We are currently in the midst of the Victoria Against Violence: 16 Days of Activism campaign which runs until Thursday 10th December. It aims to show people what individuals, families, organisations and government can do to prevent family and gender-based violence. Family violence is the single biggest cause of homelessness in Australia – with women and children fleeing abusive situations making up more than one quarter of Australia’s homeless population. It may be hard to believe, but in Australia the demand for women’s refuges and other safe accommodation options is so high that around half the women who come looking for accommodation are turned away due to lack of space or resources.
The relationship between family violence and homelessness is strong and complicated. Many women who flee dangerous situations often have little or no money, in part because of the gender pay gap that exists for all women, but also because it is common for abusive partners to financially exploit women by controlling their money and/or forbidding them to work outside the home. The lack of money combined with the chronic shortage of affordable housing, puts women and children in these situations at high risk of homelessness. And because there aren’t many housing options for those with limited resources, people are more likely to stay in toxic relationships, leading to the horrifying statistic that 74 women have died in Australia this year as a result of family violence.
Whilst it’s critical that we have enough accommodation to house women and children who are escaping violence, it’s equally as important that we work towards creating a society where attitudes towards women change to the point where family violence is eliminated. However, until that is the case we also need to invest in programs like Safe At Home that challenge the conventional wisdom that the victims of violence should be the ones to move house. After safety assessments of the home have been done, SAH can do all kinds of things to make it more secure such as changing locks, right through to installing sensor lights and even cutting away bushes that perpetrators can hide behind.
CHP has called for more funding for the Safe At Home program in its pre-budget submission and our submission to the Family Violence Royal Commission. We also stressed the need for investment in rapid rehousing programs, to quickly establish women and children in an alternative home long term. Victoria’s Family Violence Royal Commission and commitment to implement its recommendations, is a positive indication that governments are now taking this issue seriously. CHP looks forward to seeing significant investment in securing safe housing for women and children as a key part of any future plans to address family violence, at any level of government.
If you or someone you know is experiencing violence help is available.