Budget delivering for Australian women

The Morrison Government has announced a landmark package of around $3.4 billion new measures to improve outcomes for women’s safety, economic security, health and wellbeing in the 2021–22 Budget.

This includes the Government investing $1.1 billion in funding for women’s safety; $1.9 billion to support women’s economic security including $1.7 billion to improve the affordability of child care for Australian families and $351.6 million in women’s health and wellbeing measures.

“Our approach to developing this Women’s Budget Statement has been informed by our values of respect, dignity, choice, equality of opportunity and justice – these are fundamental to the safety and economic security of women in Australia,” Prime Minister Morrison said.

The package builds on the Government’s investment for women in Australia, including under the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children 2010-22 (the National Plan) and the 2018 and 2020 Women’s Economic Security Statements.

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, said the package covered three key pillars —women’s safety, economic security; and women’s health and wellbeing.

“Everyone has a basic right to safety, equality and respect in our society, and we all have a responsibility to address gender imbalances in Australia to create real change and genuine advances for women and girls,” Minister Payne said.

Women’s safety

Minister for Families and Social Services and Minister for Women’s Safety, Senator the Hon Anne Ruston, said this package represents the Commonwealth’s down payment on the next National Plan which will commence in mid-2022, with further investment to follow after consultations including the National Women’s Safety Summit to be held on 29-30 July this year.

“Since 2013, the Australian Government has invested more than $1 billion to prevent and respond to violence against women and their children. This budget is yet another important  step toward our target to end violence against women and their children,” Minister Ruston said.

The package includes a new, two-year National Partnership Agreement in which the Morrison Government will provide up to $261.4 million to partner with states and territories to boost local frontline services and trial new initiatives during the transition to the next National Plan. States and territories will be asked to contribute funding to the agreement reflecting their primary role and responsibilities in the delivery of frontline services.

The Government will commit $164.8 million over three years to establish Escaping Violence Payments to provide up to $1,500 in immediate cash and a further $3,500 in kind for goods or direct payments of bonds, school fees or other items. The payments will be provided under a two-year trial through a domestic violence frontline service and include wrap around support for women and their children. The Safe Places emergency accommodation program will also be expanded with additional funding of $12.6 million to support women and children experiencing family and domestic violence.

The Government will build on its efforts to prevent violence with a $35.1 million investment including expanding national primary prevention campaigns to address new and emerging issues targeted at young people as well as continuing the award-winning campaign, Stop It At The Start. An additional $26.0 million will be provided to Family Violence Prevention Legal Services (FVPLS) to improve support services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. Funding will be directed to improving the quality, capability and cultural safety of indigenous and non-indigenous family violence services. 

The Government will also invest $31.6million over five years to establish an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Personal Safety Survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). This will enable us, for the first time, to measure the prevalence of family, domestic and sexual violence experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and girls. We will also commit funding to establish a new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Council.

The Government will invest $29.3 million over three years to improve migrant and refugee women’s safety through early intervention, grass-roots programs, and social and economic inclusion support. The Government will also invest an additional $10.3 million over two years to extend the new pilot program supporting women on temporary visas experiencing family violence for an extra year, making it a two-year trial ending in 2023. This will provide support for women who may be unable to access social services and welfare payments due to their visa status. It includes access to support through the Australian Red Cross, with women able to receive up to $3,000 to help them cover expenses such as food, accommodation, utilities and other essentials and medical care. Extended funding will also be provided to nine Community and Women’s Legal Centres nationally to help this group of women in these challenging situations access legal assistance and migration support.

$26.2 million over four years will address the increasing use of technology facilitated abuse, improve online safety for women and girls and raise awareness of the Online Safety Bill.

Under this investment, the Office of the eSafety Commissioner will pilot a program to develop software to better investigate cases of image-based abuse and provide targeted support for children. A further $4.9 million will also be invested in expanding support for men at risk of using violence and trialling new perpetrator interventions, including funding for No to Violence program and Men’s Line, which provides advice and information to men about services available to them such as a men’s behaviour change program.

Improving our family and justice responses

Attorney-General, Senator the Hon. Michaelia Cash, said having a family law system that was safe and fit for purpose to protect and assist victim-survivors of family violence was a key priority of the Budget.

“We are committing more than $400 million across a range of measures to provide additional legal assistance funding for women, and to boost investment in Children’s Contact Services to reduce safety risks and expand Family Advocacy Support Services.”

These measures include $129.0 million in additional legal assistance funding to women’s legal centres to help women access justice. This funding will be directed to women’s legal centres, to enable these providers to respond to increasing demand for domestic violence assistance.

An extra $101.4 million will be put towards Children’s Contact Services (CCSs) to reduce safety risks to family law system users, including the establishment of an additional 20 CCSs.

Almost $85 million will be invested in the Family Advocacy Support Services to maintain, enhance and expand access to their services.

More than $60.8 million will fund the reform of family law case management in the federal family courts to improve outcomes and better meet the needs of families and children.

Addressing sexual harassment

The Government will invest an additional $9.3 million to further implement recommendations made in the Respect@Work report. This includes funding to support the Respect@Work Council to implement a range of practical measures highlighted in the Roadmap for Respect, and driving amendments to improve legal and regulatory responses to workplace sexual harassment.  It also includes interim funding to continue the targeted delivery of support for women experiencing workplace sexual harassment, while the Government consults with states and territories in line with its commitment in the Roadmap for Respect.

We are also investing $5.3 million over three years to build evidence and further develop primary prevention initiatives to respond to sexual harassment. We will also invest $6.0 million over four years for the Workplace Gender Equality Agency to work with the Respect@Work Council and extend reporting to the Australian public sector.

Increasing women’s workforce participation and securing their economic futures

The Minister for Women’s Economic Security, Jane Hume said “women’s workforce participation is a social and economic priority and critical to Australia’s recovery, which is why the Government is prioritising investment in childcare.”

The Budget includes targeted measures to increase choice and flexibility for women by addressing barriers to working in the paid workforce, and supporting women to build financially secure futures.

As part of our plan to secure Australia’s recovery, the Government is investing an additional $1.7 billion in childcare, building on around $10.0 billion already provided annually. We are removing the childcare subsidy annual cap and, starting in July 2022, increased childcare subsidies will be available to families with two or more young children, benefitting around 250,000 families. This will help give families greater choice and flexibility to manage work and care.

The Government is investing an additional $12.2 million for the National Careers Institute Partnership Grants Program for projects that facilitate more career opportunities and supported career pathways for women. 

In recognition of the economic and social benefits of home ownership, we will establish the Family Home Guarantee to assist 10,000 eligible single parents with dependent children, the vast majority of whom are women, to enter the housing market with a two per cent deposit.

The Government is also investing $42.4 million over seven years to support more than 230 women to pursue higher level STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) qualifications.

The Government is focused on improving retirement outcomes for women by increasing superannuation coverage and making our system fairer. This includes removing the $450 per month threshold under which employers are exempt from paying employees, predominantly women, the Superannuation Guarantee. The Government is also extending access to the downsizer contribution and removing the work test to improve the system’s flexibility.

Promoting women’s leadership opportunities and choices

The Government has made significant strides in its commitment to see more women serving on Australian Government boards.

“I am pleased to announce that as at 31 December 2020, we have a record 49.5 per cent of positions on Australian Government boards filled by women, which is a significant achievement and the highest overall result since reporting began in 2009,” said Minister Payne.

Women in visible positions of leadership is vital in bringing about cultural change, ensuring respect for women in the workplace and providing role models. That is why we are again investing $38.3 million over five years from 2021-22 into expanding the successful Women’s Leadership and Development Program.

This program funds innovative projects, many of which assist women into leadership roles, and builds on the Government’s $47.9 million investment in the 2020 Women’s Economic Security Statement.

Sport is a fundamental part of Australian life and women athletes are inspiring the next generation to get involved. The Government is investing $17.0 million to support a number of world class sporting events over coming years including eight additional Matildas international matches and the FIBA Women’s World Cup for basketball. This funding also supports development programs for women and girls in football and basketball.

Supporting women’s health and promoting wellbeing

The Australian Government is committed to promoting the health of all Australian women and girls throughout their lives.  The health of Australian women and girls is critical to their social and economic wellbeing.  The Women’s Budget Statement highlights a number of targeted measures. 

To ensure that Australian women have access to life-saving medicines and access to essential services, the Government is investing in new and amended PBS listings to treat a range of conditions, including breast cancer. The Government is also investing $148.0 million in women’s preventive health measures to further reduce the personal and financial costs of ill health.

This Budget demonstrates the Government’s continued commitment to creating more opportunities for women to fulfil their potential. To ensure Australia achieves the greatest and most enduring gains for women and girls, everyone needs to play a part — government, business, community and individuals. In this way, all Australians gain, and we are a better nation for it.

For more information, including the full set of measures and detailed analysis is outlined below, you can also read the Government’s Women’s Budget Statement.