Minister Rishworth interview on Afternoon Briefing with Claudia Long


CLAUDIA LONG, HOST: Minister, thank you for joining us today.


CLAUDIA LONG: Just half of those who applied for this payment during the trial were able to get it. Is the Government considering expanding eligibility?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: The Leaving Violence Program is a really important program that does support people at the time of leaving a violent relationship. It's not the only payment that's available. It is designed for that time when someone's leaving. We are combining the program with some other programs as well.  We've got the program that was for temporary visa holders. This will become one permanent program.  That's very important, but the eligibility is deliberately focussed on people when they are leaving a violent circumstance.

CLAUDIA LONG: Does it concern you though, that 50 per cent of people and that’s many, many tens of thousands of people who've been applying to this payment, 50 percent of people are still getting knocked back.  

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I would say that the program will assess eligibility. If someone is not eligible for the program, they will be diverted to other services and support. I would say there are many reasons why people don't necessarily think they are eligible for the program. Some of those reasons are people withdraw their application, they no longer need the financial support. So there is a lot of reasons why people may not progress. But this is an important part of the system, but not the only part of support in the system.

CLAUDIA LONG: You mentioned the eligibility before. This payment is, of course, only for those escaping a violent partner. Will it be extended to those trying to flee family members or carers, for instance, because women with disability face particular risk in this area?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: This payment is specifically for leaving an intimate partner relationship. It is not currently looked at it being expanded, but as I said, there are a number of other avenues. And that's the importance about the work that has been done by the current provider, Uniting Communities, is that this is not just a payment. There is of course important referral, risk assessment and safety planning, particularly for those people that have no connection with any other services. What we know is about 80 per cent of people applying for this payment actually have not, necessarily come in from other services, they are self-referrals. And so, this is a really important part of this of the system, but not the only part of the system.

CLAUDIA LONG: So for instance, if just say there's a woman with a disability who might be being abused by her carer, what do you recommend they do?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: There’s a number of avenues for someone with a disability being abused, through complaints if this is a carer registered with the NDIS, there's quality and safeguards avenues there for someone with a disability. Obviously there are other avenues through Centrelink for crisis payments. So there's a range of different pathways for people, but in a case where someone with a disability was being abused by a paid carer, for example, then they should get in touch with the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission.

CLAUDIA LONG: Just under the evaluation of this payment, the evaluation that was done by the Government suggested that it may not be sufficient to meet people's needs. Now, obviously, as you know, it's going to be indexed with inflation, but this payment is still set at the same level that it was in 2021. In today's money, it's around $740 less generous than the initially trialled amount. How open are you to increasing that?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I would say that the previous program was not permanent. The previous program was a trial and it needed to be redesigned to ensure people got the right support. In a number of Budgets we had to increase the funding to support wraparound help that was needed for people and so we've done that. But in addition, we have, as we've made this a permanent program, committed to indexing it as well. And so…

CLAUDIA LONG: Sorry to interrupt you. Sorry to interrupt, Minister. I know because we've been discussing the indexation, but just to be clear, is that a no to looking at increasing this payment?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: We've made this payment permanent. There was no money in the Budget for this payment to continue. It was due to end on the 30th of June because the previous government had made it only temporary. So we've set it up as a permanent payment that will be indexed over time.

CLAUDIA LONG: And Minister, just on the workforce because, as you know, $169.4 million was committed over four years to generate 500 new jobs for community organisations nationally. That's by funding frontline service and community sector workers to really support those who are experiencing this kind of violence. How many workers did the states commit to hiring by June this year, and how many have been hired to date?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: We have made two payments to the states and territories importantly for getting community frontline workers to help support the workforce during this very important and difficult work. Those payments have been made and it's expected that the states and territories will reach their target of just over 350 workers by June this year. They are currently in different stages. All I understand are going through recruitment processes at the moment. New workers are coming on every day, but we will continue to work on that and I expect states and territories to meet the targets they've committed to.

CLAUDIA LONG: Premiers have said that there's too many restrictions around this hiring process. They've been pretty critical of it. What do you make of that? And why not leave it to the States to decide what those criteria are?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: We’ve been really clear that we want to work in partnership with states and territories around these frontline workers. We negotiated Memorandums of Understanding with every state and territory. They signed up to this. We have paid them in two payments. This is a collaborative relationship. We have funded these workers and look forward to working with the states and territories to get them on board. But they've all agreed, signed up and committed to putting these workers in place. And, I've had a good working relationship with my counterparts and look forward to that continuing.

CLAUDIA LONG: Minister, thank you very much for making the time to speak with us today.