The Australian government is offering one-time payments to domestic abuse victims to help incentivize them to leave their partners.
As reported by CNN, victims can apply for payments of $5,000 Australian dollars, or a little over $3,700 American. These payments can be given in cash or via direct payments for expenses such as school fees. While the application process is open to all genders, women are expected to make up the majority of the requests. According to government data, a woman is killed every nine days by a romantic partner in Australia. While the payments are a step in the right direction, victim advocates say the system doesn’t properly address the root cause of domestic violence in Australia.
“There is a big moral and ethical and policy issue here,” said Mary Crooks, executive director of the Victorian Women’s Trust. “Why does she have to further go through that extraordinary trauma and dislocation to her life when she hasn’t, in fact, been the one perpetrating the harm? Why does she have to be the one to pick up the kids and pets quickly, and possibly not be able to get a place in a refuge?”
Crooks also noted that while it remains hard enough for white women to leave a violent relationship, deep biases against the criminal justice system make it significantly harder for Indigenous women. In fact, Indigenous leaders have said the government’s plans to combat domestic violence have had so little impact on their communities that they want a completely separate national plan.
The country’s domestic abuse issues grew noticeably worse during the pandemic, with two-thirds of female partners who experienced sexual or physical violence by a current or former partner saying that violence increased during lockdown. Even now as COVID restrictions ease, a massive housing boom has made rental costs soar, making it even harder for women to leave their relationships.
On Tuesday, New South Wales announced a $484 million package (about $362M U.S.) to address this housing crisis. The package includes 75 new women’s refuges equipped with audiovisual rooms for court appearances, as well as communal kitchens and playgrounds. “We know the numbers of people in need being turned away are continuously increasing due to lack of space,” said Annabelle Daniel, the chair of Domestic Violence NSW, in a statement. “When we raise awareness about domestic and family violence, women raise their hands for help.”
The $5,000 payments, known as the “Escaping Violence Payment,” is part of a broader package worth $1.1 billion Australian dollars ($820 million U.S.). UnitingCare Australia, the agency that will handle the two-year trial program, said it received multiple calls and messages about how to apply even before applications opened Tuesday morning.