While Gladys Berejiklian taking a stand over the budget cuts to domestic violence support is a positive, it should represent her first step.
The Sydney Morning Herald has reported NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian as being “very concerned” by reports of budget cuts to domestic violence support services, and saying she will intervene if they turn out to be true.
This piece reported a number of women’s counselling and support services in Western Sydney being delivered letters on the afternoon of Friday, June 14, 2019, advising them that their funding would not be renewed.
WDVCAS NSW was pleased to learn this week that after these services directly appealed to the Attorney General and Minister of the Prevention of Domestic Violence, Mark Speakman, the decision was taken for the funding to be restored.
We are heartened by this decision and by the Premier’s remarks that she would “never let that happen on our watch” and that her government “prides itself on having record investment in domestic violence”.
WDVCAS NSW’s response to the 2019 budget highlighted the lack of new investment in the initiatives recommended to the NSW Government by women’s safety experts in our Safe State reform platform, referring as an example to the ongoing post-crisis support we have recommended be built into the existing NSW Government reforms, such as Safer Pathway.
It is true that this government has revolutionised the way in which we work together as a service system to support victims of domestic and family violence. They must be acknowledged for this.
Indeed, the independent evaluation of Safer Pathway found the program to be delivering a consistent, effective and timely response to victims of domestic violence right across NSW.
But this is only the beginning of an effective response to domestic and family violence. These are strong foundations. But we cannot rest on our laurels thinking we have made it. We haven’t made it. And the NSW Government needs to keep domestic and family violence reform high on the agenda.
Upon going through the budget papers yesterday, WDVCAS NSW along with other women’s safety advocates noted there were no announcements in the domestic and family violence space to take the reforms to the next level.
This was disappointing. Not because it was unexpected. We had been told not to expect anything in this post-election budget. But because we are struck every day by the mass destruction going on in our communities; the trauma being inflicted on women, children and men. And we have really sound, evidence-based solutions for building on these reforms to support NSW families to achieve safety and go on to live lives free from violence, and for stopping the violence from occurring in the first place.
WDVCAS NSW have been advised by the NSW Government that more evidence needs to be gathered as to where ongoing or case management support for victims of domestic and family violence should be based and how it should be delivered, and that this shall take some time, leaving victims of domestic and family violence in NSW without this crucial support for another two years.
This is not acceptable—and there is a substantive body of research upon which the government can draw to build case management support for victims into the Safer Pathway model.
We don’t want to wait for years to get on with this important work. The price is too high. We don’t want to keep waking up to another woman gone; another child traumatised. We want to roll up our sleeves and work with the Government and our partners to tackle this difficult problem—head-on.