The Guardian • Issue #2101

HALF THE SKY

Women and the Budget

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2101
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Australia is facing a major crisis in domestic and family violence, and it is women and children who are paying a high price. Leaving an abusive partner is all too often a choice between living in poverty or even homelessness, or returning to an abuser because of lack of accommodation or economic security.

JobSeeker condemns women and their children to poverty. The Single Parenting Payment is woefully low and needs to be increased. Victim survivors leaving the family home as they flee for safety, are priced out of the rental market and turned away from shelters in their thousands.

Elena Rosenman, chair of Women’s Legal Services Australia said: “This Budget means many women’s legal services will have to start planning to reduce services to women experiencing gender-based violence. This includes legal assistance for women separating from violent partners, specialist Domestic Violence Units, Health Justice Partnerships and sexual harassment legal services.”

“We are deeply concerned that the Albanese government has completely overlooked the critical work of women’s legal services. We are already forced to turn away over 52,000 women every year due to lack of adequate resources.” As the number of victim survivors continues to increase, thousands more women stand to be turned away to face unsafe options.

“If we are asking Australian women to trust that the system will be there for them when they flee a violent relationship, we must ensure they can access the trauma-informed, integrated legal services they need.”

“The Women’s Budget Statement recognises the community legal sector is a female-dominated workforce, but this is not matched with adequate funding for Women’s Legal Services to address low wages and pay disparity.”

“Solicitors, social workers, First Nations caseworkers, and financial counsellors who work in frontline women’s legal services are exposed to significant trauma. They deserve to be paid appropriately for their contribution to our community.”

Apprehended violence orders are being breached, in part a result of lack of policing. The judicial system needs an overhaul so that the safety of women and children is prioritised. It came as a shock when NSW police over the space of a few days rounded up 550 serious offenders. Why were they still on the loose?

President of peak disability body People with Disability Australia, Marayke Jonkers, said women with disability who experienced violence were “completely invisible” in the federal budget: “People with disability are tired of incremental change. We need a total overhaul of housing, education, health and the systems we rely on for support and to fully participate in the community.”

A coordinated, planned and properly funded approach is required to tackle family and domestic violence. This includes respect education from an early age in schools, as well as in workplaces, sport, and other areas of society.

That would only be treating the symptoms of a far deeper problem in society, one in which men have had power over women under capitalism and in the church. Women were men’s chattels. They have provided free child care,  and managed the home. Women have faced workplace discrimination, the gender pay gap, a highly segregated workforce, and are less likely to be in secure employment or given a promotion. Five decades ago, women in the public service were sacked when they got married and the ACTU was debating whether married women should be entitled to unemployment benefits.

Women were given the right to vote in federal elections in 1902. The states passed Married Women’s Property Acts in the 1880s and 1890s, enabling them to own property.

We’ve come a long way in the past 100 years, but have so far to go. This Budget isn’t getting us there.

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