Press Conference in Melbourne


Topics: Leaving Violence Program; Budget; Singapore Airlines; Rural and regional services

JANA STEWART, SENATOR: I’m Senator Jana Stewart, I’m a Mutthi Mutthi and Wamba Wamba woman. This morning we've got Minister Rishworth here with us talking to people who are on the ground, working with people who are doing it tough and facing domestic and family violence. It's always great to have Minister Rishworth here in Victoria. And as somebody who's worked in the sector, I know it’s so important we hear from people who are on the ground doing the work now. I'll hand over to Minister Rishworth.

AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: Thanks, Jana, and it's so wonderful to be here, having just visited Uniting Communities who deliver the Escaping Violence Payment. This payment was a trial in which we've worked very closely with Uniting Communities to make sure it is properly resourced and delivering good outcomes to people facing family and domestic violence. I would just like to acknowledge firstly, the frontline workers that we heard from this morning, who diligently work with so many women escaping family and domestic violence. Providing not only the financial package that goes along with the Escaping Violence Payment, but also the casework, the referral work, and importantly, the risk assessment and planning. Now, of course, in the Budget, we not only announced that we were going to make the Leaving Violence Payment permanent, but also importantly, in recognising the increase in demand that Uniting Communities are facing, we put an extra $32 million in the Budget to provide more packages for women and families fleeing family and domestic violence. Today, I'm very pleased to announce, in addition to this $32 million, as a result of the recent attention on this program, we will now provide another $7 million to support more packages for more people. This is a really significant investment, but an important one. We know that there are many moments when someone might consider leaving a violent relationship, and we don't want financial barriers to be in that person's way, and for them not be able to access the support they need. So this is a very important part of the Budget and contributes to the support we're able to give. But it's not the only support that we provide as a Government. In fact, with the most recent Budget, our investment in women's safety totals $3.4 billion over our three budgets. This is because our Government takes addressing family domestic and sexual violence seriously. We have our National Plan, and we are backing that National Plan up with resources. Now before I go to questions, I will make some comments about the Singapore Airlines incident that happened overnight. Firstly, obviously my thoughts and the Government’s thoughts are with everyone that was on that flight, particularly the person that died, and also everyone that has been injured. Our Consular Officials in Bangkok are supporting the eight Australians that are in hospital as a result of that incident. And of course, both our Consular Officials in Bangkok and in Singapore continue to seek more information. This is a difficult time, but our thoughts are with everyone affected by this incident. I'll go to questions.

JOURNALIST: Advocates have been calling for eligibility for the Escaping Violence Payment to be expanded. Is the Government considering the criteria or is that what you just announced there?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: What we've been very clear about is the Escaping Violence Payment will turn into the Leaving Violence Program, because it does much more than a payment. It is really only one element of the payment system. Of course what this provides for is a $5000 package of support at the point of time where someone is thinking about or has just left a violent relationship. Of course there's other times people need financial support. And there are options, whether it's the crisis payment available through Services Australia, or other important financial support that is made available from other organisations. This program is specifically designed for that time when someone is thinking about or going to leave, or has just left a violent relationship, but it's by no means the only support available.

JOURNALIST: Minister, this money is great, but in regional Australia, a lot of women simply don't have a place to go. There are no available refuge beds, there are no applicable motels or hotels and the housing situation in general is just really tough. So is there anything in store to address that?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: We understand that housing, and particularly crisis accommodation, is critically important for women leaving family domestic violence. As well as ensuring people, if they can remain safe in their home, are able to do so where the person perpetrating violence is removed from the home. When it comes to crisis accommodation, I have been opening a number of new crisis accommodation places through our Safe Places program. There was an extra $100 million put into that program, in which we are now going through the applications. But a number of those places have been made in rural and regional areas, recently in Dubbo. I also visited some new places in Nowra. So we are very aware that crisis accommodation is something that is necessary in rural and regional areas. And I would say in addition, the Minister for Housing has also announced a significant investment in crisis accommodation as well. She'll be working with the states and territories, but we are aware of the need in rural and regional Australia. And that's why in the last round of the Safe Places and the next round of the Safe Places, you will see more crisis accommodation in rural and regional Australia.

JOURNALIST: Just one more on the regional theme. The rates are double and triple, both for violence incidents and for deaths. What else is in store that might be specifically targeting the regions?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I would say that a number of our investments are about specifically targeting the regions and I will point to our investment in frontline workers. The extra investment we made, we provided the funding to the states and territories, one of the conditions was that around half those workers, actually went to rural, regional and remote areas, recognising the extra need that they do have. Some of the other money that will continue through the National Partnerships, which the former Government had ending in the Budget, actually has been provided to states and territories to continue services through rural and regional areas. And finally, I would acknowledge that the Escaping Violence Payment and the Leaving Violence Program are delivered on the whole, by Uniting Communities, but in some regional areas, we have announced a place-based approach. Whether that is in the Cairns area, in the Broome area, these are delivering services in a much more localised way, to meet the needs of rural and regional Australians. Thank you.