Assistant Minister Elliot interview on ABC Radio Sydney with Sarah Macdonald


Topics: Safe Places Program announcement, violence against women, frontline workers

SARAH MACDONALD, HOST:    We started the show talking about domestic violence, and in most, if not all of the discussions on this issue, we hear that women need a safe place to go to get away from violence. Did you hear in the news the Federal Government has committed a new funding round for some 19 projects to deliver more than 700 safe places around the country. Joining me now is the Federal Assistant Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence, Justine Elliot. Good morning to you and thanks for your time this morning.

JUSTINE ELLIOT, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR THE PREVENTION OF FAMILY VIOLENCE:    Good morning, Sarah. Thanks for having me on to talk about this really important issue.

SARAH MACDONALD:    So, is this new funding for more than 700 places?

JUSTINE ELLIOT:    It absolutely is, Sarah. Under this Safe Places funding, there are 19 new projects and they're funded to deliver around 720 new safe places right across the country. We know how important it is for women and children leaving situations of family and domestic violence to be able to find accommodation. And that's why these safe places are vitally important and why we funded all of these new safe places to be built across the country. And we know one of the main reasons many women can't leave a domestic violence situation is not having anywhere to go. And that's why the safe places are so vitally important.

SARAH MACDONALD:    So, are they new refuges?

JUSTINE ELLIOT:    The majority will be new build, absolutely right across the country and having these in place is so important because we know family and domestic violence is one of the leading causes of homelessness. And of course, this is all part of the broader suite of measures that we have. Our Government, the Albanese Labor Government, we've had record funding when it comes to women's safety, more than $3.4 billion across a whole range of measures. And can I also add too, that the states also, of course, are very much involved. Firstly in the development of our National Plan to eliminate violence against women and children, but also in funding a lot of initiatives too. We do give a substantial amount of money to all the states and they deliver a lot of those services on the ground. But this project, Safe Places, is funded by the Federal Government specifically for all those new builds or refits to make sure that the accommodation is there for the women and children who really desperately need it.

SARAH MACDONALD:    Yes, we heard from a refuge this morning, one that doesn't get any funding at all. When will the spots for them be identified and when will building start?

JUSTINE ELLIOT:    Well, look, very soon the full details in terms of the specific locations will be announced and many of the builds will start very, very soon. We already have many of them right across the country that are in place. Currently 40 projects are funded and that's, you know, up to about 780 safe places that are assisting up to about 6000 women per year. But it's important to have more of them there. As I say, it builds on a huge suite of measures that we have. We know that there's so much that we need to be doing and we are doing, and indeed more that needs to be done. And as part of our National Plan, we have four domains to that; prevention, early intervention, responses, and recovery and healing. We know there needs to be funding right across those areas and we've been doing that, as I said, record funding and the state governments are too. I know many people in the community and the business world do step up. We all have to work together to eliminate violence against women and children in one generation because we are all so incredibly distressed when we see some of the cases. It is really very, very distressing.

SARAH MACDONALD:    Yeah, it's the way we had to start the show, but I do want to finish it on this too. Federal Assistant Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence, Justine Elliot is with me. What about the funding of them to do their work? Is their funding included, ongoing?

JUSTINE ELLIOT:    This funding is specifically for the construction and the building of those specific places. In terms of running it, the providers that they do go to generally provide these other services as well. So, part of the provision is that they provide the services and ongoing funding to keep those safe places running. We are providing that funding to build them because it is a significant cost to actually get them up and running, and it's often a prohibitor for some of these providers to be able to provide the services. They're already out there providing a whole range of services to the community, but what they needed was injection of funding to have the capital build in place, to have the infrastructure.

SARAH MACDONALD:    We've been hearing about the government funding, Federal Government funding 500 new domestic violence workers. I think NSW has only employed less than 10. What is the delay here? Do you understand why it's taking so long to get those to staff such refuges and places for women?

JUSTINE ELLIOT:    Well, we've certainly given significant funding to the states and we have said to them that they do need to get them in place and we certainly hope to see a lot more on the ground soon. I understand from many of the states they have put many workers on, they have many contracts about to be in place as well. But we've certainly made it clear that it's up to the states to get those workers on the ground where they are needed. It is part of, as I said, thoseā€¦

SARAH MACDONALD:    [interrupts] So, there's nothing you can do to push the states to hire those people that it seems they're taking a long time to do?

JUSTINE ELLIOT:    We've certainly made it very clear, everyone in the Government has made it very clear to them on many occasions that funding is there. They need to get more of those workers out. Many of them are. I understand that they are doing that as fast as they can. And we've made it very clear publicly that they need to be doing that a lot quicker than they are because people need to be able to access those services and they do require them.

SARAH MACDONALD:    All right. Well, I thank you for your time this morning on this. I mean, a couple of people are texting about a system we have talked about before. It's called Staying Home Leaving Violence. So, there's help for those to be able to stay home and keep safe there. Is that also part of federal funding?

JUSTINE ELLIOT:    Yeah, absolutely and look as I said, Sarah, there are a whole range of services in place. Could I also add, too, that anyone who may need assistance, can you please call 1800RESPECT. That's 1800 737 732. There are a whole range of government services and supports out there, and I really ask if people do need help to please phone that number and get some information from them.

SARAH MACDONALD:    Right. In terms of that, though, there's separate funding for that initiative, is there?

JUSTINE ELLIOT:    Yeah, there are a whole range of initiatives that we have in place. We do fund a record amount to the states to provide some of that accommodation, some of the support services, some of the counselling services that people may need. This funding we're talking about today, Safe Places is specifically for those 19 new projects to deliver around the 720 new safe places across the country. But we already have a whole range of measures in place that provide a lot of services for women and children fleeing domestic violence.

SARAH MACDONALD:    Thank you for your time this morning.

JUSTINE ELLIOT:    Thank you so much, Sarah.