Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 12 Hansard (Wednesday, 24 November 2021) . . Page.. 3646 ..
Despite the determined work of feminists and women’s rights advocates, the COVID-19 crisis has laid bare the social and economic inequality still facing women in the 21st century. Whilst on a federal stage our Prime Minister is spruiking a can-do capitalism approach to these issues facing society, it is clear that this approach has subordinated women facing domestic violence to the backbenches of political interest. Global patriarchy has taken full advantage of the COVID-19 virus to reclaim power, and it will have lasting effects on the progress instituted by governments to address social and economic inequality globally.
Research by the World Economic Forum has found that the COVID-19 pandemic has added 36 years to the time remaining to close the global gender gap. To put this into perspective, we as global citizens are now estimated to need 135.6 years to properly close the gender gap—135 years. This number weighs heavily on my conscience not just as a member of this place but as a member of our global community. Now more than ever, we as a group of representatives must rise to the challenge of addressing these inequalities that those before us either left advocating for or feigned concern for.
Women during the last COVID-19 lockdown were more likely to lose their jobs, more likely to undertake unpaid work, and less likely to receive income support payments due to their over-casualised work. This has resulted in unprecedented demand for family and domestic violence services here in the ACT. This year, DVCS recorded the highest rate of calls to their 24/7 hotline since the start of the pandemic. The YWCA’s domestic violence support service also peaked its capacity, assisting 136 women in the 12 months from April 2020 to April 2021. In their budget submission, the YWCA said that if resourcing were not an issue, they would have been able to service another 150 clients requiring their services every year. This number of people not receiving community support is unacceptable and it cannot continue.
For the record, domestic and family violence is a gendered issue. It is also an issue that people across the gender and sexuality spectrums, including some men, can experience. I want to put on the record that I am not only a man but a man who has experienced sexual violence. I insist on using this platform to make the point to anyone listening who is yet to fully appreciate the gendered impact of family sexual and intimate partner violence that it disproportionately impacts women. This is not to say that men do not experience violence, but I am acutely aware that services in the ACT that provide care to people who have experienced violence cater to people of all genders.
I am pleased to see the 2021-22 ACT budget begin to address these issues facing us as a society and more broadly as a global collective. The safer families levy has been flagged by community organisations as a major way that issues in the sector can be well funded. I am pleased to see the ACT government’s commitment in this budget to raise the levy to $50 per household by the financial year 2024-25. In effect, this will raise an additional $8.8 million for domestic violence services here in the ACT.
This budget is also committed to designing an integrated domestic family violence risk assessment model which includes case tracking. This is integral to making sure that the continued response by governments and community organisations alike has a