The NSW government has announced several new funds to help families experiencing domestic violence, as well as a boost for resources for prosecutors and Legal Aid within the family law system.
More women and children experiencing domestic and sexual violence will be supported by a $60 million funding boost to frontline services over two years from the NSW government.
The government will also commit an extra $32.5 million over four years to expand the Staying Home Leaving Violence (SHLV) program across the state to assist victim-survivors.
Victims of crime will also benefit from accelerated access to justice in the Local Court, with the government investing $56.1 million over the next four years to appoint eight extra magistrates and boost resources for prosecutors and Legal Aid. The number of magistrates will reach a record total of 149.
The funding is part of the $416.2 million the Morrison government has committed to spend over the next four years to support women and families experiencing family and domestic violence through a number of measures.
Attorney-General and the Minister for Prevention of Domestic and Sexual Violence Mark Speakman said the NSW government’s investment in additional Local Court magistrates will deliver more efficient justice in both regional and metropolitan NSW.
“The extra magistrates will help to reduce the trauma of waiting for hearing dates and attending court on victims, witnesses and families. We’re committed to easing that burden felt particularly by those involved in domestic violence cases,” he said.
Mr Speakman added that the statewide roll-out of SHLV was aimed at preventing victim-survivors from becoming homeless or having to move away from their support system of family and friends, instead supporting them to stay safely where they are.
“Women are often forced to flee violent homes, and in doing so they’re cut off from housing, community support, employment, and education for their children,” he said.
“Perpetrators choose to inflict horrendous abuse on those they claim to love. It is they alone who should bear the brunt of relocating if they refuse to change their behaviour.”
Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said these commitments in the NSW budget would help tackle domestic violence in Australia and NSW.
“NSW is one of the best places to live, but that doesn’t mean we’re immune from complex social issues like domestic and sexual violence, that impact thousands each year,” he said.
“Our government’s responsible fiscal management, even in the depths of COVID-19, has enabled us to make important investments like this, that will help stop the cycle of abuse and protect some of the most vulnerable members of our communities.”
Mr Perrottet added that the $56.1 million investment into the NSW court system recognises the critical role of the Local Court in the NSW justice system.
“As NSW continues to grow, we need to ensure the local court system is equipped to meet the challenges of the future and deliver justice to victims as quickly and efficiently as possible,” he said.
The funding, announced this week, will boost frontline specialist domestic, family and sexual violence services, help victims escape violent homes and help them stay safe at home, after 2020 was deemed one of the worst years for domestic violence in Australia.
“Our priorities will include helping children impacted by domestic violence, Aboriginal survivors, those from culturally and linguistically diverse communities, and victims from regional communities,” Mr Speakman said.
Delia Donovan, chief executive of Domestic Violence NSW, welcomed the funding boost that will benefit services across the state.
“Frontline services have been advocating for greater support, particularly during COVID-19, to deliver crucial services to victim-survivors in communities across NSW, so we’re really pleased to see this critical funding commitment in the Budget,” she said.
“The expansion of Staying Home Leaving Violence is also fantastic news, as it will ensure that more women and their children can access this service no matter where they live, and therefore they can safely remain in their homes, if they choose to do so.”