Budget fulfils promise of change—promoting safety and fairness for Victorians

27 April 2016

The 2016-17 budget of the Victorian Government reaches out to those who suffer family violence with a new promise of fairness, recovery and opportunity.

With a total package of $572m spread across multiple initiatives under a whole-of-government family violence approach, the budget parallels the depth and scope of the recent Royal Commission into Family Violence. This approach enables wrap-around care and should ensure that no department is working against the best outcomes for the client.

“We applaud this much-needed package of family violence innovations,” said Ms Dimity Fifer, CEO Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand. “It will increase our prevention and crisis responses to family violence and begin to build a post-crisis approach to recovery.”

In this package, there will be more housing, more legal support and additional specialist responses including for Aboriginal, CALD and LGBTI victims. Within each of these service areas a range of responses picks up the most urgent of the Royal Commission recommendations. Some of these investments, such as Family Violence Navigators ($17.6m), a “housing blitz” to the value of $152.5m and intensive early childhood support ($33.9m over two years) are weighty and will make a significant difference from the outset. Children also receive much-needed attention including through additional child protection practitioners, therapeutic interventions and integrated family services.

Other initiatives are a down-payment requiring further funding investment to create meaningful change. Financial counselling for family violence victims receives a welcome $1.8m this year and we look forward to further reforms to respond to the Royal Commission comprehensive findings regarding economic abuse and financial insecurity of victims.

“We are pleased to see that the package does not leave out the most disempowered victims, addressing the pernicious effects of family violence on women who reside in the corrections system through increased funding of $3.6m for therapeutic interventions to recover from family violence and sexual assault,” added Ms Fifer.

Investments in the future are present in workforce training initiatives and the very welcome focus on healthy relationships education in schools, from early childhood through to secondary. Improving the justice and behaviour change responses to perpetrators are also included.
Importantly, the budget supports the Government’s democratic policy process in this reform: specialists and victims have been listened to through the Royal Commission process and this will be extended into the implementation phase, which will also be monitored and measured.

Other significant initiatives
Mental health receives significant attention in this budget. Good Shepherd is particularly pleased that additional specialist clinical services to reduce the impact of violence on children will be funded, along with additional suicide prevention.

Housing affordability and stress remains a significant concern and the budget signals an important if modest investment with spot purchases of up to 32 new homes in high growth areas. While a drop in the ocean of housing need, this represents progress and brings the hope that more will follow.

The budget also makes a major commitment to infrastructure, and this represents a welcome investment in public transport and in schools in growth areas, as well as supporting employment.
The Government’s development of a new “Jobs Victoria” entity is another positive and significant initiative that promises to provide better employment support opportunities for specific cohorts. We hope that its scope includes women who have been disadvantaged by family violence and need support to re-establish themselves financially and enter the workforce.

“We look forward to the Government’s continuing efforts to address gender inequality and family violence. We see this whole-of-government approach as very useful to address entrenched forms of disadvantage.”

There is much work still to do in addressing family violence, but the Andrews government demonstrates with this budget that it can meet these challenges. It indicates the Government has a genuine concern for all. It casts the social net wide to respond to emerging needs as well as supporting the family violence victims who have been hidden for too long.