Funding crisis leaves 1000 domestic violence victims stranded each day

Police ministers and attorneys-generals will meet in Canberra to discuss early prevention methods for violence against women.

Police ministers and attorneys-generals will meet in Canberra to discuss early prevention methods for violence against women. Photo: AAP

Australia’s domestic violence legal services say they are in crisis mode with one turning away 1000 people in need every day due to a funding shortfall.

The insight comes as figures on Tuesday revealed the number of women killed by intimate partners rose by 28 per cent in the 2022-23 financial year.

Almost 30 Australian women have been killed by men already in 2024.

Community Legal Centres Australia said 1000 people are being denied its assistance every day due to a lack of funding.

This is driven by a workforce shortage of more than 2000 staff nationally, according to the centres.

Deputy chair of Community Legal Centres Australia Arlia Fleming said its service was severely compromised, putting vulnerable people at risk.

“We already have a consistent three-week waiting list,” Fleming said.

“Without early intervention and support, the long-term social and economic costs of domestic and family violence will continue to escalate.”

The service called on the federal government to invest $125 million during the next financial year to keep services afloat.

Women’s Legal Services Australia said an estimated 52,000 women will be denied its assistance this year due to a lack of government funding.

Chair Elena Rosenman said the network sought $25 million funding in the upcoming budget for women’s legal services.

“Women affected by gender-based violence need to understand their legal options, have advice and representation through legal processes, and support to manage safety risks,” she said.

“Across Australia, communities are telling governments they want action.”

National Legal Aid is calling on the government to urgently fund Legal Aid Commissions and warned $317 million is needed annually to meet demands.

It said the “crisis in funding for legal assistance services” means it can only work with the most disadvantaged Australians.

In New South Wales alone, there has been a 30 per cent increase in demand for family advocacy and support services and duty lawyer representation over the past 12 months.

Legal Aid NSW domestic violence unit solicitor Melanie Alexander said she was seeing an increase in demand for services on the ground.

“On any given day I see six to 10 clients and most of these women present with a real risk of harm to themselves or their children,” she said.

“I have noticed women presenting with more and more complex issues – often requiring help with an ADVO, as well as housing, debt and parenting issues – and they need more of our time.”

It comes as Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and state and territory leaders will convene for an emergency national cabinet meeting to tackle violence against women on Wednesday.

Community legal services provide free support for sexual harassment, protection orders, child custody and protection, separation and financial abuse.


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