New South Wales to unveil emergency domestic violence housing package within days

Next week the NSW government will unveil an emergency package for women seeking refuge from domestic violence.

Deputy Prime Minister Prue Car announced the housing package on Friday, saying it would focus on preventing and assisting women trying to get out of dangerous situations.

Ms Car said this would be the first step in a larger push by her government to improve women’s safety following an alarming spike in gender-based violence.

After a Cabinet meeting on Friday, where experts and campaigners spoke, Ms Car said: ‘Primary prevention and early intervention needs more attention as we need to drive the cultural change that prevents it from happening.’

Ms Car, Housing Minister, said the Government will look at underutilized accommodation facilities with a view to repurposing them as shelters or even long-term housing.

She also said education would be the focus.

“Education is always, always part of the answer, but the government must ensure that schools are supported to do that.”

NSW Deputy Prime Minister Prue Car (centre) announced a housing package on Friday to help women fleeing domestic violence. The details will be announced next week

Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council Penny Sharpe said the announcement was decades overdue.

“What this government has done today [has] a process has been initiated that has taken too long, but which requires urgent action.

“It’s about things that are going to change the dial… to prevent the behavior in the first place.”

At a national level, a similar meeting took place in Canberra on Friday.

Chaired by Attorney General Mark Dreyfus, the meeting of several police ministers ‘noted’ the direction of the National Cabinet, working with the country’s Attorneys General to devise options for improving police response to high-risk perpetrators of gender-based violence.

The council of police ministers ‘agreed to charge officers with considering the views of expert stakeholders, including those with lived experience of violence, in developing the joint program to advance this work’.

Mr Dreyfus also referred to comments made by Anthony Albanese ahead of the meeting about bail and other measures prioritizing security.

Ahead of the meeting, the Prime Minister had indicated that ministers would discuss bail laws and greater sharing of data between states on high-risk offenders or serial killers.

The technical details of these issues are largely within the purview of police ministers.

The meeting, which took place ahead of the worrying increase in gender-based violence and two stabbings in Sydney, included discussion and action on the National Firearms Register and closing the gap.

No major announcements were expected to be made.

On Friday morning, Albanese said cooperation between states was crucial in tackling what he described as a national crisis.

“States and territories will all come together at the attorney general’s meeting to talk about the law, the justice system, the bail laws, the issues that are the primary responsibility of states and territories,” the Prime Minister told Channel 7.

“In addition, the NSW Cabinet is also meeting today to discuss measures within NSW that they can take control of, things like community services and housing.”

Rallies have been held across the country

Thousands attended and demanded action on this issue

Demonstrations have been held across the country in recent days, with thousands of people demanding action to tackle the problem

South Australia has already passed tough laws targeting repeat offenders with strict stay-at-home orders and requiring those who breach intervention orders and are on bail to wear an ankle monitor.

At least 28 women have died this year as a result of gender-based violence.

Mr Albanese held an emergency meeting of National Cabinet this week, announcing that a Morrison-era pilot program to financially help women leaving abusive relationships will be made permanent.

A total of $925 million will be set aside over five years to transition the Escaping Violence Payment trial to the Leaving Violence Payment, which will be rolled out at the end of the trial next year.

Mr Albanese described it as ‘two steps forward’.

“What we’ve done is strengthen the program to ensure that there is more, more support, not just the financial payment, but that those support services kick in as well,” he said.

The program, which aims to help people with the financial costs associated with escaping an abusive intimate relationship, offers eligible people up to $1,500 in cash and $3,500 in vouchers.

The one-off $5,000 payment was first introduced under the former Morrison government in 2021, but was revised in response to increased concerns over strict eligibility requirements, including the exclusion of people holding temporary visas.

To qualify, an individual must be a victim survivor and have experienced a change in living situation as a result of the intimate partner violence within the past twelve weeks.

Only 15 per cent of frontline services reported their clients would receive the full $5000 payment in 2022, according to a report from peak body Domestic Violence NSW.

Data obtained by the Guardian this year showed that between July and September 2023, more than half of more than 50,000 Australians had their applications rejected.

Independent MP Kylea Tink said the government must stop ‘throwing money at a broken system’.

“Where we are right now, as a society and a culture, is at a tipping point, where we have to turn this issue on its head,” she told ABC News.

“We need to stop focusing on the victims who run, the women who run with their children, and focus on the root causes of gender-based violence in this country.”