Assistant Minister Elliot interview on ABC Western Plains with Jess McGuire


Topics: Escaping Violence Payment, 1800RESPECT Video Service, Safe Places

JESS MCGUIRE, HOST: The Federal Government is expanding its Escaping Violence Payment trial to regional Australia and today, the Assistant Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence, Justine Elliot, will be announcing that the first new site for the trial is going to be in Dubbo. Good morning, Minister.

JUSTINE ELLIOT, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR THE PREVENTION OF FAMILY VIOLENCE: Good morning, Jess. Great to be with you this morning in Dubbo.

JESS MCGUIRE: It's lovely to have you here. Now, how does the Escaping Violence Payment work in helping people to leave these violent relationships?

JUSTINE ELLIOT: Look, Jess, the Federal Government has a whole range of initiatives to assist people who are victim-survivors of domestic, family and sexual violence. And one of those is the Escaping Violence Payment, and that's available to anyone across Australia who's leaving a violent relationship, who needs to relocate and who is having financial stress.

JESS MCGUIRE: And how do people access that?

JUSTINE ELLIOT: Sure. If people want any information about the Escaping Violence Payment, I recommend that they contact 1800RESPECT. Now that number is 1800 737 732. Now, you can also call 1800RESPECT for any advice or counselling or support if you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence. And remember too, when you call 1800RESPECT, you can contact them in a number of ways. You can call, you can text, it's online, and just as of this week, we have video conferencing as well. So, that's a really important service. If people want information about this payment, they can give them a ring.

The Escaping Violence Payment is up to $5,000. That's $1500 in cash and the rest in goods and services. But it is specifically for people who are relocating because they obviously have to, because they're leaving a violent relationship. And we think it's so important that people have access to that money to be able to do that, because we know, of course, homelessness and housing access is really difficult, obviously, for people who are leaving a violent relationship.

Our focus is on providing the best supports for women and children in these situations. And part of our Escaping Violence Payment is to have very specific trial sites specifically for First Nations victim-survivors. And that first new trial site is going to be right here in Dubbo. And that's what I'm here today to launch and talk about.

JESS MCGUIRE: Wonderful. So, there is already an existing thing that's happening nationwide that anyone can access, but specifically in Dubbo, you are now going to be doing a trial that's targeting Aboriginal and First Nations communities. Why was Dubbo chosen as the location for this trial?

JUSTINE ELLIOT: Well, Jess, it's really important to provide services in regional and remote Australia, and we need to make sure they're services that people can access. And so we also know that, of course, Dubbo is a regional hub. Dubbo also has a lot of service providers here and of course, there is such a huge need for it as well. So, Dubbo will be that first trial site and we'll have a process of consultation in finding the correct provider to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander victim-survivors, in terms of being able to access the payment, but also access to other services they may need as well.

We just think it's so vitally important to have these very specific trials in specific regions, and because Dubbo is such an important hub and also services so many towns in the area, that's exactly why we've picked Dubbo to do that. And there is a very strong sector here that will be able to provide those services. And as I say, we'll go through a process to choose that service provider to provide all that assistance we can for those Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander victim-survivors to access the Escaping Violence Payment. It's so important that people can get that in terms of finding somewhere new to live and to relocate.

JESS MCGUIRE: So, this is the launch of the regional trial, but it's an expansion of a trial that already began in Cairns. So, what were the results there?

JUSTINE ELLIOT: Well, that was very positive in terms of having a specific trial in an area where it was needed. And that's exactly the same case with Dubbo that provides a regional hub and has a strong service sector. And we just think it's vitally important to have that expansion in an area like Dubbo when the need is so great. And we know that it's important to have the trial on the ground for people so they can access support and services there. Yes, you can phone up, anyone can phone up today and access that, but we want to have a situation where people are getting that specific support in an area where it's desperately needed.

JESS MCGUIRE: Right. So, in Cairns, the trial is delivered by the Remote Area Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Childcare Advisory Association. So, that is an Indigenous led organisation in the Cairns region. Who is it that's going to be delivering the trial in Dubbo?

JUSTINE ELLIOT: Well, that's the next stage, Jess. We're going to obviously do some very widespread consultation, right throughout the community with providers and with First Nations people in the region as well, and find the best provider to do that, because it's about listening to people here and what they need and how it's going to work effectively in being able to provide the assistance with accessing the payment. But also being able to provide support for other services that can be needed, because, as you can imagine, there are a lot of services that people do need when they're in that situation of having to leave a violent relationship.

JESS MCGUIRE: So, that's yet to be locked in, but that's certainly something that you're going to be seeking out and probably talking to people about while you're out here in Dubbo. How does family violence impact Indigenous victim-survivors in rural areas differently? And how does this program help that?

JUSTINE ELLIOT: We know that family violence is disproportionately higher amongst First Nations communities, and we know that and we see that consistently. We also know in many regional areas that it's higher. And that's why having a trial- like this is so important, because we're very, very much aware of the situation here and throughout the country, and we will be announcing two other sites in the near future as well. But we know that it is desperately needed here and that's why we're doing it.

JESS MCGUIRE: The initial trial that was in Cairns, it had $7 million worth of funding. The Government is now committing, how much money into this trial?

JUSTINE ELLIOT: Just over $31 million. And we will have, as I said, two other sites. So, that's three trial sites altogether. So, it is a significant amount of funding for these specific trial-based places.

JESS MCGUIRE: The Australian Bureau of Statistics found that one in six women since the age of 15 had experienced physical or sexual violence from a partner. Last year in Australia, 64 women were killed in incidents of violence. And it feels like in the last month, in particular, in the news, it's been filled with story after story about violence and alleged murders committed by people close to victims. So, would you say that Australia is in the midst of a domestic violence crisis?

JUSTINE ELLIOT: Well, Jess, we're all deeply troubled when we see what's happened lately. And people are very much aware of it. And from the Government's perspective, it is a huge priority. It is a national priority for us. And in fact, we have committed $2.3 billion through a whole range of initiatives, including our National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children. And we want to do that in one generation. We need to do it, because we see these situations, it is horrific. So, we have invested that massive amount. We work with the states, we work with many people in the community, but this is going to involve everyone.

We’ve got our massive investment, we've got our Plan. Everyone has to get involved with this because the fact is, we have to work together to make sure this violence stops and that the next generation isn't facing this situation. And part of it too, is about providing support and training for younger people. And we do that through a range of measures. We've got a lot of different plans in place in schools in terms of teaching about respectful relationships as well, teaching children consent, all of those sorts of things are really important, too, so the next generation has a different perspective and we're all a part of that. And we're all a part of that in terms of how we talk about domestic violence, how we talk about women, and how we are positive in terms of getting rid of it in one generation, because it's up to all of us to stand up and call it out and make sure that the next generation doesn't have to face this.

JESS MCGUIRE: So, I'm assuming this program is going to be part of trying to counter that. It's also going to be part of closing the gap and meeting those commitments that you've made. What have you been doing on the ground since you got in Dubbo yesterday?

JUSTINE ELLIOT: Well, I only arrived yesterday afternoon, but I was able to inspect a new site called Safe Places that the Federal Government delivers funding for. It's a very specific site that will deliver accommodation for women and children fleeing domestic violence. And having that here in Dubbo is vitally important and will assist up to 156 people per year, and it is specifically for that purpose. And often people can stay there, sometimes up to three months, and it provides those women and children a safe place to go whilst they are then organising where they may live, getting their lives sorted. And we have this program right across the country. We've built many safe houses. We've got a huge commitment to building more because we know we have to have them in place so that women and children can access that safe place. Inspecting the one here in Dubbo, it's nearly finished, it should be finished in the coming months and then it will be available. Obviously, it's very confidential in terms of its location, which is really important, but it will be available here, for women and children in this region and nearby as well.

And can I also say, Jess, what I also did yesterday afternoon was met with women from the Western Women's Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service and was able to hear firsthand about the work that they're doing providing assistance to victim-survivors going to court, and also more general support services they provide for victim-survivors. They also do an outstanding job in terms of providing that local support and also outreach as well, obviously they are going to many areas in the surrounding area. Could I also mention that if anyone wants to contact them for any support, their number is 1800 940 406. Again, please reach out to them. Or as I said earlier, please reach out to 1800RESPECT. 1800 737 732. You can call 1800RESPECT, or you can text them, or online, and now you can video conference as well.

JESS MCGUIRE: I want to ask you about that because you're implementing video calls as of this week. Was there a demand for that? Is that about accessibility?

JUSTINE ELLIOT: It's absolutely about accessibility. We want to make it as easy as possible for people to get the support, the counselling and access to services they need. And whilst people can call and text and get online, sometimes people are a bit more comfortable perhaps speaking to a counsellor in that video environment as well. I mean, obviously what they are sharing and talking about too, it might put them at ease a bit more doing it from a video conferencing perspective. There's a lot of safety and security in these measures too. When people do call up or they do a video conference, one of the first things that will be established is are they calling from a safe place? Can no one hear you? I mean, there are a lot of measures in place to make sure people calling in are safe, and they can access the services they need. And I really encourage everyone, if you do need help or, you know someone who is experiencing or at threat of family, domestic or sexual violence, please reach out and call 1800RESPECT.

JESS MCGUIRE: Well, we have been speaking to Justine Elliot, the Assistant Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence, about the expansion of a regional trial into Escaping Violence Payment. And it's starting in Dubbo. It's going to be announced later today, but thank you very much for your time this morning, Assistant Minister.