Central Victorian women and children escaping domestic violence now have access to a one-off $5,000 payment under a new trial scheme run by the federal government.
These women will receive financial assistance of up to $1,500 in cash with the remainder available for goods and services or direct payments of bonds, school fees or other support to help establish a safe home.
The Escaping Violence Payment - which forms part of a $1.1 billion women's safety package in the 2021-22 Women's Budget - will be provided by the UnitingCare Australia Consortium.
More needs to be done
Centre for Non-Violence chief executive Margaret Augerinos said in Victoria, there had been flexible family violence brokerage packages for some time but more was needed.
"These payments have proved life-saving and life-changing for some women and children, supporting them to re-establish their lives," she said.
"In some cases, it has helped women re-engage with education and employment to support their independence moving forward.
What does #financialabuse feel like? "Shame and humiliation and feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, these are really common when you're experiencing financial abuse." You are not alone and support is available. Contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732. pic.twitter.com/M4OSelzr8Z— 1800RESPECT (@1800RESPECT) October 14, 2021
"For many women in other parts of Australia, there has been no access to these payments and for that reason they are welcome and positive."
Ms Augerinos said, however, financial payments alone were not enough to support women's safety.
"There are many barriers as to why women don't leave - and we know that a woman and her children are at most risk when a relationship ends," she said.
"These payments do not address perpetrator behaviour or the gendered drivers of violence, and will not lead to a reduction in family or domestic violence.
"These payments also do not address Australia's chronic housing shortage or lack of affordable housing. Women and children need access to safe and affordable housing."
Family violence crimes continue to rise
The latest data from the Crime Statistic Agency showed family violence crimes increased by 24 per cent in the 12 months to June 30 with 2,528 family incidents reported to police in Greater Bendigo.
Increases were also recorded in the Campaspe (7.3 per cent), Loddon (30.5 per cent) and Mount Alexander (5.8 per cent) regions.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, one in six women in Australia have experienced partner violence, and on average one woman is killed by their partner or former partner every week.
Services in central Victoria have been running at capacity during the pandemic with local sites working hard to meet demand.
Ms Augerinos said even through the state is slowly coming out of restrictions, she expected the increase to continue.
"As a result of the pandemic, we have seen a steady increase in women and families requesting assistance from specialist family violence services," she said.
The Escaping Violence Payment was announced in the May budget as part of a $1.1 billion women's safety package of programs.
The payment is not considered taxable or reportable income, and will not impact any other social security payments a recipient may be getting.
Eligibility includes financial stress and evidence of domestic violence, which includes, but is not limited to, a referral from a family and domestic violence service provider with a risk assessment and safety plan, an AVO, court order, or a police report.
Ms Augerinos hoped for more investment in prevention or perpetrator programs in the future.
"This is a crisis payment women can access, but there is very little appetite at a federal level for investment to increase specialist support services available for people experiencing violence," she said.
For more information on how to apply for the Escaping Violence Payment, click here.
If you or someone you know is impacted by family and domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.
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