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Budget $25m funding failure ‘puts women’s lives at risk’

Women’s Legal Services Australia (WLSA) says a failure to provide $25 million in emergency funding in the Federal Budget has left its members struggling to provide much-needed assistance to women trying to escape abusive partners.

WLSA said it wrote to Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter with costings from the Centre for Future Work estimating an extra $25 million was needed to ensure the current volume of requests received by its members could be met.

Women’s Legal Service Victoria Chief Executive Officer Joanna Fletcher said the absence of emergency intervention funding in the Budget would cost thousands of Australian women their health and safety, and increase financial pressure on other sectors, including police, courts and social services.

“We are in an intolerable situation where we are forced to deny help to women, including many in high-risk situations, because we don’t have the staff to help them,” Ms Fletcher said.

“The women who come to us for help are often experiencing financial abuse and coercive control as well as physical violence.

“We know from decades of experience that, without intervention, these controlling behaviours can escalate into deadly violence against women and children.”

The WLSA said this Budget was an opportunity for the Government to address decades of chronic underspending on life-saving legal services.

Ms Fletcher said the Federal Budget injected $10.2 million to the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court to manage the strain of increasing case volumes and COVID-19, but failed to provide funding to legal services representing and supporting people in need.

WLSA said it would continue to campaign for an increase in funding during the evaluation of the Fourth Action Plan of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children, and throughout the development of the next national plan due to commence in 2021.

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