Peta Swarbrick - Candidate for Kurrajong
In the past, the ACT Government took steps to embed the National Plan to reduce violence against women and their children (2010-2022) into territory level frameworks, including the ACT Prevention of Violence Against Women and Children Strategy 2011-17 and the Safer Families Package.
The Family Safety Hub does not negate the need for an up-to-date Strategy and a new local plan should be developed as an urgent priority, in line with ongoing plans that exist for the Commonwealth Government and other jurisdictions
The relocation to the Chief Minister’s portfolio would improve the status and resourcing for the Office of Women and support the embedding of the ACT Women’s Plan 2016-2026 across government.Strategic oversight of gender equality through positioning the Office for Women in the Chief Minister’s Directorate. In the ACT, the Office for Women was moved from the Chief Minister’s Directorate to the Community Services Directorate in 2006, where it has since remained. Women and girls make up half the population and all policy development has the potential to impact on women and their wellbeing, due to their unique position in the labour market and broader society.
With this recommendation, we emphasise that moving the Office for Women to within the Chief Minister’s portfolio, like the Office of LGBTIQ Affairs, would similarly place the Office within the centre of government and the executive, enabling the whole-of-government commitment and coordination that the successful implementation of the Women’s Plan relies upon.
The relocation to the Chief Minister’s portfolio would improve the status and resourcing for the Office of Women and support the embedding of the ACT Women’s Plan 2016-2026 across government.
A school culture, encompassing all elements of the community, that clearly shows commitment to gender equality is essential to creating an environment that can break down the systemic issues around gender stereotyping and gender-based violence. While we acknowledge the ACT Government’s work to date in introducing some elements of Respectful Relationships Education in local schools, the current approach falls short of implementing the core features and evaluation requirements that Our Watch have flagged as being fundamental to delivering successful outcomes for individuals and communities.
Fund accessibility upgrades to Canberra’s existing refuge housing stock and ensure the unique needs of women living with disabilities inform policy and service responses to family violence.
Compounding this, people with disabilities are often also underrepresented in the labour market and subjected to mainstream biases that label them as helpless and dependent, creating economic and social barriers to leaving abusive relationships.
These barriers are currently reinforced by structural deficits in the accessibility of Canberra’s existing refuge stock as well as assistance provided by mainstream housing services or case workers that is not sensitive to the unique needs of women with disabilities. This lack of appropriate servicing can be particularly acute when there are children involved. Where service providers are not trained in recognising their own biases against those with disabilities, women attempting to exit unsafe home environments with their children are often subjected to significant levels of scrutiny concerning their parenting and caring capabilities. To remove barriers for women living with disabilities who endeavour to leave unsafe home environments, we recommend the ACT Government fund appropriate accessibility upgrades to Canberra’s existing refuge housing stock and undertake genuine consultation with the disability sector to develop training and policy responses that are sensitive to the needs of this cohort, including among child protection caseworkers.
Fund specialist housing services that cater for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and women who are recent migrants and embed culturally appropriate training for all mainstream housing employees and directors.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are over-represented in national homelessness statistics, and the links between homelessness and family violence are clear. In fact, 40 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people seeking support from homelessness services are women fleeing violence in the home.
In this regard, we welcome the investment in the 2018-19 ACT Budget that saw the construction of new housing complexes dedicated to housing older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Canberrans.
The needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are unique and distinct from the needs of non-Indigenous women, and homelessness amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people cannot be understood without genuine appreciation of Australia’s colonial history. For this reason, we continue to call for initiatives and housing support services that emphasise culturally sensitive and informed housing services within mainstream services. We acknowledge work that has been done in implementing trauma informed practices into homelessness services within Canberra, however there is a notable absence of the unique experiences by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women informing trauma responsiveness within mainstream service delivery. In particular, Indigenous staff and Indigenous leadership within housing organisations can play a key role in designing and delivering services to women in their communities and making mainstream services more accessible.