TRANSCRIPT – Australia Today with Steve Price

Subjects: Escaping Violence Payment

STEVE PRICE: The Federal Government is back in session in Canberra. Obviously the Prime Minister has been focusing in Question Time on the issue of net zero and having to go to Glasgow. But the government is getting on with its business of governing. Amanda Stoker is the Senator for Queensland, also the Assistant Attorney-General. There's been an announcement in regard to women being able to get away from domestic violence, which is extremely important. And Senator Stoker's on the line. Good to talk to you again.

AMANDA STOKER: Good morning, how are you?

STEVE PRICE: Good. I guess we often ignore the fact that the wheels of Government have got to keep turning, regardless of things like COVID, and net zero and climate change. What did you announce yesterday?

AMANDA STOKER: There's been some really good news from the Morrison Government yesterday about demonstrating and implementing our commitment to ending domestic family and sexual violence. And what we've put in place is a new Escaping Violence Payment. It's valued at $5,000 for people who are escaping violent relationships. Now usually that's women, but sometimes it's blokes too. And it takes account of the fact that what we know about coercive control in these types of violent relationships is that cutting off access to financial resources is a big part of the strategy for keeping people in an oppressive situation. So, it's now possible for people who can demonstrate that they've experienced domestic violence or violence of that kind, to go to Uniting Care Australia – who are the people who have the service provider responsibility under this contract – and they'll get assistance to get set up in a safe place. And that might be providing assistance to get white goods and furniture and stuff set up; it might be getting help with setting up your bond. But what's also really good about it is that it connects a person in this situation with a whole range of other services that are needed, to make sure that person – and their children, if there are any involved – are on a pathway for the long-term that’s about getting them well prepared to be safe and optimistic about what they have ahead in their future. It's, it's just one of many tools we've put in place to deal with this really bad problem, but it's practical and it's sensible. And it's about making sure that, for people who are in this awful situation, they've got the tools they need on the ground.

STEVE PRICE: It sounds extremely important. And, you know, I've dealt with this similar situation where you have veterans have come back from service in the Middle East, and they get a payout, and then all of that money disappears and then they need a place of last resort to try and help them get through. How would the Uniting services work out the valid, valid cases? I mean, I guess the tough question is, how do you know someone's not gaining the system, and that they actually need this assistance?

AMANDA STOKER: Great question. The person can show it using a range of different ways –because you do have to make sure this is legit and that people aren't just taking the taxpayer for a ride. But the evidence that needs to be supplied can be a referral from a family and domestic violence service provider – that process means they get a risk assessment and a safety plan put in place; again, helpful in helping a person track a course out of this problem. And then this financial support comes with it. When the police apply for an AVO on behalf of a person who has experienced violence of this kind, a court order or a police report, those sort of official indications are the kinds of evidence that'll be really helpful in verifying that the situation a person claims to have occurred is one that is, in fact, legitimate.

STEVE PRICE: Are you getting anecdotal or real evidence that during COVID –and we're now into 19 months, can you believe it, that we've been in the middle of this pandemic – that this has become even more of an issue? You've got people locked up together at home, where normally perhaps, you know, the couple would go their separate ways – work during the day, then come back together at night. And, you know, you don't have those pressures of being in each other's pocket 24 hours a day, constantly. Are you getting anecdotal evidence that there is an increase in domestic violence, and that people, you know, with maybe not having jobs, that this punishment by financial, a financial tightrope around somebody, that that's getting worse?

AMANDA STOKER: We have both anecdotal and quantitative evidence that that's occurring. And that's a phenomenon that's been observed around the world. Often times, when a relationship isn't exactly on solid ground, shall we say, the fact of a person being out of the house for, you know, 8 to 10 hours a day to go to work can provide the kind of welcome relief. That means a person can, to some extent, put up with a situation that, of course, isn't acceptable. And the added layer of financial pressure that has come for those who have had disruptions to their work income has often meant that violent situations have become more intensified. And so women's legal services around the country have reported an increase of quite some significance. It's part of the reason why the Morrison Government has increased resources for those domestic violence legal services, because we know that as there is an opening up of our communities, those people who have been enduring what are really trying circumstances will go to those services, and there will be a sudden spike in demand. So we're ready for that, and we've done everything possible to equip the legal services and the social support services to be able to receive those people and provide them with the assistance they need.

STEVE PRICE: Sounds like a great scheme. I'll just repeat; it's a one-off payment of up to $5,000. That includes $1500 in cash and the remainder of that money you can use for goods and services, direct payments of bonds, things like perhaps, having to set yourself up with an electricity account, a gas account, a phone, Broadband, whatever it might be, even school fees[1]


STEVE PRICE: And other essential items, which is great. Look, I commend you for doing it. I think it's very important. I'm sure a lot of women listening to us around Australia on the network will be very pleased. Thanks for joining us again.

AMANDA STOKER: Thanks for having me on the program.

STEVE PRICE: Amanda Stoker there, Liberal Senator for Queensland. That's good news for anyone suffering domestic stress.