Domestic violence services are seeing mounting demand, but are still waiting for long overdue funding

Domestic violence services are seeing mounting demand, but are still waiting for long overdue funding
  • PublishedMay 4, 2024

This week I sat down with four regional NSW community leaders to talk about domestic violence and they agree there is one key thing all frontline services need to help protect women and their children: more funding.

A lot more.

But that is not new.

I’ve been reporting on domestic violence for over a decade and if I had a dollar for every time a frontline service has called for more funding, I’d probably be able make a dent in this massive shortfall myself.

Those on the frontline have been shouting into the void about how we can tackle the domestic violence crisis for many years, but they feel like no-one was listening.

As I heard this week from Gosford-based Coast Shelter CEO Lee Shearer, its case worker Deb Sorensen and Central Coast Domestic Violence Committee vice-chair Sharon Walsh, the indifference of previous governments has left the sector in dire straits.

Gosford MP Liesl Tesch also participated in the roundtable discussion to hear how our society is failing to protect at-risk women.

Ms Shearer said the number of vulnerable women and children who needed their service had tripled in the past three years, but the funding hasn’t kept up with the demand for crisis accommodation, food, clothing and access to personal support services.

“We were reaching 70 per cent, or say two in three, that were coming to us back in 2021,” she said.

“It’s now absolutely flipped where we’re only reaching one in three for support.”

Ms Sorensen said her team was “pretty much always at capacity” and had to decide every day who would miss out on their support.

“The most depressing aspect of our work is that there are so many women out there who would benefit from our assistance, but we just can’t help everyone,” she said.

Ms Walsh said many women are forced to stay with their abusive partners because they know the sector is under-resourced and won’t be able to help them.

“Of course we understand from politicians that there routinely isn’t the money for the frontline and that’s a tragedy because that is actually putting women’s lives at risk,” she said.

Following Molly Ticehurst’s death last month, allegedly at the hands of her ex-boyfriend, the state government has seemingly leapt into action, holding a special cabinet meeting on Friday to hear from prominent advocates and leaders.

They’ve since promised an emergency package to address domestic and family violence will be announced within days.

This renewed political will is in direct response to an unprecedented community outrage over the recent violence against women incidents after 28 women died from gender-based violence in Australia this year, according to data interpreted from Counting Dead Women. 

Whether this is all just another round of empty political platitudes, as we’ve seen so many times before, remains to be seen.

Those who have been dealing with this issue for decades are understandably sceptical, fed up with government reports and the failure to adopt or properly fund some of those recommendations.

If this government does finally deliver a significant response, it will certainly be a case of better late than never.

But it’s going to take a lot more than one emergency package and one generous budget to make up for the massive funding gap caused by decades of inaction and neglect by previous governments when it comes to women’s safety.


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