Page 480 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 15 February 2017

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The 2016-17 ACT government budget delivered the landmark safer families package, which is investing $21.42 million in driving the next phase of reform in a whole-of-government community backed response to violence against women and children. The government cannot do it alone. From the beginning, for real change to take place across our community, everybody needs to be part of this movement and part of the solution.

There is no doubt that we have already achieved a great deal. I am happy to be able this week to announce a new grants program, the safer families grants program, which provides practical and flexible assistance to help women and children leaving violence to set up a new home. The program will provide families with a grant of up to $2,000 to assist with the costs of moving, buying furniture and whitegoods, setting up utilities and services and paying advance rent, along with fast-tracked access to the existing Housing ACT rental bonds loan scheme, which provides an interest-free loan of up to 90 per cent of the rental bond.

The ACT government will pilot this program for the next 12 months in partnership with the Domestic Violence Crisis Service, who will act as the initial central referring agency, and will work with the support of local businesses. I look forward to hearing more about this grant and how it is working to support women and children and others in our community.

MS CODY: Minister, how else is the ACT government supporting Canberra families to live safely and free from violence in their homes?

MS BERRY: The government’s response to family violence released in June 2016 includes 38 separate commitments to address domestic and family violence. Already through this additional investment we have established for the first time a Coordinator-General for Family Safety to drive cultural change and lead reform in partnership with government agencies, non-government services and the Canberra community.

We have changed key legislative frameworks to improve the response to domestic and family violence, including a new Family Violence Act 2016, which expands the definition of family violence to expressly include a broader range of behaviours, including emotional, psychological and economic abuse and improves the protection order system. There have been amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 to make it easier for a tenant impacted by domestic violence to change their living arrangements if they need to. There have also been amendments to the Discrimination Act 1991 to ensure that a person’s status as a victim of family violence is protected.

The government has increased funding for critical community services such as the Domestic Violence Crisis Service, the Canberra Rape Crisis Service, the Beryl Women’s Refuge and the Doris Women’s Refuge. The government has funded the new room 4 change program, an innovative residential behaviour change program for men who use or are at risk of using violence. Government directorates have also been provided targeted funding to implement reforms that support a holistic approach to reducing family violence.

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