Domestic violence victims empowered by financial package
Exclusive: Domestic violence victims will be able to access no interest loans as part of a $15 million plan by the government to give women greater financial empowerment.
9News has exclusively revealed details of the plan ahead of a major announcement by Minister for Women, Kelly O'Dwyer, in Canberra today.
In the Women's Economic Security Statement, the Minister will outline the government's plans to boost women's wealth and economic security.
"We've certainly seen a lot of advances in recent years but we know there is a lot more work to do," Ms O'Dwyer told 9News.
"Whilst there are more Australian women in work than ever before ... we know Australian women are still retiring with 42 percent less in superannuation and they face real critical challenges at times where life events occur that they have no control over."
The plan to offer no interest loans for domestic violence victims is one element of the package.
Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher said the loans would be provided through Good Shepherd Microfinance to help women set up new lives.
"If you need to leave a dangerous situation because of domestic violence and you haven't got the financial resources to do that, you simply haven't got the money to pay for a bond, to buy new furniture in the new home, then sadly, experience says in too many cases women stay," he said.
Donna Cleeland relied on help from Good Shepherd Microfinance when she was trying to rebuild her life after a physically, emotionally and financially abusive marriage.
When her husband left, she found herself without savings or a job, while caring for two seriously ill children.
"I wasn't able to access money within the relationship," she said.
"I really needed some help with medical costs."
She used the loans for medical treatment for her children, as well as for herself when she was later diagnosed with breast cancer.
"I think personally we know a lot about domestic violence in the physical means and psychological, but the financial ramifications of domestic violence need to be discussed more within the community," she said.
Good Shepherd Microfinance CEO Peter McNamara said financial abuse was common in family violence situations.
"There's no doubt so many of the women in the families who access the no interest loans scheme will use it for furniture to set up a new home. Maybe a bond, maybe a whitegood, maybe a fridge," he said.
He said the no interest loans would be a "game changer" for victims.
The Women's Economic Security Statement will also include $8 million in funding for new technology to allow better reporting of gender pay disparities, and a $3.6 million boost for young women who want to become entrepreneurs.