HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [5.32 pm]: I rise tonight to make some comments about what has happened with funding for the Keeping Women Safe in their Homes program. For members’ information, the program was initiated in 2015 when Rosie Batty was Australian of the Year. It was part of a $100 million women’s safety package that the commonwealth government announced to take action against family violence. The Keeping Women Safe in their Homes program was part of that package. The program provides safety plans and support so that women who are victims of family violence and who choose to remain in their own homes can do so safely. It also ensures that victims of family violence are provided with access to specialist workers and, very importantly, safety planning that includes security assessments and upgrades to homes, such as changing locks and installing surveillance cameras and panic buttons in high-risk circumstances. We are talking about people who are seriously at risk. This is an extraordinarily important program. It has been very successful; indeed, last year it supported more than 700 Western Australian women. It is an important alternative for women who would otherwise have to go to refuges or face unstable accommodation options. It also provides a lot of significant other benefits, particularly for children affected by this issue. It ensures that women and children are able to obtain many localised community supports and that children continue to attend their own schools. Importantly, it means that the trauma of relocation does not end up falling on the victim. It also has important flow-on effects because it means that spaces in refuges are not being taken up by people who have the option to stay within their own homes. It is a really important way to ensure that there is an avenue to avoid the potential cycle of violence, poverty and homelessness that is too often experienced by victims of domestic violence. Unfortunately, the commonwealth funding for this very important program ceased yesterday, on 31 October. The federal Minister for Families and Social Services, Paul Fletcher, has indicated that the program is not going to be getting commonwealth funding from now on.
I want to commend the Minister for Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence, Simone McGurk, whom I wrote to about this some time ago and who I know has also responded to requests from the sector and recognises the importance of this program. I want to commend her for advocating for the program and raising concerns with the commonwealth government on what I understand were multiple occasions. However, I am really disappointed that despite her best efforts, the minister was unsuccessful in persuading the commonwealth government to do the right thing. In the face of this funding shortfall, the state government has come up with interim funding to keep the program running until the end of the financial year. This is a really good decision and I am pleased that the state government did it. I am pleased that the value of this program has clearly been recognised, but I think it has put the WA government in an invidious situation because this money really should and needs to be able to be spent in other areas. We should not have to try to fill the commonwealth government’s shortfalls. The program, despite the fact that it is so effective and so important, costs only $1.5 million a year to run, which is not much for the federal budget, but is quite an impost on the state coffers. I think the commonwealth government’s failure to support this program is completely unacceptable. I think it undermines the really amazing work that was undertaken by the advocacy of Rosie Batty and we should be looking at maintaining momentum in the space, particularly given the appalling number of domestic violence homicides that Western Australia has tragically had to deal with this year. Frankly, the people of Western Australia deserve better. I am glad that this program has been given some respite by the state government, but the commonwealth government absolutely needs to lift its game.