After the 2023-24 Federal Budget was released earlier this year, we held out hope that the first Action Plan would include the bold and visionary planning and investment required to meaningfully address family and gender-based violence across the country.
There are tangible actions across the Action Plan that build on initiatives announced in the Federal Budget, alongside other promising actions to support all victim survivors, such as:
- Commitments to support victim survivors on temporary visas, including extension of the Temporary Visa Holders Experiencing Violence Pilot, expansion of the Family Violence Provisions for visa applications and extended funding for visa support services.
- Continued funding and expansion of supports for victim survivors through Services Australia, including the continuation of crisis payments for victim survivors, alongside initiatives to support a more integrated response and to address some of the structural barriers victim survivors face when engaging with Services Australia.
- Initiatives to embed trauma-informed and culturally safe response models to support victim survivors through the family law system, including funding to extend the Lighthouse Project (a risk screening and management program in the Federal Court and Family Court of Australia) to all 15 primary family law registries.
While there are many positive initiatives within the Plan, most of these appear to come with short-term funding and no clear, long-term strategy. With at least 35 women murdered in Australia already this year, the scope and scale of the family violence crisis in this country calls for significant, enduring and coordination action, and the piecemeal initiatives listed as part of this Action Plan fall short. Without a bold and strategic plan to permanently change the structures and attitudes that allow violence to thrive, the government will struggle to deliver on their ambitious goal of ending family violence in one generation.
Put simply – if we want to end family and gender-based violence, this Action Plan is not going to get us there.
Initiatives to address specific challenges in preventing and responding to family violence in this Plan are either inadequate or missing altogether. This includes actions to address our nation-wide workforce shortage across all areas of prevention and response. Committing long-term investment towards trained and supported prevention and response workforces is integral to achieving the outcomes outlined in the Action Plan.
Similarly, there is a distinct lack of tangible measures to meaningfully embed the voices of lived experience, and to centre the experiences of children and young people in system design and reform.
While the Action Plan contains an entire action for housing and homelessness initiatives, these fall short of the significant investment required to address the critical lack of safe and accessible housing options for people experiencing family violence. We hope that the National Housing and Homelessness Plan currently in development will address this, alongside the structural issues contributing to rising rates of housing insecurity, homelessness and poverty across Australia.
There is also nothing in the Plan to meaningfully address economic insecurity, which is critical to achieving long-term safety and recovery for victim survivors. This includes a lack of information as to the coordination, support and amount of funding required to implement whole of school respectful relationships education across Australia in consistent and evidence-based ways.
Performance indicators outlined in this Action Plan – including the goal of reducing family violence homicides by 25% – are welcomed, but insufficient on their own. We look forward to seeing the Performance Measurement Plan referenced and encourage the Commonwealth to work with specialist sectors to determine what the useful measures of success against the Plan would be.
Achieving the cultural and systemic change required to eliminate family violence in one generation is by no means impossible. However, it requires our governments to be bold and brave in considering what is required right now to get where we need to be – and to fund this accordingly.
We look forward to continuing to work with the government to implement the First Action Plan, as well as working in solidarity with First Nations communities to ensure the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan makes the impact it has set out to achieve.
It is our hope that the Commonwealth Government will implement more long-term and visionary initiatives in future, so we can fully realise the commendable vision set out in the National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022-2032 and ensure that every person experiencing family violence can access the support and safety they need, when they need it – and ultimately prevent this violence from occurring in the first place.