Thousands of female victims of domestic violence are being forced to choose between homelessness and returning to their abusive partners after seeking help, due to a severe lack of funding within the crisis support sector.
A study by researchers from the Flinders Institute for Housing, Urban and Regional Research (FIHURR) has revealed that every year in Australia around 50 per cent of women are being turned away by the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) after asking for assistance, due to an acute shortage of emergency housing alternatives.
Conducted by Dr Selina Tually and Dr Debbie Faulkner [pictured], along with Mrs Cecile Cutler and Associate Professor Michele Slatter, the study claims the housing shortage is the result of a decade of inaction by the Federal Government, including a failure to increase sector funding during that time.
The study, which included a literature review and an examination of the support and accommodation needs of women affected by domestic and family violence, also revealed the lack of funding has rendered many services inadequate.
“Domestic violence is becoming a problem not only because of the increasing number of victims, but because these women also have a more complex variety of needs to be met,” Dr Faulkner said.
“Therefore, in addition to the ’normal’ level of crisis care, these services are also having to deal with the issue of delivering a whole set of ancillary services without the financial support,” she said.
While it is difficult to establish the total number of women affected by domestic violence each year, an earlier Flinders University study revealed that in 2003-04 67,000 individuals, including 34,700 children, sought refuge through the to escape domestic and family violence.
“Children are not funded as victims of domestic violence in Australia, so while a service might receive funding to help their client, no additional money will be provided for the, say, six kids she is also supporting,” Dr Tually said.
“This is a particular concern for many Indigenous women escaping family violence, many of whom present to services with a large number of children,” she said.
Commissioned by the Federal Government’s Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, was commissioned to inform the Government’s White Paper on the support and accommodation needs facing of women (and children) affected by domestic and family violence which is expected to be released this month.
Dr Tually and Dr Faulkner presented the findings of their report to the Department’s Social Policy Research Workshop in Canberra on 2 December.