the first domestic violence trauma recovery centre in NSW – is also critical for victims of family and domestic violence – wherever they are in Australia.

Additional support is also needed for particularly vulnerable women such as Aboriginal women who experience disproportionate rates of family and domestic violence.

In July last year we launched a capital fundraising campaign for the Ruah Centre for Women and Children – the first of its kind in WA – and a safe, purpose-built and state-of-the-art centre providing wraparound support and services, where women and their children can heal and recover, and rewrite their futures.

We have received commitments of $4.2m from the WA Government and $2.1m from the Federal Government for the project, which is currently scheduled to be completed by the end of 2023.

The Ruah Centre for Women and Children will also be a centre of excellence for research and collaboration to help end family violence. We will simply not get better outcomes by doing the same things!

“Ending family and domestic violence requires even greater funding for healing and recovery support and services, and to enable resourcing for innovation, so we can keep building the evidence-base of what works and seeking new solutions,” said Tanya.

With that aim, Ruah will continue to work to deliver this landmark project and to secure the funding required for its ongoing operating costs, while delivering much-needed frontline services to women and children in crisis from all across WA.