Page 4052 - Week 13 - Thursday, 2 December 2021

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According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare:

… mothers who experience multiple financial hardships are significantly more likely to have experienced violence than those with little to no experience of hardship. These mothers reported to AIHW that they had difficulty paying bills on time, were going without meals, or had needed to pawn or sell goods in the past year. One in 5 mothers who experienced hardship also reported violence, compared with just over 1 in 9 mothers who experienced little or no hardship. In 2010, nearly 1 in 10 mothers surveyed said they had been homeless at some point in the previous 5 years. Domestic violence was the most common cause of homelessness in this group.

Research led by the Women’s Centre for Health Matters in 2019, undertaken by my colleague Minister Emma Davidson who was at that time the Deputy CEO of the centre, found that many women in this city, even those in technically middle-income households, are dependent on a partner’s income to be in that bracket. Should the relationship end, those women would fall into the bottom 20 per cent of household incomes in the ACT.

What both these important pieces of research demonstrate is the compounding impact of financial hardship and gender in experiences of violence. Putting domestic and family violence leave in the national employment standards is a feminist action that reflects the whole-of-society impact that domestic violence has and ensures that everyone who experiences violence has some basic security around their employment.

During the pandemic there was an upsurge in instances of violence and people seeking support from domestic and family violence services. Across Australia these services saw a significant increase in people accessing their services for the first time.

Research undertaken by the Queensland University of Technology found that 87 per cent of domestic violence services reported that their clients were experiencing increased isolation and 64 per cent reported clients had an inability to seek outside help. Sixty-two per cent of agencies surveyed said that clients reported being forced to cohabitate during lockdown.

Coercion and control were rife throughout lockdown and we know that perpetrators used threats about health and family wellbeing to force people back into their violent homes. As we socially recover from COVID, we must deeply consider how we, as governments, can build systems and support structures to care for those who have experienced violence.

According to the Australian Services Union, it is estimated that moving to find a new, safe place for you and your family can cost up to $20,000 and takes more than 140 hours. It takes finding somewhere safe to live for you and any children you may have. It takes contacting banks, postal services, removalists, courts, lawyers, friends and family. It takes telling your story again and again.

Many women talk about managing the additional full-time job of appointments for child protection support programs, counselling, legal appointments, court-ordered

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