Federal Parliament - Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2021-2022 [21 June 2021]

21 June 2021

Dr ALYIt's quite serendipitous that I follow the member for Lindsay here today, because I too have questions about the government's commitment to women, particularly those fleeing family and domestic violence as well as more broadly. But I want to start by focusing on domestic and family violence. While we accept that there are some good measures in the budget for women, let's not forget that this is a government for whom women's safety and security only became a thing after their own disastrous record was revealed. The first budget statement on women was revealed in the previous budget, and one wonders why it has taken so long for this government to recognise that women's safety and security as well as a number of issues for women need to have a specific focus within the budget.

With regard to family and domestic violence, of course we welcome any additional funding for women's safety. I know that in my own electorate of Cowan the services that are on the front line, helping women leave family and domestic violence situations, are absolutely inundated. Last week I met with Broken Crayons Still Colour, which helps women to get out or flee family and domestic violence. They have had a 50 per cent increase in the number of women that they have had to help, and they are staffed solely by volunteers. They get absolutely no funding from the government. Similarly, No Limits, within my electorate, has been recognised with several community awards for the work that they do in helping women flee violence and helping them get back on their feet after fleeing family and domestic violence. Again, they are inundated with requests from women and children leaving domestic violence.

Last week in this House I spoke about a case in Cowan of a woman who fled a domestic violence situation with her four children, one of whom has severe autism, and was turned away by a service provider because there simply was no room. She had to return to her abuser, who allows her to stay in the house during the day to look after the children and at night turfs her out to sleep in the local park. Our office and some of the charities in the area were able to provide her with a sleeping bag and some blankets to keep her warm at night. She has to drive 20 minutes to go to the nearest bathroom. And she's not alone in that situation.

Even before COVID-19, the government's own figures suggested that almost 10,000 women and children would be fleeing domestic violence or turned away from shelters. We know that number has increased. So my question to the minister is: why has it taken eight years for the government to realise that we have a crisis here for family and domestic violence accommodation? Fifteen years ago, when I was a volunteer for a family and domestic violence organisation, I wrote a report on a needs analysis for women fleeing domestic violence. That report was called No place to go. Today, I have agencies asking for that report and quoting that report, because there is still no place to go.

The budget sets aside $29.3 million to improve migrant and refugee women's safety over the next three years, but there is $464 million to bolster immigration detention. Let me put that into perspective for everyone here. That is 15 times more money to lock up women and children than to help set them free. Why has the government underinvested in helping women and children flee domestic and family violence, given the scale of the epidemic that we have in this country? We know that First Nations women are 32 times more likely to be hospitalised as a result of domestic violence. Why hasn't the government made an investment that meets the scale of this problem? Like I said, any funding is welcome, but it is simply not enough. Can the government please explain how it came up with the level of funding to put into family and domestic violence given the scale of the problem and given the specific increases in the issue with COVID-19? Why doesn't the funding match the scale of the issue? I'm a little concerned that it's all too little, too late, which happens to be a hallmark of this government, just as with its Women's Budget Statement. I would like the minister to answer those questions specifically. I would like to know where the funding is that actually addresses and meets the scale of this problem.