'Family Terrorism': The Threat That Needs Funding

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In spite of the media saturation, political posturing, and visceral images coming out of the Middle East, a new Essential Research Poll has revealed that Australians rate the threat of domestic violence higher than terrorism.

The poll of 1,000 people, released today by community campaign group Fair Agenda, found that 74 per cent of Australians believe family violence is either more of a threat than terrorism, or about the same.

Only 18 per cent of respondents thought that terrorism posed a greater threat than domestic violence, and Fair Agenda has responded to the polling by highlighting the “violence epidemic” has been met with “inadequate government funding”.

Domestic violence claims many more Australian lives than terrorism, and parallels between the two issues has drawn increasing attention since they were raised by Australian of the Year Rosie Batty last month.

“Let’s start calling family violence terrorism and then maybe we can start to see funding flowing to this area,” Batty suggested in an address to the National Press Club in June.

“We see whenever there is the slight threat of terrorism it’s amazing how funding can be found to combat that where seemingly there was no funding before,” she said.

Australian of the Year Rosie Batty

Research being undertaken by advocacy group Destroy the Joint, which is doing the heartbreaking work of ‘Counting Dead Women’, shows that 49 women have lost their lives to domestic violence this year alone.

“We’re in the midst of a family violence epidemic, yet inadequate government funding means thousands of women are still being turned away from the services that should be helping keep them safe,” said Renee Carr, Executive Director of Fair Agenda.

Despite growing acknowledgement in political circles that domestic violence has passed crisis point, the only new funding announced in the 2015-16 budget was $16.7 million for awareness campaigning.

Two existing programs – geared at homelessness services and legal advice – also received short term funding extensions worth around $250 million together.

In contrast, an additional $450 million was allocated to fighting terrorism in Joe Hockey’s second budget in May, and it came in addition to the $630 million allocated the year before.

“As a nation, we need to re-assess our priorities,” Batty said this morning. “Women and children are dying because of family violence and we need to see a commensurate response,” she said.

Despite “all the talk about addressing this issue,” Carr said, “governments still aren’t fully funding frontline services to keep women safe”.

The results of the Essential Research poll suggest most people in the community agree.

Among female respondents, who generally rated the threat level higher than men, 21 per cent said that domestic violence is “much more of a threat” than terrorism, 32 per cent said it was “more of a threat” and 26 per cent said the threat level is “about the same”.

Batty, whose son Luke was murdered by his father in February last year, said that while “there is no shortage of goodwill from our leaders, we need words put into action including increased funding of family violence services”.

Fair Agenda recently canvassed some of the funding gaps that are leaving women vulnerable in its ‘What Will It Take?’ report, which found an additional $33.8 million dollars is needed for specialist homelessness services.

The group says this will help “to address the turn away of 2,800 women fleeing domestic violence from crisis accommodation services annually”.

The report noted that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are particularly at risk, being 34 times more likely to be hospitalised as a result of family violence, and recommended another $28 million in funding for specialist and culturally appropriate legal services.

The Fair Agenda report, released shortly before this year’s budget, also urged the Federal government to contribute an additional $12.2 million towards Aboriginal parenting and family safety programs.

The group also identified funding gaps in legal services for non-Indigenous women, noting that a staggering 150,000 people are turned away from Community Legal Centres each year.

Around a third of the centres’ work relates to family violence, and Fair Agenda cites the Productivity Commission’s recent recommendation that the government tip an additional $120 million towards the legal assistance sector.

Even if all of those funding suggestions had been adopted by the government, it would come to a cumulative total of $256 million dollars less than what the government stumped up for additional counter-terrorism funding in the 2015-16 budget.

“We need to keep speaking out about this issue,” Batty said. “That’s why I’m urging people to stand with me beside victims by signing up at www.neveralone.com.au.”

“Every day our political leaders wait, more lives are put at significant risk.”

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au. For more information about a service in your state or local area download the DAISY App in the App Store or Google Play.

New Matilda

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