Assistant Minister Elliot interview on ABC RN Drive with Andy Park


ANDY PARK, HOST: Well, joining me now is Justine Elliot, the Assistant Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence and the Assistant Minister for Social Services. Welcome to you.


ANDY PARK: How will this $925 million be spent exactly?

JUSTINE ELLIOT: Well, Andy, this was part of the announcements today. Can I just say from the outset, can I acknowledge what an incredibly distressing time this is for many people, particularly victim-survivors? And can I reiterate to those people or anyone else who may need support to call 1800RESPECT, that's 1800 737 732. I know from speaking to many victim-survivors, their families, many advocates as well, we know this has been a very difficult time right across the nation. And of course, that's why the Prime Minister convened this National Cabinet today with all of the Premiers, because we certainly understand the seriousness of this crisis and it is a national priority for our Government to be addressing it. And a number of points came out of the meeting today and one of those really important ones was the Leaving Violence Program. And that's really important. It's going to be a permanent payment that will be in place, and that's $925.2 million over five years to permanently establish this payment. This is really important so that those escaping violence can receive financial support, safety assessments and referrals to support pathways. And the program will provide up to $5,000 in financial support in the form of $1,500 cash, and the rest in prepaid cards or goods and services. But we know it's vitally important for those fleeing domestic violence to have access to that payment when they are establishing a new residence. And of course, previously, there is a trial going on, that's the Escaping Violence Payment - but we are making it permanent. We are making it permanent in the form of the Leaving Violence Program.

ANDY PARK: Ok. I want to ask you how those figures were arrived at, because those numbers, I mean, really, it doesn't really scratch the surface in terms of having to find a new house, possibly a new job, maybe even move it to a new city, with children as well. Were those numbers sitting on shelf or were they arrived at in the last day or so?

JUSTINE ELLIOT: Well, the Escaping Violence Payment has been in for a number of years, and that was the $5,000 as well. But this is absolutely making it permanent and we know that people need to have access to that funding immediately. And we did see, over many years, tens of thousands of people, particularly accessing this program, and based on the uptake from the trial, it's estimated the Leaving Violence Program will support approximately 36,700 victim survivors each year. We know how important it is, we know how many people have been accessing it and need to have access to that payment at that time is vitally important. And to make it permanent has been one of the major announcements from today.

ANDY PARK: You know figures released in Senate Estimates have revealed that more than half of people trying to access emergency financial support for domestic and family violence are having their claims rejected, which is, of course, great concern for advocates in the sector. So, will the criteria be expanded to make sure all people who need support receive it?

JUSTINE ELLIOT: Well, look, one of the problems when we came into government that we found with the pilot for escaping violence, was the capacity for people to access it in a timely manner. We improved that a lot. So, it is a lot quicker for people to be able to do that because we know they need to have this payment as soon as possible. So, we certainly fixed that up and now we've made it permanent, which is really important. And, of course, there is criteria for people accessing that. It's those that have left or planning to leave an intimate partner violent relationship and those that are experiencing financial stress and those that have experienced a change in their living arrangement as well.

ANDY PARK: Obviously, I want to drill down more into the criteria because there was a report into the program by DV NSW in 2022 that found that only 15 per cent of victim-survivors who accessed the program had received the full $5,000. So, I ask you again, should the criteria for this payment be redesigned?

JUSTINE ELLIOT: Well, I think the criteria is in place in terms of making sure it is these people who are experiencing financial stress, or have left or have a plan to leave the intimate partner violence relationship. The issue with the pilot was the fact it was taking people so long to actually access it. And now that time has been dramatically reduced, so now people can do that. And this was one of the very strong actions that our government took.

ANDY PARK: Justine Elliot is the Assistant Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence. We’re talking about the announcement of a $925 million Leaving Violence Program to help women escape dangerous family situations. I mean, housing advocates have made the point, Assistant Minister, that providing safe housing really is the crucial element of ensuring that women are able to leave a violent situation. We live at these times in a housing crisis. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data shows less than 4 per cent of those seeking housing were able to secure long-term housing. So, is there any funding on the horizon, perhaps in the upcoming Budget for this plan specifically?

JUSTINE ELLIOT: Well, look, Andy, you're absolutely spot on. We know that for those victim-survivors, they desperately need to access emergency accommodation and longer-term accommodation. And we already have in place, as it is, a number of measures. I mean, we have, as we've said before, a $2.3 billion commitment to ending violence against women and children in one generation. In terms of those housing initiatives, as you know, we got through the Parliament the Housing Australia Future Fund, and that has elements that provide emergency accommodation, but also access to longer term accommodation as well. And on top of that, we have, as the Federal Government, the Safe Places funding that specifically provides emergency and short-term accommodation for women and children fleeing domestic violence.

ANDY PARK: A lot of the examples you've just given, a lot of the announcements made today are built on already existing frameworks. The Escaping Violence Payment was 2021. Doxing laws were already on the table following the war in Gaza, age verification and deepfake legislation similarly been on the cards for some time. Is the Government thinking outside the box enough for these solutions or are you simply relying on existing ideas?

JUSTINE ELLIOT: We absolutely are tackling this. In terms of the online harms that you're referring to…

ANDY PARK: What about a national Royal Commission into violence against women?

JUSTINE ELLIOT:  Well, Andy, we all know what the problems are. We are seeking to address those and we've made that very, very clear. We know from victim-survivors, from advocates, we know what the problems are and we are addressing them. And one of the biggest problems is that of online harms. And that's why we did announce today a whole range of different measures. I mean, particularly the pilot about age assurance technology, the legislation to ban the creation and non-consensual distribution of deep fake pornography. I mean, this is disgusting things that we are seeing online. We've also got our Stop it at the Start campaign in terms of changing people's perceptions and understanding about respectful relationships and gender equality. All of these are really important measures. And the online area is one we really have to be in because we all know as parents and as community members, we hear and we see every day online the destructive, misogynistic perceptions of women. And we are taking action today in terms of that, as are also all the Premiers at their National Cabinet meeting today. They're going to be meeting again later in the year, in terms of some of the jurisdictional actions that can be taken. This is the whole of government - federal and state - working together to end gendered violence.

ANDY PARK: Okay, we’re going to have to leave it there. Justine Elliot is Assistant Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence and the Assistant Minister for Social Services. Thanks for your time this afternoon.

JUSTINE ELLIOT: Thanks so much Andy. Thank you.