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Issue #1631      March 19, 2014

Fears for families

Aboriginal victims of family violence could be left without support if the federal and state governments reduce funding to frontline services.

The Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention Legal Service (FVPLS) Victoria has warned that Aboriginal services for women are at risk unless governments re-sign the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH).

Since 2009, NPAH funding has supported 180 services across Australia, servicing 80,000 clients and 3000 staff.

The NPAH has provided $209.7 million in state and federal government funding in Victoria since 2009. The Agreement is due to expire on June 30, 2014.

As a result, the FVPLS program nationally faces funding cuts of $3.6 million from the federal government.

FVPLS chief executive Antoinette Braybrook said such funding cuts would be devastating.

“If funding cannot be confirmed beyond 30 June 2014, we may have no choice but to turn clients away from our service,” she said.

“This result will have a devastating impact on Aboriginal women and their children and is likely to result in further violence, disadvantage and homelessness.”

She said more than 90 per cent of FVPLS Victoria’s clients were Aboriginal women and Children, and that Aboriginal women were 15 times more likely to seek assistance from the Support Accommodation Assistance Program to escape violence in comparison to non-Aboriginal women.

Ms Braybrook joined the chief executives of other community organisations for an International Women’s Day event to raise the issue with governments.

“Aboriginal women who are escaping family violence often have multiple and complex issues stemming from past and present experiences of disadvantage and trauma,” she said.

“Over the past four years we have had two positions funded under this program to provide holistic case management and support.

“With rates of family violence increasing, now is not the time to cut critical frontline services. Aboriginal women’s safety is at risk.”

Ms Braybrook recently challenged Attorney-General George Brandis to visit remote and regional services so that he understands what they do.

The invitation followed remarks from Mr Brandis during a Senate Estimates hearing about his visit to Aboriginal legal services, in which he referred to a generalist, non-Aboriginal community legal centre (CLC).

Ms Braybrook pointed out that the work done by CLCs was different to Aboriginal services.

“While we work closely with community legal centres, and strongly value the work they do, CLCs are quite different to Aboriginal specific legal services,” Ms Braybrook said.

“Visiting a mainstream community legal centre will not give the Attorney-General a good understanding of the work FVPLS or other Aboriginal specific services do.”

Ms Braybrook also rejected the Attorney-General’s claim that any funding cuts would be designed to target policy and advocacy services, rather than frontline services.

“There is simply no such funding provided to individual services for policy and advocacy, nor has there ever been since the commencement of the program in 1998,” she said.

“Already under-resourced services will have to cut back frontline service delivery given that this is where funding is directed.”

Koori Mail

Next article – Abbott’s Green Army – Smashing wages, not helping the environment

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