Labor Pledge $88 Million To Fund Safe Housing For Women Escaping Domestic Violence

'The leading cause of homelessness in Australia is family violence.'

11/06/2016 8:47 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:54 PM AEST
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Millions will help women remain safe while escaping family violence.

Labor leader Bill Shorten has today announced $88 million in a Safe Housing program to assist more women escaping domestic violence.

If Shorten was to win the election, Labor will invest the funding in a new Safe Housing program over two years to fill the gap between crisis centres and long term housing arrangements.

Speaking in Sydney, the opposition leader also promised 50 percent of places on government boards would be filled by women if Labor won the election and pledged up to five days of leave from work for survivors of family violence.

"The policy we are launching today is much more than a collection of good intentions and where the nations. These are real resources. These are practical measures," he told a crowd in the marginal Liberal electorate of Barton.

"Merely stating that women hold half the sky up is not good enough. So it first and foremost, as an employer, a Labor government would set the example."

More than one third of Australians accessing homelessness services are victims of family violence, with the majority of those victims women.

As domestic violence has been brought into public discourse over the last couple of years -- and catapulted into the spotlight by former Australian of the Year Rosie Batty -- more women have built up the courage to identify themselves as victims and call for help.

However, the number of family violence crisis centres has not increased with the Turnbull Government's $100 million funding announcement with those funds going to important awareness campaigns and specialist policing -- with frontline services like crisis refuges neglected.

One undeniable fact of family violence is that women are not safe in their own homes, so we'll be proposing innovative programs which see the perpetrator have to move on.

The National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness -- which most domestic violence refuges are funded through -- has not been addressed in the latest budget and the annual funding of about $115 million will cease in June 2017 unless the major parties recommit to funding.

CEO of Domestic Violence NSW Moo Baulch told The Huffington Post Australia mainstream responses as well as funding to specialist services are key to helping victims safely and comfortably escape of violent relationships.

"If we're serious about tackling domestic violence we need a long term plan and the Federal Government need to lead on this," Baulch said.

"We need a significant injection [of funding] into the service system right now, but there needs to be a long term overall vision as well."

The Safe Housing funding announcement is in addition to Labor's initial $15 million investment in Safe at Home grants -- which were announced in 2015 -- to assist Australians impacted by family violence remain at home, and also remain safe in their home.

On Saturday Bill Shorten told reporters "this country can't be the country that it should be unless women are treated equally."

"One undeniable fact of family violence is that women are not safe in their own homes, so we'll be proposing innovative programs which see the perpetrator have to move on.

"We'll also provide options for women and children to be able to secure safe accommodation."

Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness Katy Gallagher told reporters "the leading cause of homelessness in Australia is caused by family violence".

"This program is specifically designed to meet the needs of women in the short-term and particularly the needs of women and children. So that if they make that decision to leave they have somewhere to go, they can get back on their feet, they can make the decisions about whether they can return home -- if it's safe -- or whether they need to go into other housing options for the long-term."

Labor will continue to launch policies addressing gender equality, with Shorten pledging to work with companies across the nation to get more women on boards and in leadership positions.

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