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New $5,000 payments for women fleeing domestic violence

·3-min read
Aerial view of pedestrians walking in Australia, image of rolled up $50 notes and coins.
Women fleeing domestic violence will be able to access the payments from Tuesday. (Images: Getty).

Women and children escaping domestic and family violence will be eligible for $5,000 emergency payments from tomorrow, as Australia continues to battle a domestic violence crisis.

An estimated one in six women in Australia will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, compared to one in 17 men.

The average woman will require $18,000 and 141 hours to flee a violent relationship, the Australian Council of Trade Unions has found.

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“We know that financial hardship, as well as economic abuse - which may involve interfering with work or controlling or withholding money - reduces women’s ability to acquire and use money and makes it difficult to leave violent relationships,” Women’s Safety Minister Anne Ruston said.

“The payments will assist people who need financial support to leave. We know the size of the house a woman is fleeing doesn’t matter – often she bundles the kids into the car, maybe the dog too, and they leave with nothing more than the clothes on their backs.”

The Escaping Violence Payment offers $1,500 in cash and the remaining $3,500 in direct payments to cover items like rental bonds and school fees.

The new payments are part of a two-year trial that was first announced in the 2021-22 Federal Budget in May.

Community service network UnitingCare Australia Consortium will deliver the payments.

The consortium has “extensive experience” supporting victim-survivors, and will use this knowledge to provide the payments and additional support, UnitingCare national director Claerwen Little said.

“We believe that all people, especially women and their children, have the right to live freely and without fear, and this payment is an important step forward to ending violence against women and their children,” Little said.

“As part of the individualised support packages, UnitingCare Network agencies will provide tailored assistance and engage with other relevant agencies that support women and their children, including other commonwealth or state and territory government-funded community services.”

The payment is not considered taxable or reportable income and as such will not impact on other social security payments victim-survivors may be receiving.

To claim the payments, women will need to show evidence of financial stress and of domestic violence.

This could include a police report, AVO, court order or referral from a family and domestic violence service provider with a risk assessment and safety plan.

Women can apply for the payment from 19 October through UnitingCare Network by visiting this site.

A national crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the domestic violence crisis, with support providers recording surging demand.

A national survey of 362 domestic and family violence agencies and individuals released in June found most providers experienced higher demand, while nearly half said their clients were making more reports of controlling behaviours.

The Queensland University of Technology survey analysed providers’ experiences between early June and the end of August 2020, and found two-thirds had experienced a growth in new clients.

An Australian Government survey of 15,000 women in relationships also found 11.6 per cent of respondents had experienced at least one form of emotionally abusive or controlling behaviour in the three months to May 2020.

Additionally, 4.6 per cent reported having experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of a current or former partner.

On average, one woman is killed every week by a current or former partner, with more than 40 women having already been killed this year by abusive partners, according to the Red Heart Campaign.

And every year, 7,690 women return to an abusive partner because they have nowhere to live, and 9,120 women become homeless because of domestic violence.

Pregnant mother Michelle Darragh was found dead at the home of her former partner on 9 October, shortly after they separated. Days earlier, also pregnant mother Janet Dweh was found dead at her home in Perth. Police believe she was killed by someone known to her.

  • If you are experiencing domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au.

  • Under 25? Call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or chat online.

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