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How the cost-of-living crisis is keeping victims of financial abuse from leaving

Australia’s cost-of-living crisis has reached critical levels, placing growing pressure on individuals and families of all socioeconomic levels, with no ease in sight, writes Michael Tiyce.

user iconMichael Tiyce 12 June 2024 Politics
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At a time when domestic and partner abuse is an issue at the forefront of the nation’s consciousness, it is important to examine the many forms this can take and how escalating financial instability is tightening the control financial abusers can possess.

Within this form of abuse, victims’ financial resources, access to money and important financial information are controlled by the abuser, critically undermining independence and autonomy. Tangibly, this can manifest in the controlling of bank accounts, sabotaging employment opportunities, cutting access to personal or shared funds, or accumulating debt in the victim’s name.

According to Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data, one in six women experience financial abuse from their partner, while one in 13 men experience the same. This form of domestic violence can be particularly hard for those close to the victim to notice; on occasions, even the victim themselves can be oblivious to the control of crucial assets by a malicious partner.


Currently, financial abuse is recognised in domestic and family violence legislation in every Australian state and territory. However, only NSW and Tasmania have criminalised it. Recent NSW legislation has criminalised “coercive control”, for which financial abuse is categorised; however, this offence only commences in July of this year.

Within Australia, financial abuse is often accompanied by other forms of abuse, together, making the exiting of a toxic relationship incredibly difficult for the victim, with many choosing between poverty and violence. Increasingly common with the management of finances able to be done digitally, this abuse can continue after separation and relocation.

Particularly when children are involved, the effects of this abuse can be profound. For children developing in an environment of consistent financial disruption, mistrust between parents and an unclear fiscal strategy between parents make for an unpredictable and distrustful upbringing.

Slowly, the pertinence of the issue, compounded by the restrictions of the economic climate, is being recognised by lawmakers and financial services; however, far more needs to be done to recognise the plight of financial abuse victims.

While the Australian government’s National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010–2022 outlines strategies, more targeted policies are required in this peak of economic instability, such as:

  • Financial assistance towards affordable housing.
  • Employment support for victims.
  • Rent controls, subsidies, and emergency financial aid for immediate relief.
  • Increased funding for shelters, legal aid, and counselling.
  • Programs aimed at improving financial literacy and independence.
  • Child-focused interventions and support services.
The cost-of-living crisis within Australia is far more than an economic challenge, it has tightened the financial control abusers are able to wield and the prison that victims and their children are confined within. For Australia to truly address its ongoing domestic violence emergency, each form of abuse must be considered and legislated for accordingly.

Policymakers must adjust to address this issue, and far more awareness is necessary on a community level as well as for those practising family law. While hard to detect, it’s a clear sign of a deeper issue and something needing to be factored into legislative decisions with far more rigour and diligence.

Michael Tiyce is the principal of Tiyce & Lawyers.