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Give us shelter: why new DV funding isn’t anywhere near enough

The Turnbull government’s announcement last week of $100 million worth of funding to address domestic violence is better than silence, and goes to some small way towards acknowledging the enormous problem this country has with male violence against women.

But what it does not do, and for this appalling omission the government should be unrelentingly and loudly pilloried, is fund the urgent immediate need for frontline services such as refuges and community legal centres, both of which are a woman’s first stop when she’s forced to flee a dangerous domestic situation.

What this says to me is that safe, secure, un-threatened people such as politicians have absolutely no idea what it is like to be in a situation of such extreme danger that you have to flee, or risk injury or death to yourself and your children by staying.

And flee to where, exactly?

Not only do these fortunate politicians have no idea what this situation feels like, they apparently don’t care. Neither do have they the imagination to picture such a scene, and how they might feel in it.

Legal services are outraged at Minister for Women Michaelia Cash’s apparent spin on funding cuts that will directly affect women suffering domestic violence, and will see the centres in dire financial straits by 2017.

If politicians had the capacity to imagine themselves in such a situation, they would perhaps begin to understand that providing refuges for women and children must be the first priority in any plan to end family violence, in conjunction with some of the other options funding currently covers.

As I write this and as you read it, there will be women, alone or with their children, trying to get out of a house which is not a safe environment for them because it’s inhabited by a violent male intent on doing them harm. They need somewhere to go. Right now.

This ought not to be a difficult situation for a government to remedy. Providing funding for women’s refuges and legal centres is not going to break the budget. Yet, after decades of feminist activism we are going backwards: closing refuges, threatening the funding of community legal centres, handing over the refuges that remain to religious organisations who have little or no experience with the repercussions of domestic violence, and whose workers are primarily trained to deal with homelessness, not specifically with traumatised women and children fleeing abuse.

Solutions to domestic violence can’t be a one size fits all. Some women will be able to stay in their homes. Others will absolutely not. The period when a woman attempts to leave an abusive situation is well-recognised as the most dangerous for her, and for children involved. It is when she is most likely to be murdered, or severely injured, as the perpetrator’s rage escalates at the prospect of abandonment, and loss of control over his partner. Nothing will help in such situations if first-off, the woman has nowhere to go.

This is not complicated. Why will politicians not act to save women’s lives in the most pressing, the most obvious way, by adequately funding and staffing refuges and legal centres for the increasing numbers of women and children who have to get out, and have no place to which they can flee?

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

 

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16 comments

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  1. Kaye Lee

    “According to the advocacy group, SOS Women’s Services, 75% of women’s shelters were transferred to faith-based charities.

    The response from the refuge movement was one of shock, outrage and grief. Long-term shelter workers were dismissed en masse. Shelters shut down, changed their names, closed for renovations – for months, the system was a mess, and referral services were left in the dark. NSW police – who spend 40% of their time dealing with domestic violence – were left out of the reform process and not even told which shelters would be closing.”

    I went through this process first hand when I was on the board for a homeless youth refuge that provided medium term accommodation for 15-21 year olds (and as young as 12 in emergencies to help police or DOCS out).

    We worked on a rewards based system which was achieving great success. We also ran a successful outreach program and had partnerships with low cost housing, employment and local Indigenous groups.

    The NSW government decided a church group who ran several refuges were better placed to run our facility and threatened to remove our auspice whilst closing down two other independent refuges in the area. I fought as hard as I could with the final result of keeping the refuge open and all youth workers to keep their jobs but we had to hand over to the church group who had failed the accreditation we had already passed.

    It was a heartbreaking time that still makes me unbelievably angry and sad.

  2. RosemaryJ36

    The ability to empathise is conditioned by the individual’s perceptions of reality.

  3. Kyran

    The $100m announced is replacing $400m of cuts, over a four year period. According to brandy on Insiders this morning, $15m of this is to go in funding to twelve community legal centres, mostly in rural areas. Whilst he acknowledged support services were integral to any solution, there was no reference as to what, if any, funding would be available. In the same interview/diatribe, he made reference to the ‘new’ government and the ‘previous’ government.
    “This is not complicated.”
    I suspect, in the mind’s of most, never truer words were said. However, political expediency, when conflicted with political resolve, is a matter best handled by spin doctors. The new treasurer sees spending as a ‘problem’, not a solution. Cue the spin doctors.
    Thank you, Ms Wilson. Take care

  4. Wally

    Another example of how our politicians are removed from reality.

  5. Pingback: Give us shelter: why new DV funding isn’t anywhere near enough – » The Australian Independent Media Network | lmrh5

  6. kerri

    The other thing I found annoying and very elitist, out of touch, throw money at the problem logic in last weeks announcement was the focus on high tech solutions. “Oh we’ll just give the woman a new mobile phone and then she’ll be safe!” “We’ll set up her house with security cameras and alarms so her ex will be scared off!”
    What garbage!
    Do they have any idea how many homes they would have to fit out? How many phones they will set up that will be smashed by the abuser? How much wiring will be snipped? Such a stupid shallow answer to a problem they just don’t get? Even Anastacia Palaczuk after another domestic violence victim was killed a week or so ago stated “Please call 000 if you are in trouble.” How many ice addled and mentally unstable men will see that call as a red rag? “Oh Honey, could you just stop hitting me for a moment while I call the cops?”
    Does Cash need to spend a week in a home with an abused family before she can twist her little neo-con mind to accept that having a phone is not the bee all and end all? And that calling the cops presumes they will get there before he kills you or the kids? Women need a fast exit and a place to go to.
    On facebook about a month ago was the story of a couple of young guys who started a removalist company. Meathead Removals. After getting a call from a desperate woman who needed to get out NOW! Before her abuser returned they set their business to doing just that! Helping women flee abusive partners! For free!!
    What brilliant guys! They deserve a medal! Sadly they are in the US and they are fully funded by the government. If only there were someone here with such foresight and if only the LNP had not cut funding to shelters so the women have somewhere to go!
    http://m.dailylife.com.au/news-and-views/a-moving-company-in-the-us-is-helping-domestic-violence-victims-move-out-for-free-20150906-gjgi0p.html

  7. diannaart

    Vital article, Jennifer.

    Just locking ‘them’ out does not work – you just achieve a busted door to explain to the real estate agents. Oh, and it took more than that before I actually did leave – deserve an award for stupid, don’t I?

    I get the feeling that there is unspoken desire to punish people for simply being imperfect, dumb arse people – yet not so much for punishing the outright cruel, vindictive and controlling.

    Long, long way from being the civilised beings we claim we are.

  8. Wally

    Here are a few simple things that could make a huge difference.

    Educate woman on how to avoid becoming a statistic of domestic violence.
    Provide councillors and the resources needed to assist ASAP when needed.
    Ensure mothers have the parenting skills to teach their sons it is NEVER acceptable to hit girls.
    Make it mandatory for school boys to undertake training and be punished if they hit a girl.
    Teach woman that if they stay with a violent partner they are passing the cycle down to their kids.

    Create a government web page that names and shames males who are the perpetrators of domestic violence.
    If a male hits one woman they will hit other woman, they just don’t get it or have the self control to stop.
    Send a woman to jail for 3 months if they make a false claim that their male partner was violent.

    If you name and shame appropriate punishment for false accusations is essential.

    Consult with victims of domestic violence they have the experience to devise the solutions our society needs.
    You can have a PhD and as much education as you like but direct involvement is the only place to be fully educated.

  9. diannaart

    Or men could stop taking their aggression out on others.

  10. mars08

    @diannaart… I can see what you are getting at, but the critical factor is the aggression males, rather than where it’s directed. Sometimes the aggression is directed internally, and that doesn’t end well either.

  11. diannaart

    Agree completely, mars08

    Both sexes get aggressive, the general pattern being, women tend to internalise and men externalise – with a small percentage vice a versa – we really need to sort ourselves out.

    However, Wally’s little rant placed the entire responsibility on women – what women should and should not do is a tired old anachronism.

    Harm to others is not acceptable – we are actually smarter than that. Hitting someone to keep them ‘in their place’ does not work, corporal punishment does not work towards an equitable agreement – both men and women are guilty of this – it all starts at home, the example being set is that bigger and stronger dominates smaller and weaker.

    Just thinking of Charlie Pickering’s little sketch on rape, he suggested, “Don’t Rape”.

    How about “Don’t Hit”?

    Else we are little more civilised than those douche bags, IS.

  12. Wally

    diannaart

    “Wally’s little rant placed the entire responsibility on women”

    I didn’t place blame on anyone, from my experience as a child I have put together some suggestions that I believe would help reduce the number of domestic violence incidents. Regardless of the victims sex it is very difficult to avoid the very first instance of domestic violence but future assaults can be avoided by making the right decision/s immediately after the first offence has occurred.

    Some woman cannot see any option but to stay in a violent relationship and the only way to overcome that is to provide the correct support mechanisms and educate woman that they do have options. Forty and fifty years ago there were very few options but to stay in the relationship and woman like my mother who did leave their husband were frowned upon by society.

    When woman stay in a violent household what affect does it have on the kids? Monkey see, monkey do. One of the things I see mothers do that astounds me for many reasons is to tell naughty kids “wait till your dad gets home”, like dad has a license to come home and smack you. What message does that send to kids? Its OK for dad to come home and smack mum? Mum doesn’t run away must be OK?

    If a drug addict doesn’t want to be helped there is very little that can be done to help them and if a woman refuses police intervention when they are on her doorstep there is not very much they can do. Educating woman that the cycle must be broken, that they are important, that they deserve a better life is essential. If they are taught this at school when they grow up there is less chance of them living with domestic violence and less chance that the next generation will condone or participate in domestic violence.

    “Hitting someone to keep them ‘in their place’ does not work,”

    Any violent attack is wrong but a smack and/or a kick up the arse when deserved didn’t do my generation any harm.
    A good kick in the bum from the local copper saved a lot of young men from becoming career criminals.

  13. diannaart

    Wally

    Unless men are a part of the solution there is no solution. As for your comments on corporal punishment, you are clearly not a part of the solution. Smacking a person smaller and weaker than you is the most appalling of examples to set.

    @Mars08

    Miranda Devine, Peta Credlin, Julie Bishop et al ….. needs be a special place in hell for these right wing sycophants. Am very disturbed at the continual linking of poor with domestic violence – while there is no doubt poverty contributes to DV – abuse from partners is endemic through all levels of society, irrespective of wealth.

    Men can be gentlemen whether a brickie’s labourer or politician – my experience has found the most emotionally supportive tradies and the most vicious and manipulative of billionaires.

  14. Loz

    To replace experienced workers in refuge houses with church organisations was one of the most disgraceful acts of the LNP government. To close down some of the refuge centres places victims in mortal danger and it is hard to understand the logic of this government when making these decisions.

  15. Wally

    diannaart

    Go back and read my entire comment with an open mind and you will realise it is all about teaching boys so they become gentlemen. To do this you need to go back to grass roots and mothers have the greatest influence on their sons, if mothers do their job properly they can reshape an entire society/generation.

    It is an exaggeration to consider giving a child a smack on the hand or a pat on the bum corporal punishment and to its effectiveness you only need to look at increased violence in pubs and clubs since it become unpopular to smack kids. Many parents who are anti smacking their kids like Suzie O Brien (HS Columnist) admit that they have lost their temper and lashed out, hit their kids in a rage! Why let it get to that point? A point where it is a violent outburst instead of delivering punishment in a cool and calm manner.

    A well deserved smack delivered at the right time in the right manner can be a deterrent for bad behaviour for a very long time. But hitting a child, using an implement, over use of smacking and/or violence can have the opposite affect to what is desired. We need to give parents the choice on how to raise their kids but define realistic boundaries because in many cases a smack is the perfect punishment.

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