Assistant Minister Elliot interview on ABC Afternoon Briefing with Greg Jennett


GREG JENNETT, HOST: Progress is being made towards a very comprehensive agreement on reducing the scourge of domestic violence in this country. Soon there'll be details on a new set of national initiatives, one of which includes the banks doing their bit on financial coercion. The Assistant Minister for Social Services, Justine Elliot, encouraging them to keep going with things they're already doing. She spoke to us a little earlier today.

Justine Elliot, welcome to afternoon briefing. I know you addressed a summit recently on domestic violence with a particular pitch to financial institutions and the banks were at the centre of this. You said they're in the vanguard of the push to combat financial abuse. What exactly are these institutions doing and what do you expect them to do?

JUSTINE ELLIOT, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES AND ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR THE PREVENTION OF FAMILY VIOLENCE: Well, look, thanks Greg, and thanks for talking about this incredibly important issue, because women's safety is a national priority for our government. And of course, we do have our National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children and we have the goal of doing that within one generation and we all have to work together to achieve that goal.

And of course, we had this particular summit last week hosted by the Commonwealth Bank, and it was a great opportunity to bring together a whole range of people from the banking institutions, the not-for-profit-sector, and of course also many victim-survivors because they're at the heart of everything we do. Listening to those people who have suffered through domestic family and sexual violence. And they were there talking about their experiences as well. And when it comes to financial abuse, we know how damaging and just how terrible it can be to so many victim-survivors in terms of the impact upon their lives. And we do see it happening over a whole range of different areas.

We see people who may have money withheld from them, they may be forced to withdraw their superannuation, maybe forced to take out loans. It is very, very extensive the means that people go to control another person, which of course is the essence of domestic violence, it’s about trying to get that control over a particular person.

So, what we're seeing is that, of course, everyone working together. It's all our responsibility to be addressing these issues. And financial abuse is one of those really core coercive parts of domestic violence that we do need to be working together to make sure we can change that.

GREG JENNETT: So, what mechanisms typically might a bank have at its disposal for early detection and then prevention of the sorts of coercive activities that you're referring to?

JUSTINE ELLIOT: Sure. Banks have introduced a number of measures. One in particular is if people are transferring funds, sometimes they are also putting with it a very abusive message as well, which is horrific they're doing that. They're able to intercept some of those as well. They're also able to intercept some other information in terms of people trying to access credit information about someone, but they're also being really proactive in terms of some of the programmes that they've got as well.

Next chapter is providing financial advice, but also access to some loans for people as well. And this all builds on what the government's doing as well. And of course, we do have a whole range of programs and grants that people can apply for. The No Interest Loan scheme is one of those to provide support for people who are leaving a violent relationship, but also, really importantly Greg, I'd encourage anyone watching who needs support to call 1800RESPECT 1800 737 732 and they can access support, counselling, financial support as well, all through that one particular line.

So, I would encourage people to do that. It's part of a whole suite of measures that we do have to provide support to those people who are escaping domestic violence situations.

GREG JENNETT: I will ask you in a moment about some of those government schemes, but just on the banks, you're kind of outlining how they filter abusive messages, for instance, on internet banking transactions. How have they done that? Is it through the employment of humans looking at these things, or is it an IT application? And if the former, can all financial institutions afford that? Obviously the big banks are strong and healthy, but not all institutions are that big.

JUSTINE ELLIOT: Well, they've got a whole range of measures that they're able to take these actions and of course, through the Australian Banking Association as well, they've got a guide about providing that assistance to people who are victim-survivors of domestic violence. And I know they're working very proactively to roll that out right throughout their members.

Remember, this is, if you like, early days in terms of the engagement of the banking institutions and to their credit, they're doing this and they really want to find as many ways as they can to provide that support, from the interception right through to the support services counselling and accessing the loans.

And that's what last week's summit was all about, to get everyone together to get that information, to see how we can all move forward together to provide that greater support, but really importantly, to gather data about how this financial abuse happens as well. That's really important for all of us to have. So, together we can find ways to combat it. But it does take everyone working together.

GREG JENNETT: And then on government schemes, I think you did address in your speech the Saver Plus program, which is, I think, a dollar for dollar contribution for people who are dislocated and having to restart their lives. Women in most cases. What has been the uptake on that?

JUSTINE ELLIOT: Well, look, they've both been quite successful. The Smart Saver plus also the No Interest Loan Scheme. We can give loans to people to provide that support if they're needing to obviously move out to a new premises.

There's a whole other range of supports available in terms of the Escaping Violence Payment and the Crisis Payment and again, that's why I'd encourage people to call 1800RESPECT.

Right across the board, there are a lot of payments and programs there. But as we know, often one of the issues is people reaching out to make that first step to actually call 1800RESPECT. And when you look at our National Plan, you look at the whole, if you like, extent of it, it covers everything from awareness and prevention, to early responses, to long term support to healing. We understand the complexities involved, but also, of course, the absolute necessity for all of us to reach this goal to end violence against women and children in one generation.

GREG JENNETT: Yeah. No, it's an ambitious goal and I know there's a lot of work going on, not only at the federal level, but, as we've discussed through the corporates, the states and the territories as well. Justine Elliot much more we could talk about, but we might cover that off in future conversations. Thanks for joining us today.