10 things the government will include in the budget if it really values women

Former Australian of the Year Rosie Batty wants the government to end chronic underfunding of the Family Court, and ...

Former Australian of the Year Rosie Batty wants the government to end chronic underfunding of the Family Court, and close down Nauru. Photo: Eddie Jim

Sometimes one person you interview really nails it.

I asked ten Australian women what they really want the federal government to fix in the 2016 budget. Every single one is an expert in her field, a politician, a lobbyist, a campaigner.

But it was Fiona McCormack, the brilliant woman who runs Domestic Violence Victoria, who really told the story.

Fiona McCormack from Domestic Violence Victoria.

Fiona McCormack from Domestic Violence Victoria. Photo: Emma Morgan

She said: "We fund what we value as a community."


On Wednesday, the Federal government announced $30 million for ads. That's all. $30 million for a series of advertisements meant to persuade abusers that violence is not ok. $30 million is just spare change.

The Abbott government shredded community legal centres. The Turnbull government put in $100 million to women's support services, but that didn't make up for the money sliced and diced in the first place.

We fund what we value. The women who spoke to Daily Life demand the federal government values women.

1. Fund domestic violence services for Aboriginal women

Antoinette Braybrook, CEO, Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention & Legal Service Victoria

"Violence against Aboriginal women is at the epicentre of the national family violence crisis. This should be at the centre of the Federal Budget -  93 per cent of our clients are Aboriginal women and children. Aboriginal women are 35 times more likely to be hospitalised from violence and 10 times more likely to die.

"We need a minimum additional investment of $28 million to ensure all Aboriginal women regardless of geographic location can access our services."

2. Reverse cuts to community legal centres 

Katie Fraser, acting executive officer, the Federation of Community Legal Centres, Victoria

Community legal centres nationally turn away around 160,000 people every year mainly due to a lack of resources.

"In Victoria, the funding shortfall means only around 28 per cent of women seeking intervention orders in court are able to receive help from our specialist family violence duty lawyers. That figure should be at least 90 per cent," said Fraser.

"Nationally, community legal centres need around $62 million a year in Federal funding to reverse planned cuts and reflect a fair share of additional legal assistance funding recommended by the Productivity Commission - a 2014 recommendation to which the Federal Government has failed to respond," says Fraser.

But from July next year, community legal centres will be hit with a national 30 per cent Federal cut of around $12 million, reducing funding to just $30.1m, sustained out to 2019-20.

As she points out, that will more than wipe out the legal help funding in the Women's Safety Package, which provides just $15m over the three years to July 2018.

"What we're asking for is the reversal of Federal cuts set to begin in July 2017, and an additional boost of around $14.4 million a year as a first, urgent step in the May Federal Budget."

"Community legal centres are the mainstay of free legal help with family violence across Australia, and fully funding their work is essential for the safety of women and children who will otherwise be at increased risk of abuse, injury and death."

3. Support workplace equality measures

Marie Coleman, chair of the Social Policy Committee, the National Foundation of Australian Women

The elder stateswoman of women's policy in Australia says the government must sort itself out on its approach to paid parental leave. She says the chaotic lurch from one policy to another, punishing one group or another, must be stopped.

"Drop plans to punish women by making so many of them ineligible for paid parental leave."

And one more thing: "Stop the crazy attempt to keep ripping the guts out of family tax benefits. That was part of the first Hockey budget, it's still there in forward estimates."

And another thing: "Be straightforward about your support for the Workplace Gender Equality Agency. Make sure there is financial support for data collection."

4. Match Victoria's investment in domestic violence services long term

Fiona McCormack, Domestic Violence Victoria

McCormack is delighted with the Victorian government's response to the Royal Commission into Family Violence. Now she wants to federal government to stand up too and says it must spend $4 billion over two years to match the Victorian government's investment specifically to bring family violence service provision up to speed.

"And we must stop funding these services for two years, four years, one year. These services must be ongoing. We are grossly underfunded and we don't have the assurance of ongoing funding when it comes to the federal government.

"Governments talk about investing in antiterrorism and anti terrorism initiatives. But we have got women and children being murdered on home soil and when it comes to funding initiatives to stop this, we balk."

"We fund what we value as a community."

5. Bring back gender budget analysis

Claire Moore, the shadow minister for women

"We must make sure we return to having a gender lens enshrined in all policy decisions. It is the gold standard internationally when policy is being developed, what will the impact on women be?

"We may not always get the impact we want but at least it is always a core part of the decision-making."

Moore says that the current Office of Women process for evaluating policies is not stringent enough.

The Federal government dumped the women's budget in 2014 and, as Miranda Stewart, professor and director of the Tax and Transfer Policy Institute at the Australian National University, says, Australia was a pioneer in gender budget analysis from 1983 to 2013.

Stewart says placing a gender lens over an apparently neutral policy may reveal contradictions in policy.

"For example, when the government established the baby bonus it created economic incentives for women to stay at home but at the same time, the Prime Minister was encouraging women's workforce participation."

A gender lens would have exposed the contradiction, says Stewart.

6. End chronic underfunding of Family Court. And close Nauru 

Rosie Batty, former Australian of the Year, campaigner against family violence

Batty, fierce, tireless, always has a long list. First on the list right now is the Family Court which she says is chronically underfunded and is struggling to deal with cases.

Then: "If we are serious about stopping violence against women, we must close Nauru and process families in Australia."

"We also need to extend to crisis payments to women experiencing family violence who don't have permanent residency status."

7. Close the Superannuation gap

Pauline Vamos, outgoing CEO of the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia

She was a fierce critic of the government's decision to remove the Low Income Superannuation Contribution (LISC). On the eve of her departure from ASFA, she's still fighting the decision, set to operate from next year.

"The government has been looking very closely at the gap between male and female retirement incomes and there are a number of measures but the most convenient measure would be to retain the Low Income Superannuation Contribution.

"We would urge the government to do that. It costs a billion dollars a year and it costs that because it is well-used and well-targeted."

"Allowing low income earners to get ahead is very important."

8. Affordable, accessible childcare

Kate Ellis, Shadow Minister for Early Education

The latest modelling of the Government's changes to childcare payments show that one in three families will be worse off. The government claims low-income families will be protected but the modelling, by the Australian National University on behalf of Early Childhood Australia, shows a different story.

"Vulnerable and disadvantaged children might be eligible for subsidised child care under the child care safety net but this will only provide for 24 hours a fortnight, or 12 hours a week – a 50% reduction on what these children are currently eligible for.

"The changes will cut early education in half for Australia's most vulnerable children, up to a $2500 cut calculated by the loss of child care benefit.

"The Liberals will go to the election having done absolutely nothing to help families with accessible and affordable child care – they haven't even brought their own legislation up for debate. It's quickly approaching the one-year anniversary of the so-called Jobs for Families package, and there are still basic questions which remain unanswered about this legislation. We don't know how many vulnerable and disadvantaged children will be pushed out of early education because of these changes.

"We don't know how many Indigenous children will have their early education cut. And we don't know the impact of the changes on casual workers and parents transitioning back to work."

9. Long term, specific funding for women's refuges and transitional housing 

Melanie Fernandez, Chair, Women's Electoral Lobby

"WEL is calling on the Government to establish a Women and Children's Safety Program," says Fernandez. 

"A key element of this is a long term Commonwealth/State-funded program specifically for women's refuges, transitional housing and other related services, separate from the current homelessness program which does not meet the needs of women and children fleeing violence."

10. Better financial support for jobseekers 

Jade Lancaster, unemployed

Jade, 25, who lives in Nowra, has been unemployed for the last five months. She had a job briefly as a waitress but could not afford the petrol to get to work so she left.

Jade began her working career as a barista, then started in a deli and as a cashier in a large supermarket chain in Canberra. She has never – ever – had trouble work until now.

On behalf of all the young women and men in rural and regional Australia, Jade pleads: "Please give more support to young people who need work."

She lives on $592 a fortnight – and from that she must pay $330 a fortnight in rent and $22 on food for her beloved dog. She's so responsible that she does all her bills first and after all that, there is just $40 left for food for the rest of the fortnight.

"There are days I don't have lunch and days I don't have breakfast."

And the organisation which supports her in her hunt for work just tells her to send out her resumé. Five months on, she's not holding out much hope.