The government's lack of action on family violence puts women's lives at risk


Jenna Price

Prediction: more women in NSW will be homeless. More women will be killed at the hands of violent partners. More children will be victims.

That's the tough outlook for the vulnerable in NSW, the state which will be worst hit by the Federal government's cuts to community services.


Because these women and children in NSW have already been hit hard – not just by the wrenching crisis in their families, but by the shocking cuts to the homelessness sector in NSW by a state government with a disregard for our most disadvantaged.


The Australian of the Year Rosie Batty has pleaded with the Prime Minister to overturn the federal cuts to community services – but so far, no movement.

So federal cuts and significant state cuts will converge on our most disadvantaged.

Today, a terrifying report today by Fairfax reporter Nicole Hasham shows NSW refuges are turning away – turning away – women and children who need support in record numbers. The number of people being referred to one homelessness service has jumped by 400 per cent. And advocates revealed that these women and children – terrified, poor – are being left stranded.

How can politicians live with themselves? These services are suffering because of funding cuts by the NSW government.

These women and children will have nowhere to live but the streets.

And what will happen next to these families? The Federal government cuts will start to kick in on February 28.

Here's what's happening now.

Tracey Willow, the CEO of Far West Community Legal Centre based in Broken Hill, says the centre, which specialises in family violence support, will lose front line workers. And what do those front line workers do? They work to intervene for those affected by crisis.

"Domestic violence is our core work," she said.

Those cuts will now have a bigger effect because of the tragic cuts to state homelessness funding, which has hit our remote and rural communities.

Willow asks: "Where will victims of domestic violence go for help with complex and costly legal systems?"

And just as they can't get legal support, they are struggling to find emergency accommodation. Willow says the area has already had a reduction of funding for one refuge in Broken Hill.

"We are really anxious and concerned about the wellbeing of women and children in our remote region . . .  we are seeing women and children being forced to leave the community because they can't find accommodation – and who will advocate for them?"

Kerry Thomas, the CEO of Gateway Services, and her team have worked hard to do as governments have always asked them. Work smarter, work harder, develop support which weaves together all the available services. Don't duplicate.

Now their work will be torn asunder by the new changes. Thomas too believes that the impact will be worse because of cuts to services in the local area.

"If you take out all those services working together – just as the government asked – there is a big hole there."

Who will fall into that hole?

 "Children in high risk areas who are experiencing family breakdown, who've experienced the results of trauma, domestic violence, parental stress, financial stress, poverty."

And she says kids with special needs – they put so much extra pressure on a family.

"They are just not going to have support."

The moronic idea, expressed at both state and federal level, is that we need to shift focus from crisis point to early intervention. I wish it were so easy. Until we recognise that what lies beneath this bitter dysfunction is gender inequality – until we change that culture - we will always need both, until we shift corrupted view that men should have power over women, this will be the result. Violence, oh yes, we have violence. Every three hours in Australia, a woman is hospitalised as a result of family violence.

So yes, breaks, bruises, blood. This year already, nine women have died at the hands of men. The juries aren't all in yet – but in the majority of cases, those charged with murder know the woman.

Natalie Lang, deputy secretary of the Australian Services Union (NSW and ACT), has personally fielded calls from workers in the sector who say they are overwhelmed by those who need help.

"We are regularly hearing about the dramatic increase in the number of calls," she says.

"I am concerned about the loss of services which I fear will lead to women and children staying in dangerous situations."

The Australian Services Union is holding  a rally to save community services. 

Australia needs a community intervention – and that's one by the community on governments which think they can cut away the support from the people who need it most.