By Di Simpson
In the budget announced on Tuesday 7 June 2016, the ACT Government revealed its Safer Families initiative, with $21.4 million allocated over four years, to drive improvements in a “whole-of- government, community-backed response to family violence”.
The continuing prevalence of domestic violence in our community demands urgent and comprehensive change:
- in how we understand and respond to domestic violence;
- in our demand for greater perpetrator accountability;
- in how we support survivors to rebuild their lives.
The domestic violence funding initiative is made in the shadow of three recently released reports (listed below) into how the ACT responds to and deals with domestic violence in the ACT. The reports, with their different areas of focus, all espouse a consistent theme – the failures of inter-agency co-operation, information sharing and persistent cultural barriers to working as a unified and effective response to domestic violence and at risk children.
The new initiatives include extra funding for the Domestic Violence Crisis Service ACT and Canberra Rape Crisis Centre, to go some way to meeting the increasing demand upon these services.
The political will to do something more is essential – and we clearly have that in the ACT. The essential second limb of that will is the funding to make real changes happen and for clear and measurable accountability that the funds have been well used.
Levying a $30 per household “tax” is perhaps not the most traditional, efficient or equitable approach to revenue-raising – and the Government has copped some criticism already for this approach. While occupants of low income public housing will not be levied, there are many Canberra residents for whom this extra fee may feel like another burden that is not easy to carry. Building in a means test to create further exceptions or to increase the level of contribution by the wealthy, creates red tape and increases the cost of administration of such a scheme.
Some have questioned why funding for this response to domestic violence shouldn’t come from existing government revenue sources – if this is not a high enough priority to draw upon consolidated revenue, then what is?
These criticisms aside, the government’s response is important and finding the money, one way or the other, is essential. The benefits of the household levy approach are obvious. We will have a highly visible source of revenue from which to launch these new responses to domestic violence and to strengthen existing front line services.
And all of us will feel like we are making a direct and useful contribution. We will see this levy on our rates notice and we are entitled to expect real change.
So while the politics of having a highly visible and well-funded response to domestic violence remains attractive for the ACT Government, householders are now clear stakeholders in this initiative and will expect to see a real return on their investment – real change, real improvement, lives being saved and lives being restored.
This will be the best $30 I’ll spend this year.