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Prioritising Funding for Frontline Services

Thank you, Madam Speaker, I rise to speak today about our domestic and family violence frontline services.

In my position, I am privileged to work with and hear from such people and I have been receiving two consistent messages. Frontline domestic and family violence services are being underfunded and that the money going toward training every single ACT public servant is a questionable priority.

At the time of the announcement of the Safer Families Levy, the news received widespread praise. Nowadays, certain aspects of the Safer Families Levy is met with suspicion.

The first phase of the Levy included $770,000 to go towards the training of frontline staff across Community and Emergency Services, Health and Education to support identification of family violence and early intervention. This was a worthwhile initiative. Employees in these sectors work closely with a broad segment of the population and are much more likely to encounter people who may be victims of abuse.

More recently, there was an announcement that the government would commit an additional $2.4 million to train all 21,000 ACT government staff. This, Madam Speaker, is what has caused many community organisations to now regard this training program with a degree of mistrust.

While the initial spend of $770,000 to teachers, health practitioners and community and emergency service employees was wise, there is a fear that the government’s desire to expand this training to every single ACT government employee is less about domestic and family violence awareness and has been contorted instead to be a part of standard Work Health and Safety training within their own directorates. If this is the case, it is the government’s responsibility to fund this training from existing revenue rather than from the dedicated and purpose-raised Safer Families Levy.

Taxes are taxes. They are a way of life and are used to address thousands of issues. The Safer Families Levy however is not like other taxes. It is a dedicated, life-saving gift to anyone interacting with this space. The funds here must be treated carefully, transparently and dare I say, sacredly, to be used in such a way that they are used most effectively. We owe this to all Canberran’s.

We know that there are women’s refuges who see children who are victims of domestic violence yet there is no psychological support for these kids after seeing trauma.

I remember when I witnessed a vehicle accident, I was offered counselling by ACT Police. Yet when a 5-year-old sees violence in their home, then flees their home in the middle of the night and there is no one offering the same sort of help, it becomes clear we are doing something wrong and this needs to change immediately.

So, when I hear that our frontline services are being underfunded and that they fear the levy is not being used for what it should be, I become deeply concerned.

I urge Minister Berry to make sure that the crisis centres are receiving sufficient support with this levy for both parents and children.

I would like to thank all our frontline community service providers for their hard work and personal sacrifice. I know they do not just think of their positions as just a job like many other people. They all give a large part of themselves and willingly share the pain of people who come to them for aid, the nobility of their work cannot be understated and we owe it them to be responsible with this money. Thank you


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