The Victoria Royal Commission recently invited submissions from anyone affected by domestic violence. Unsurprisingly to those organisations supporting victims of domestic violence, the Commission received over 1,000 submissions. Domestic violence is indeed ‘Australia’s shame’. Focus needs to shift from blaming the victim for not escaping the violence to highlighting the actions of the perpetrator.
It is now incumbent upon the Victorian Government to build that bridge to safety. They must not shy away from the heightened expectations; they must not bow down to artificial boundaries such as the state and federal jurisdictions. They must do Whatever It Takes.
We have a collective responsibility and opportunity to restore safety, dignity and autonomy. NCSMC asked the Commissioners to fully understand the need for autonomy and recognise the financial consequences for single mother families who have been subjected to family violence. It seems obvious that families impacted by domestic violence should be granted an exemption to the current social security rules and retain access to the modest but appropriate Parenting Payment.
Imagine packing your twin girls aged 7 into a car and fleeing, which included crossing two state boundaries. A new life begins, built out of stoic determination; resolve to be free from the violence, the yelling, the threats
and the fear. A small but safe home was their shelter, their sanctuary, the girls
could sing and laugh and it was never too loud. Goodnight meant a ‘good night’.
Mum was not yet in paid work, she needed to be nearby and did volunteer work
at the school. It kept them close and for these girls this meant safe. Imagine losing
it all on 14th May 2013 because the girls celebrated their eighth birthday and
mum was denied the parenting payment, she could not afford to keep her house.
Alarmingly the true number of women and children traumatised, broken and buried by domestic violence can only be ‘guesstimated’. How many others affected by violence did not tender a submission? Victim blaming, systemic failure and fear prevents women from coming forward and seeking support.
Domestic violence must be included in the Australian income support system. Intuitively, we all understand that it’s a time when families need additional and ongoing financial support and that it coincides with increased parental demands.
Is Australia in breach of our Human Rights? What are the consequences if we don’t get this right? It’s time to get real about safety – it’s too costly to ignore.
If you or someone you know has been affected by domestic violence, call the National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line, 1800-RESPECT (1800 737 732). In an emergency, call 000.
The National Working with Men to Tackle Family Violence Conference takes place in Sydney in February 2017. In association with No To Violence, this event will share and discuss strategies for prevention, intervention and perpetrator accountability.