‘National priority’: Labor pledges $153m to address family and sexual violence | Labor party

A Labor government would appoint a new commissioner for family and sexual violence, and fund 500 new community sector workers under a $153m women’s safety policy .

The Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, will announce the policy on Wednesday before the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on Thursday.

The new family, domestic and sexual violence commissioner would act as an advocate for victim-survivors, coordinate national safety policies, provide reports that track progress against the national plan, and work with states and territories to gather data.

The opposition will also pledge to fund 500 new community sector workers, with half of these to be located in rural and regional communities.

These workers will include case workers to help women leave violent relationships, financial counsellors for women in financially abusive relationships, and support workers for children.

“Right now, women fleeing violence are being turned away from accommodation and services because of insufficient funding towards sector workers, and the failure to recognise this tragedy as a national priority,” Albanese said in a statement before the announcement.

“Women fleeing violence are being turned away from services because this government has not funded enough workers to help them.

“Not enough workers are funded. It’s past time to stop just talking about it – and elevate women’s safety to a national priority.”

Labor says the move to fund case workers in regional areas will create employment opportunities for people outside major cities and “ensure that no matter where you live you have access to services to build a safer, better life”.

The policy builds on previous women safety commitments to invest $100m in crisis accommodation, legislate for 10 days of paid domestic violence leave, progress on a national definition of domestic violence that includes coercive control, and $79m for justice reinvestment for First Nations communities.

The pledge comes as the Morrison government faces pressure over its funding commitments for domestic violence services, after service providers questioned the distribution of $17.1m promised in the last budget.

According to the Office for Women, one woman is killed by a partner every nine days, with one in four women having experienced violence by an intimate partner since the age of 15.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimates that violence against women and children costs the economy $26bn annually.

The Covid-19 pandemic has seen a surge in demand for family violence services with frontline workers saying there haven’t been enough resources to meet demand for chronically underfunded support services.

In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000. International helplines can be found via www.befrienders.org.

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