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Govt spending must match domestic violence rhetoric

  • 27 February 2015

The Prime Minister’s choice of Rosie Batty as Australian of the Year is wholly admirable. Her advocacy about domestic violence following the tragic murder of her son by his father has been passionate and effective.

She has brought attention to a very ugly side of Australian life: the violence of men against women and children. But, paradoxically, Mr Abbott’s choice of Rosie Batty also draws our attention to a highly questionable side of political life: how 'our' money is being allocated and spent and what values this spending supports and lays bare.

Unreported billions are apparently available to fight extremist 'terror' abroad while the far more pervasive terror of home grown domestic violence – affecting every social class and culture across Australian society - is radically under-funded at all levels of government.

This makes the praise heaped upon Rosie Batty by Mr Abbott and others pretty meaningless, even insulting, when support services are diminishing or disappearing for all the other many women and children in need of immediate protection. Each week in Australia at least one woman is murdered by a partner or former partner, yet in NSW, as a single example, we face the Baird Government’s incomprehensible decision to de-fund and close long-standing women’s refuges rather than adding to them, tossing out workers with decades of hard won experience in favour of monolithic organisations that are already reportedly failing to shelter some of our most at-risk women and children. Imminent Federal cuts to services in remote communities are as disastrous.

How obvious would it also be that at least as much money as women’s services and refuges need should also be spent on effective programs to treat and educate anyone living violently (not boys and men only) around anger, alcohol, drugs, self-respect and the most basic issues of self-control and self-responsibility?

When it comes to providing even partially adequate health and social services for the chronically mentally ill, there is also apathy at the highest levels. In the community, families are forced to be their ill family member’s pivotal resource without even passable support. When indigenous adults are 15 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-indigenous adults, when almost 40 per cent of prisoners in Australia have at least some history of mental illness and when 70 per cent have 'engaged in illicit drug use in the 12 months prior to their imprisonment', it is fair to question where money is being allocated