Australia has launched a fund for those seeking to leave violent relationships. Victims can start applying from Tuesday for the $3,700 Escaping Violence Payment -- which includes cash and direct payments for expenses such as school fees, according to a CNN report.
Although the funds can be availed by all genders, it is expected that women will make up the bulk of applicants. More so, in a country where one woman is killed by a current or former partner every nine days, according to government data.
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The scale of the problem is so widespread that the last budget estimated violence against women cost $19.25 billion a year.
The payment was announced by the government in May and was part of a women’s safety package worth $820 million and is intended to be a two-year trial program.
UnitingCare Australia, the agency which will administer the program, said it was receiving calls and messages about how to apply even before applications opened on Tuesday.
While the payment has been generally welcomed by Australian women’s advocacy groups, some say it doesn’t address the root causes of family violence in Australia.
While the payment will go some way to helping women escape violence, the amount is a fraction of estimates of how much victims pay to find safety, lawyers and experts say.
Mary Crooks, executive director of the Victorian Women’s Trust, says the country needs to have a larger debate about the “blokey” culture that places men at the head of the family and in most positions of government and corporate power.
Internationally too, Australia scores poorly in rankings of gender equality leading to contribute to an uneven power dynamic in relationships and make women economically vulnerable.
Australia ranks 50 in the World Economic Forum’s 2021 Global Gender Gap Report well below the United States, the United Kingdom, France and New Zealand.
The country’s gender pay gap is at a record low at 13.4 percent, the government said in its Women’s Budget Statement in May, as it committed to further bridging the divide.
The onset of COVID-19 pandemic led to more economic disparity in Australia as more women lost their jobs or had their hours cut during local lockdowns than men.
Another negative fallout, as in many other countries has been the increase in family violence in Australia.
Michael Smith, CEO of the Eastern Community Legal Centre in Melbourne, speaking to The Guardian, said demand had increased during the pandemic. “We are seeing women and their families in more complex and difficult situations because of the pandemic,” he said.
The majority of the women who faced physical or sexual violence said the violence had started or increased during the crisis.
Besides, women could not leave abusive relationships because of the widespread lockdowns -- and now, even as the pandemic restrictions ease, rental costs have risen has making it even harder for women.
In recent years, the Australian government has attempted to address family violence with a series of national plans -- but the rates remain persistently high.
Authorities across different state are now attempting to fill the gap.
Protests have snowballed and earlier this year, protesters marched around the country calling for action against gendered violence.
Indigenous leaders, on the other hand, have sought a separate national plan saying the schemes have been so far ineffective for their community.