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Domestic violence grant fails to take into account refugee women

Community groups welcome $60 million grant program for victims of domestic violence but says it does not protect migrant and refugee women

Hundreds of women will be provided critical relief from domestic violence with a federal government initiative, but community groups said it excludes refugees and migrants.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced $78 million of funding, which includes a $60 million grant program, to provide emergency accommodation to women and children fleeing domestic violence, but did not address migrant and refugee women concerns.

Settlement Services International (SSI) Strategic Policy Manager, Astrid Perry, said it failed to address gaps in domestic violence for newly arrived communities.

“Investment must go beyond accommodation in order to ensure spaces are welcoming and consider the needs of all women,” Perry said.

“The available accommodation is not ideal for newly arrived women because there are no interpreters, limited responses to cultural needs and few spaces for large families.”

Morrison said the investment is a key commitment to the Fourth Action Plan 2019-22, under the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children: “The first priority of my government is to keep Australians safe and secure.”

He said the National Plan is one of the best examples of government working together to solve the problem and achieve better outcomes for victims and survivors. It follows a $67.2 million commitment as part of the Women’s Economic Security Statement and $10.9 million for 1800RESPECT, announced in late November 2018.

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The program will build up to 450 spaces and assist 6,500 people a year. As part of the initiative, the grant program will be structured to encourage contributions from other levels of government and from private and philanthropic sources.

A further $18 million was invested in the Keeping Women Safe in their Homes program which has assisted over 5,200 women since 2015-16.

Although welcoming of the initiative, Perry said there is a pressing need for domestic violence funding that addresses women from migrant and refugee backgrounds: “We must ensure all women have access to safe accommodation.”

She said that women of migrant and refugee backgrounds are less likely to seek any assistance due to barriers like lack of knowledge about their rights, fear of deportation and removal from children, lack of English and need to maintain family honour.

“While we welcome the release of funding to keep more women and children secure, we call on the government to consider funding ancillary services that will ensure this support is appropriate for all women,” Perry said.

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