Minister Rishworth interview on ABC Radio Darwin Drive with Liz Trevaskis


LIZ TREVASKIS: But if you are sticking around, this is something that we see every day in our community, isn't it? A sad and grim reality of living here – the damage caused by domestic violence. We literally walk by it on our streets. Minister Kate Worden repeated our grim statistics when it comes to family and domestic violence when I spoke to her recently.


KATE WORDEN: Aboriginal women are eight times more likely to die from domestic and family violence than any other woman in the northern- in Australia. And where five out of six homicides in the Northern Territory are domestic and family violence related. And if you're an Indigenous woman in the Northern Territory, this is astounding, you're 40 times more likely to be hospitalised as a result of domestic and family violence than anywhere else in the country. I think that stands for itself. It just shows we need more and that's expensive so we need that support.

LIZ TREVASKIS: The stats are appalling and the funding need is massive. Kate Worden again.

KATE WORDEN: So the annual bucket from the Federal Government, and I can only speak from in retrospectivity with previous governments, was around $150 million a year across Australia. We get 1 per cent. That's $1.5 million a year. Now, they also give us a little bit of loading, which takes it up to $1.9 million a year, but as you can see, $1.5 million out of a bucket of $150 million. It just doesn't cut it when our need is so much more.

LIZ TREVASKIS: How much do we need from the Federal Government?

KATE WORDEN: Well, we did an exercise last year with the sector, and we think that we at least need $15 million a year.

[End of excerpt]

LIZ TREVASKIS: So we get around $1.5, up to $1.9 million a year from the Federal Government. According to the sector, $15 million per year is the need. Well, today, the Federal Minister for Social Services, Amanda Rishworth, is in town to open the wallet, announcing that $10.7 million in funding will be brought forward ahead of the October federal budget. The money will go to the Northern Territory Government to determine where those funds should be spent. It's not the $15 million per year that the sector says they need and there's no commitment to make domestic violence funding in the Northern Territory needs-based, which is what the sector's been calling out for, rather than population-based. I spoke to the Minister earlier to try and find out why the funding is not ongoing and why they're not making a move towards needs-based funding.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: This is a top-up money that has been provided to the Northern Territory Government. The national partnerships and of course the new national plan is being developed right now along with the action plan. So that will give us a framework and a guidance of how we work going forward. Under that, it's very important to recognise that, for the first time, we are working on an action plan specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, particularly women and children. And so that will drive a lot of the direction of where we work in partnership with state and territory governments.

LIZ TREVASKIS: $10.7 million, it sounds like a lot, but if it's just a one-off payment, it doesn't sound like it will go anywhere near touching the sides when we've heard that the Northern Territory Government would like $15 million per year. How long is this funding top-up sort of available? What period of time will this money be made available for?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: This money will be made available over the coming year. As I said, we will sit down and negotiate with all our states and territories going forward as we develop the national plan of what comes next. I would say also I'm really keen to work with states and territories about delivering some of our other election commitments, which includes a boost in funding for frontline workers, particularly with a focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers, as well as a focus on how we deliver the next stage of our safe places. At the moment, there is eight units being built that have been funded by our Safe Places funding stream for crisis accommodation in Darwin, and I'm very keen to work with the state and territory, but particularly the Territory Government on our next funding round of the Safe Places initiative.

LIZ TREVAKIS: I know you’re keen as Minister to spruik the work that you're keen to do, but funding is such a critical issue in this sector. And time and time again we've heard the service providers here in the Territory, we've heard the Minister talk about the fact that we get this pittance compared to the rest of the country when the need here in the Northern Territory is so dramatically greater than it is around the country. $15 million per year is what the Northern Territory Government says they need. Why aren't you able to fund that need?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I am topping up $10.7 million as a matter of urgency. As I said, there is a new- there'll be new discussions coming off the back of the national plan in which we'll look at the delivery. Are we delivering services? What- how do we partner going forward? There is extra money in our frontline workers plan that we will be working towards. And as I said, we will be developing an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander action plan that will drive investment. And so these are the things I want to partner with the Northern Territory Government on.

LIZ TREVAKIS: Minister, would you like to be able to give the Northern Territory Government $15 million per year to match the funding that they say is needed?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I'll tell you what I want to do. I want to work with my state and territory counterparts to end violence against women and their children. [Indistinct]…

LIZ TREVAKIS: [Talks over] I know, but- of course you do. But that wasn't the question. The government wants- the Northern Territory Government wants $15 million per year. Would you like to have the budget to be able to give them the money that they say they need? This is money that's been determined by work within the sector.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I'll be very clear. I will work with my state and territory colleagues. I will work with them to deliver. But it's a partnership, and it's a partnership that I will work with the Territory Government. We’ll work together, and I look forward to doing that.

LIZ TREVAKIS: Is the Northern Territory going to continue to get funding from the Federal Government based on population rather than based on need into the future? Or are you reviewing how that funding is delivered?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: The whole national partnership is being renegotiated in line with the national plan that I would like state and territory leaders to sign off on. We have a new national plan that will have new action plans, and that's what I'm working towards.

LIZ TREVAKIS: But will the Territory get funding based on need rather than population?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: We're having a new National Plan with new action plans and that will drive the new direction. I haven't signed off on those yet. We’ll continue to work towards those.

LIZ TREVAKIS: This all sounds like very bureaucratic kind of speak, when I don't think the question's that complicated.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: [Talks over] It’s not bureaucratic. We are developing a Torres Strait Islander action plan that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women themselves are developing. That is what we're working towards. So you can call that bureaucratic. I've been very clear that I will work with my territory counterparts. I think coming here to Alice Springs, announcing an extra $3 million - and some of that money will be invested in family and domestic violence services. To announce a fast track of $10.7 million, I think I've shown my commitment to working in partnership with the Territory Government.

LIZ TREVAKIS: One of the people who works in this field who I've spoken to recently said: Oh, you know, the Minister's here. Do you know what she's offering? And she said, What I only hope is that this is ongoing funding because the last government was notorious for these big funding announcements. And it sounds good and looks good on paper, but then you get this cash injection and you can't continue with services that really need that long term commitment. How would you respond to that concern?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I can just say that I want to work in a genuine partnership as we develop and finalise the National Plan that, quite frankly, the government- the former government should have finished. And we’ll work on the action plan, work with my state and territory counterparts, to actually deliver services on the ground. I'm offering a genuine partnership and genuine conversation and that's what I will do.

LIZ TREVAKIS: Alright, Amanda Rishworth, Minister for Social Services, I appreciate your time this afternoon. Thanks for joining us.