Spotlight on Economic Abuse: a Literature and Policy Review

Spotlight on Economic Abuse: a Literature and Policy Review

Spotlight on Economic Abuse: a Literature and Policy Review


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<str<strong>on</strong>g>Spotlight</str<strong>on</strong>g> <strong>on</strong><br />

ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse<br />

A literature <strong>and</strong> policy review<br />

Fi<strong>on</strong>a Macd<strong>on</strong>ald<br />

September 2012

<str<strong>on</strong>g>Spotlight</str<strong>on</strong>g> <strong>on</strong> Ec<strong>on</strong>omic <strong>Abuse</strong>: a <strong>Literature</strong> <strong>and</strong> <strong>Policy</strong> <strong>Review</strong><br />

A joint project of Good Shepherd Youth & Family Service <strong>and</strong> Kild<strong>on</strong>an UnitingCare<br />

Author:<br />

Fi<strong>on</strong>a Macd<strong>on</strong>ald<br />

Project Steering Group:<br />

Kath Deakin, Sue Fraser, Karen Hucks, Emily Jacks<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> Kathy L<strong>and</strong>vogt<br />

Suggested citati<strong>on</strong>:<br />

Macd<strong>on</strong>ald, Fi<strong>on</strong>a <str<strong>on</strong>g>Spotlight</str<strong>on</strong>g> <strong>on</strong> Ec<strong>on</strong>omic <strong>Abuse</strong>: a <strong>Literature</strong> <strong>and</strong> <strong>Policy</strong> <strong>Review</strong><br />

(Good Shepherd Youth & Family Service <strong>and</strong> Kild<strong>on</strong>an UnitingCare, 2012)<br />

ISBN 978-0-9871110-3-6<br />

Publisher:<br />

Good Shepherd Youth & Family Service<br />

PO Box 6041<br />

North Collingwood Victoria 3066<br />

info@goodshepvic.org.au<br />

© Good Shepherd Youth & Family Service <strong>and</strong> Kild<strong>on</strong>an UnitingCare<br />

September 2012

This literature review is written as part of the <str<strong>on</strong>g>Spotlight</str<strong>on</strong>g> <strong>on</strong> Ec<strong>on</strong>omic <strong>Abuse</strong> Project, a joint<br />

initiative of Good Shepherd Youth & Family Service <strong>and</strong> Kild<strong>on</strong>an UnitingCare. Both<br />

organisati<strong>on</strong>s provide services to some of the most vulnerable people in our community. These<br />

services include family violence interventi<strong>on</strong> programs, financial counselling <strong>and</strong> financial<br />

inclusi<strong>on</strong> initiatives such as financial literacy educati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> microfinance. The <str<strong>on</strong>g>Spotlight</str<strong>on</strong>g> <strong>on</strong><br />

Ec<strong>on</strong>omic <strong>Abuse</strong> Project emerged from the organisati<strong>on</strong>s’ shared c<strong>on</strong>cerns about the impacts of<br />

ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse <strong>on</strong> the women accessing their services.

C<strong>on</strong>tents<br />

List of Abbreviati<strong>on</strong>s ........................................................................................................................ i<br />

Executive Summary ....................................................................................................................... ii<br />

Introducti<strong>on</strong> ....................................................................................................................................1<br />

Overview ........................................................................................................................................2<br />

Ec<strong>on</strong>omic <strong>Abuse</strong> ............................................................................................................................3<br />

Influences, Impacts <strong>and</strong> Points of Interventi<strong>on</strong> ............................................................................13<br />

Public Policies <strong>and</strong> Practices .......................................................................................................23<br />

Legal <strong>and</strong> Regulatory Frameworks ..............................................................................................37<br />

Employment Frameworks, Policies <strong>and</strong> Practices .......................................................................47<br />

Community Services Policies <strong>and</strong> Practices ................................................................................50<br />

List of References ........................................................................................................................55<br />

Appendices ..................................................................................................................................65

List of Abbreviati<strong>on</strong>s<br />

Australian Bureau of Statistics<br />

Australian Communicati<strong>on</strong>s <strong>and</strong> Media Authority<br />

Australian Communicati<strong>on</strong>s C<strong>on</strong>sumer Acti<strong>on</strong> Network<br />

Australian Institute of Health & Welfare<br />

Australian Law Reform Commissi<strong>on</strong><br />

Australian Securities <strong>and</strong> Investments Commissi<strong>on</strong><br />

Australian Taxati<strong>on</strong> Office<br />

Council of Australian Governments<br />

Department of Families, Housing, Community Services <strong>and</strong> Indigenous Affairs<br />

Domestic Violence Victoria<br />

Department of Employment <strong>and</strong> Workplace Relati<strong>on</strong>s<br />

Internati<strong>on</strong>al Violence Against Women Survey<br />

New South Wales Law Reform Commissi<strong>on</strong><br />

ABS<br />

ACMA<br />

ACCAN<br />

AIHW<br />

ALRC<br />

ASIC<br />

ATO<br />

COAG<br />

FaHCSIA<br />

DV Vic<br />

DEEWR<br />

IVAWS<br />

NSWLRC<br />


Executive Summary<br />

This literature review has been written to support the <str<strong>on</strong>g>Spotlight</str<strong>on</strong>g> <strong>on</strong> Ec<strong>on</strong>omic <strong>Abuse</strong> Project,<br />

a joint advocacy initiative of Good Shepherd Youth & Family Service <strong>and</strong> Kild<strong>on</strong>an<br />

UnitingCare. Both organisati<strong>on</strong>s provide financial counselling as well as other supports to<br />

families <strong>on</strong> low incomes <strong>and</strong> both provide services resp<strong>on</strong>ding to family <strong>and</strong> domestic<br />

violence. The <str<strong>on</strong>g>Spotlight</str<strong>on</strong>g> <strong>on</strong> Ec<strong>on</strong>omic <strong>Abuse</strong> Project emerged from their shared c<strong>on</strong>cerns<br />

about reports of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse being experienced by women accessing their services.<br />

In Australia ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse has <strong>on</strong>ly recently been recognised in some legal jurisdicti<strong>on</strong>s as<br />

a form of family <strong>and</strong> domestic violence <strong>and</strong> there is a low level of public awareness of it. The<br />

<str<strong>on</strong>g>Spotlight</str<strong>on</strong>g> <strong>on</strong> Ec<strong>on</strong>omic <strong>Abuse</strong> Project aims to identify systemic issues to facilitate initiatives<br />

within government, corporati<strong>on</strong>s <strong>and</strong> community service sectors for the preventi<strong>on</strong>, early<br />

interventi<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> mitigati<strong>on</strong> of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse.<br />

As a step towards these goals, this paper presents a review of nati<strong>on</strong>al <strong>and</strong> internati<strong>on</strong>al<br />

research <strong>and</strong> other literature relating to ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse in Australia. It also aims to identify<br />

key issues <strong>and</strong> sectors for interventi<strong>on</strong>.<br />

Ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse<br />

Ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse—which is also referred to as ec<strong>on</strong>omic violence, ec<strong>on</strong>omic c<strong>on</strong>trol,<br />

ec<strong>on</strong>omic deprivati<strong>on</strong>, financial abuse <strong>and</strong> financial c<strong>on</strong>trol—is a form of domestic <strong>and</strong> family<br />

violence, involving behaviours that negatively affect a pers<strong>on</strong> financially <strong>and</strong> undermine that<br />

pers<strong>on</strong>’s efforts to become ec<strong>on</strong>omically independent (Weaver et al. 2009).<br />

Adams et al. (2008, p. 564) describe ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse as involving behaviours that “c<strong>on</strong>trol a<br />

woman’s ability to acquire, use, <strong>and</strong> maintain ec<strong>on</strong>omic resources, thus threatening her<br />

ec<strong>on</strong>omic security <strong>and</strong> potential for self-sufficiency”.<br />

In definiti<strong>on</strong>s of family <strong>and</strong> domestic violence in the Australian state <strong>and</strong> territory family<br />

violence laws that include ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse, it has been formulated as including:<br />

unreas<strong>on</strong>able c<strong>on</strong>trolling behaviour without c<strong>on</strong>sent that denies a pers<strong>on</strong> financial aut<strong>on</strong>omy;<br />

withholding financial support reas<strong>on</strong>ably necessary for the maintenance of a partner;<br />

coercing a partner to relinquish c<strong>on</strong>trol over assets; unreas<strong>on</strong>ably preventing a pers<strong>on</strong> from<br />

taking part in decisi<strong>on</strong>s over household expenditure or the dispositi<strong>on</strong> of joint property;<br />

coercing a pers<strong>on</strong> to claim social security payments; <strong>and</strong> preventing a pers<strong>on</strong> from seeking<br />

or keeping employment (Australian Law Reform Commissi<strong>on</strong>/New South Wales Law Reform<br />

Commissi<strong>on</strong> [ALRC/NSWLRC] 2010, pp. 196-197). 1<br />

There is very little informati<strong>on</strong> about the prevalence of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse in the populati<strong>on</strong> in<br />

Australia as, historically, it has not been included as a form of domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence<br />

in the law nor has it been included in definiti<strong>on</strong>s of violence used in surveys. However,<br />

research findings suggest ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse may be a very comm<strong>on</strong> form of violence affecting<br />

women who seek assistance because of domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence.<br />

1 These formulati<strong>on</strong>s are drawn from the Family Violence Protecti<strong>on</strong> Act 2008 (Vic) s 6; Interventi<strong>on</strong><br />

Orders (Preventi<strong>on</strong> of <strong>Abuse</strong>) Act 2009 (SA) s 8(5); Family Violence Act 2004 (Tas) ss 7, 8; <strong>and</strong> the<br />

Domestic <strong>and</strong> Family Violence Act 2007 (NT) s 5. The full definiti<strong>on</strong> of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse in the<br />

Victorian legislati<strong>on</strong> is given in full in Appendix B of this report.<br />


Influences, impacts <strong>and</strong> points of interventi<strong>on</strong><br />

Unequal power in a relati<strong>on</strong>ship–including ec<strong>on</strong>omic power–can provide the c<strong>on</strong>diti<strong>on</strong>s that<br />

allow or enable domestic violence to occur by making it difficult for (the mostly) women to<br />

leave relati<strong>on</strong>ships in which they experience violence (Ly<strong>on</strong> 2000). A lack of financial<br />

independence has been found to be a major factor influencing a woman’s decisi<strong>on</strong> to remain<br />

in an abusive relati<strong>on</strong>ship (Anders<strong>on</strong> & Saunders 2003). Thus, reducing ec<strong>on</strong>omic<br />

dependence <strong>and</strong> improving women’s financial security may be essential for leaving a violent<br />

partner.<br />

Patterns of vulnerability to ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse may be similar to patterns of vulnerability<br />

identified for domestic violence more generally. Surveys identify young women aged<br />

between 18 <strong>and</strong> 24 years as particularly at risk of experiencing domestic violence <strong>and</strong><br />

women are also identified as being at higher risk of experiencing violence in the periods prior<br />

to <strong>and</strong> following separati<strong>on</strong> from a partner <strong>and</strong> during pregnancy (Mouzos & Makkai 2004;<br />

VicHealth 2007).<br />

There are some factors comm<strong>on</strong> in older age groups that have implicati<strong>on</strong>s for effective<br />

resp<strong>on</strong>ses for older women experiencing domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence, including reluctance<br />

to report violence, financial problems <strong>and</strong> financial dependence (including barriers to<br />

employment), <strong>and</strong> health <strong>and</strong> care issues, all of which may make it difficult for women to<br />

leave abusive relati<strong>on</strong>ships (Bagshaw, Wendt & Zannettino 2009; McFerran 2009; Straka &<br />

M<strong>on</strong>tminy 2006).<br />

Increased risks may also be associated with rurality, race <strong>and</strong> culture. These risk factors are<br />

related to barriers to seeking help including cultural norms, low English language skills<br />

<strong>and</strong>/or accessibility of appropriate services <strong>and</strong> informati<strong>on</strong>. Other women who may face<br />

such barriers include: Aboriginal <strong>and</strong> Torres Strait Isl<strong>and</strong>er women, women with disabilities,<br />

women with mental health issues, women who are lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex<br />

people; <strong>and</strong> women who are asylum seekers, refugees or recent migrants applying for<br />

residency or work visas.<br />

There has been little research specifically examining the impacts of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse <strong>on</strong><br />

children, families <strong>and</strong> <strong>on</strong> the community. Some of the direct <strong>and</strong> most apparent<br />

c<strong>on</strong>sequences for victims of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse are the financial or ec<strong>on</strong>omic c<strong>on</strong>sequences.<br />

These are c<strong>on</strong>sequences for people while they are in violent relati<strong>on</strong>ships, <strong>on</strong> leaving violent<br />

relati<strong>on</strong>ships, when attempting to gain financial stability following exit from violent<br />

relati<strong>on</strong>ships <strong>and</strong> <strong>on</strong> their prospects for ec<strong>on</strong>omic security in the l<strong>on</strong>g term.<br />

Ec<strong>on</strong>omic dependence <strong>on</strong> an abusive partner can be a critical obstacle to leaving the<br />

relati<strong>on</strong>ship (Adams et al. 2008). In additi<strong>on</strong> to victims being unable to access funds needed<br />

to leave, domestic violence can cause social isolati<strong>on</strong> which reduces opti<strong>on</strong>s for leaving<br />

(ALRC/NSWLRC 2010). However, while c<strong>on</strong>cerns about financial insecurity—including<br />

c<strong>on</strong>cerns for its impacts <strong>on</strong> children—are <strong>on</strong>e reas<strong>on</strong> women stay in abusive relati<strong>on</strong>ships<br />

they can also provide the impetus to leave relati<strong>on</strong>ships (Braaf & Barrett Meyering 2010).<br />

Ec<strong>on</strong>omic impacts of domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence identified in various studies include<br />

impacts relating to:<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

employment<br />

debts, bills <strong>and</strong> banking<br />

accommodati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> household goods<br />

social security <strong>and</strong> other material supports<br />

child support<br />


legal matters<br />

migrati<strong>on</strong> matters<br />

health.<br />

Public awareness <strong>and</strong> underst<strong>and</strong>ing of these issues is poor. Resp<strong>on</strong>ses to a 2009 nati<strong>on</strong>al<br />

survey of community attitudes to violence against women show that, while awareness of<br />

domestic violence as a serious issue has increased, recogniti<strong>on</strong> of n<strong>on</strong>-physical<br />

behaviours—including ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse—as forms of domestic violence remains low.<br />

Findings included that 25 per cent of survey resp<strong>on</strong>dents did not believe that “c<strong>on</strong>trolling a<br />

partner by denying them m<strong>on</strong>ey” was a form of domestic violence (compared with 33 per<br />

cent in 1995) (Victorian Health Promoti<strong>on</strong> Foundati<strong>on</strong> [VicHealth] 2010; McGregor 2009).<br />

Public policy <strong>and</strong> practice<br />

At the broadest level ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse may be addressed through the achievement of<br />

equality for women. This has been a str<strong>on</strong>g theme in recent public policy in Australia <strong>and</strong><br />

there have been some recent positive outcomes for women specifically in relati<strong>on</strong> to<br />

employment.<br />

While preventi<strong>on</strong> has been a key focus of recent policies to address violence against<br />

women, there is little evidence of any specific attenti<strong>on</strong> to raising community awareness of<br />

ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse as an aspect of domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence as a preventative strategy.<br />

Public policies framing tertiary resp<strong>on</strong>ses to violence have a str<strong>on</strong>g safety focus, including a<br />

focus <strong>on</strong> physical safety at the point of crisis <strong>and</strong> <strong>on</strong> stopping further violence. An additi<strong>on</strong>al<br />

focus <strong>on</strong> women’s l<strong>on</strong>ger-term wellbeing, including their financial wellbeing, is needed to<br />

address ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse.<br />

The Australian Law Reform Commissi<strong>on</strong>’s (ALRC) recent review of legal frameworks relating<br />

to family violence produced recommendati<strong>on</strong>s to improve resp<strong>on</strong>ses for people experiencing<br />

violence in the social security, family assistance <strong>and</strong> child support systems. The<br />

implementati<strong>on</strong> of these recommendati<strong>on</strong>s should assist to stop the c<strong>on</strong>tinuati<strong>on</strong> of<br />

ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse after women have left relati<strong>on</strong>ships <strong>and</strong> to mitigate the impacts of abuse.<br />

There is limited research that identifies women’s pathways through legal systems to regain<br />

ec<strong>on</strong>omic security following domestic violence <strong>and</strong> this is an area in which further<br />

informati<strong>on</strong> is needed. There is also a need to identify appropriate strategies for building<br />

women’s financial capability.<br />

Legal <strong>and</strong> regulatory frameworks<br />

The recent inclusi<strong>on</strong> of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse in the Comm<strong>on</strong>wealth Family Law Act 1975 paves<br />

the way for a comm<strong>on</strong> framework for domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence in a wide range of legal<br />

<strong>and</strong> regulatory instruments that impact <strong>on</strong> protecti<strong>on</strong>s for women <strong>and</strong> <strong>on</strong> resp<strong>on</strong>ses to<br />

ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse.<br />

Similarly, the take-up of the ALRC’s recommendati<strong>on</strong>s for changes to relevant laws <strong>and</strong><br />

guidelines of Fair Work Australia, Safe Work Australia, Department of Educati<strong>on</strong>,<br />

Employment <strong>and</strong> Workplace Relati<strong>on</strong>s (DEEWR) <strong>and</strong> Job Services Australia the Australian<br />

Prudential Regulati<strong>on</strong> Authority, Department of Human Services, Australian Taxati<strong>on</strong> Office<br />

(ATO) <strong>and</strong> superannuati<strong>on</strong> fund materials should see improved resp<strong>on</strong>ses to ec<strong>on</strong>omic<br />

abuse.<br />


Currently, there are a number of gaps in protecti<strong>on</strong> for temporary visa holders <strong>and</strong> potential<br />

for change in relati<strong>on</strong> to Migrati<strong>on</strong> <strong>Review</strong> Tribunal fees for women experiencing domestic<br />

<strong>and</strong> family violence.<br />

More informati<strong>on</strong> is needed with regards to how legal processes in relati<strong>on</strong> to victims’<br />

compensati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> property settlements can operate to support effective resp<strong>on</strong>ses to<br />

ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse.<br />

The extent of abuse in relati<strong>on</strong> to self-managed superannuati<strong>on</strong> funds could be m<strong>on</strong>itored to<br />

establish if there is a need for resp<strong>on</strong>ses in additi<strong>on</strong> to the changes to guidelines for trustees<br />

that were recommended by the ALRC.<br />

The ALRC has recommended that there is easier access to superannuati<strong>on</strong> funds prior to<br />

retirement for women experiencing violence. While this may be extremely helpful to women<br />

who need funds at a time of crisis, there is a very str<strong>on</strong>g argument for the development of<br />

alternative opti<strong>on</strong>s through the income support system or some other arrangement. The<br />

depleting of women’s superannuati<strong>on</strong> savings may create disadvantage in the l<strong>on</strong>g term.<br />

C<strong>on</strong>sumer protecti<strong>on</strong> is a crucial area of regulati<strong>on</strong> for women experiencing ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse<br />

because it affects the forms ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse can take, women’s ability to stop the abuse,<br />

their ability to manage financially <strong>on</strong> leaving a relati<strong>on</strong>ship, <strong>and</strong> their opti<strong>on</strong>s for reestablishing<br />

financial security <strong>and</strong> wellbeing. As recent c<strong>on</strong>sumer credit reform has not<br />

substantially improved protecti<strong>on</strong>s, it is imperative that women have access to appropriate<br />

financial products so they are not forced to rely <strong>on</strong> high interest loans <strong>and</strong> credit.<br />

C<strong>on</strong>sumer protecti<strong>on</strong> in relati<strong>on</strong> to other products <strong>and</strong> essential services relies heavily <strong>on</strong><br />

voluntary codes <strong>and</strong> company policies. Therefore there may be a need for educati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong><br />

informati<strong>on</strong> for individual providers to raise awareness <strong>and</strong> underst<strong>and</strong>ing of ec<strong>on</strong>omic<br />

abuse <strong>and</strong> to identify appropriate resp<strong>on</strong>ses, including in relati<strong>on</strong> to hardship policies.<br />

Employment participati<strong>on</strong>, supportive workplaces <strong>and</strong> safety at work<br />

There remain significant gender inequities in relati<strong>on</strong> to opportunities for participati<strong>on</strong> in, <strong>and</strong><br />

remunerati<strong>on</strong> for, work <strong>and</strong> this c<strong>on</strong>tinues to be a key issue for all women including for the<br />

preventi<strong>on</strong> of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse.<br />

Resp<strong>on</strong>ses to violence at the workplace level can ensure women are safe at work <strong>and</strong><br />

provide support for women who experience violence. Currently in Australia there appears to<br />

be c<strong>on</strong>siderable momentum to implement these types of interventi<strong>on</strong>s. However, for the<br />

achievement of change which includes protecti<strong>on</strong> for women employed in smaller<br />

enterprises, there needs to be change to the Nati<strong>on</strong>al Employment St<strong>and</strong>ards, the Fair Work<br />

Act <strong>and</strong>/or to anti-discriminati<strong>on</strong> laws.<br />

Community services sector<br />

Key services <strong>and</strong> programs relating to ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse include domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence<br />

<strong>and</strong> general services such as financial counselling, legal assistance, accommodati<strong>on</strong><br />

assistance, material aid <strong>and</strong> financial educati<strong>on</strong> programs.<br />

Identified gaps in community sector resp<strong>on</strong>ses include post-crisis services <strong>and</strong> services<br />

which address issues relating to the l<strong>on</strong>g-term impacts of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse <strong>and</strong> domestic<br />

violence.<br />


There is a need for greater support <strong>and</strong> individual advocacy for women around financial<br />

issues following domestic violence <strong>and</strong> there may also be a need for training, informati<strong>on</strong><br />

exchange <strong>and</strong> collaborati<strong>on</strong> between different types of services—including between financial<br />

counselling <strong>and</strong> domestic violence services.<br />

It is not clear how well ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse is understood <strong>and</strong> resp<strong>on</strong>ded to by service providers<br />

in different sectors. This is also the case in regard to any collaborati<strong>on</strong>s <strong>and</strong> innovative<br />

service models which might be providing effective resp<strong>on</strong>ses.<br />

Financial literacy educati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> financial capability building have been identified as<br />

preventative measures <strong>and</strong> as resp<strong>on</strong>ses for women who have experienced violence. There<br />

is a need for a better underst<strong>and</strong>ing of the appropriate c<strong>on</strong>texts for providing financial<br />

literacy educati<strong>on</strong> to women experiencing ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse, including the potential for<br />

‘mainstream’ community-based educati<strong>on</strong> programs to fill this role.<br />


Introducti<strong>on</strong><br />

This literature review has been written as the first part of the <str<strong>on</strong>g>Spotlight</str<strong>on</strong>g> <strong>on</strong> Ec<strong>on</strong>omic <strong>Abuse</strong><br />

Project, a joint advocacy initiative of Good Shepherd Youth & Family Service <strong>and</strong> Kild<strong>on</strong>an<br />

UnitingCare. The project emerged from the organisati<strong>on</strong>s’ shared c<strong>on</strong>cerns about ec<strong>on</strong>omic<br />

abuse being experienced by women accessing their services.<br />

Both Good Shepherd Youth & Family Service <strong>and</strong> Kild<strong>on</strong>an UnitingCare provide services to<br />

some of the most vulnerable people in our community. These include family violence<br />

interventi<strong>on</strong> programs <strong>and</strong> financial counselling. Both organisati<strong>on</strong>s have also been leaders<br />

in the development <strong>and</strong> provisi<strong>on</strong> of financial inclusi<strong>on</strong> initiatives such as loans <strong>and</strong> savings<br />

programs for women. Kild<strong>on</strong>an UnitingCare provides violence preventi<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> interventi<strong>on</strong><br />

programs for men, women <strong>and</strong> children including individual <strong>and</strong> group work resp<strong>on</strong>ses <strong>and</strong><br />

men’s behaviour change programs. Good Shepherd Youth & Family Service operates the<br />

Morningt<strong>on</strong> Peninsula Family Violence Program which supports women <strong>and</strong> children<br />

experiencing domestic violence <strong>and</strong> provides other women’s counselling <strong>and</strong> peer support<br />

programs. Workers at both organisati<strong>on</strong>s have encountered harrowing stories of ec<strong>on</strong>omic<br />

abuse leading to acquired debt, poverty <strong>and</strong> homelessness.<br />

Ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse has often been overlooked in the spectrum of domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence.<br />

In Australia ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse has <strong>on</strong>ly recently been recognised in some legal jurisdicti<strong>on</strong>s<br />

<strong>and</strong> there is a low level of public awareness of it. Combined with some clear evidence of the<br />

damaging effects of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse these factors present a str<strong>on</strong>g argument for more to be<br />

d<strong>on</strong>e to identify <strong>and</strong> address ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse in the Australian c<strong>on</strong>text.<br />

The <str<strong>on</strong>g>Spotlight</str<strong>on</strong>g> <strong>on</strong> Ec<strong>on</strong>omic <strong>Abuse</strong> Project aims to identify systemic issues of ec<strong>on</strong>omic<br />

abuse to facilitate <strong>and</strong> guide initiatives within government, corporati<strong>on</strong>s <strong>and</strong> community<br />

service sectors for the preventi<strong>on</strong>, early interventi<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> mitigati<strong>on</strong> of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse. This<br />

paper takes the first step in this journey, presenting a review of nati<strong>on</strong>al <strong>and</strong> internati<strong>on</strong>al<br />

research literature relating to ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse in Australia <strong>and</strong> identifying key areas of policy<br />

<strong>and</strong> sectors for interventi<strong>on</strong>. It is underpinned by the shared belief of Good Shepherd Youth<br />

& Family Service <strong>and</strong> Kild<strong>on</strong>an UnitingCare that it is <strong>on</strong>ly after we name ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse<br />

that we can work together to c<strong>on</strong>fr<strong>on</strong>t <strong>and</strong> prevent it. By identifying <strong>and</strong> describing ec<strong>on</strong>omic<br />

abuse, its impacts <strong>and</strong> the way in which it is perpetuated, we can begin to take acti<strong>on</strong> to<br />

build collaborative partnerships <strong>and</strong> develop innovative resp<strong>on</strong>ses to address abuse.<br />

This literature <strong>and</strong> policy review paper presents a complex picture of an intersecting web of<br />

factors <strong>and</strong> relati<strong>on</strong>ships at systemic, political, legal, ec<strong>on</strong>omic <strong>and</strong> cultural levels that<br />

perpetuate ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse. It also draws attenti<strong>on</strong> to the need for engagement <strong>and</strong><br />

cooperati<strong>on</strong> across community, corporate <strong>and</strong> government sectors to tackle ec<strong>on</strong>omic<br />

abuse.<br />


Overview<br />

This paper is organised as follows:<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

Secti<strong>on</strong> 2 defines <strong>and</strong> describes ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse <strong>and</strong> c<strong>on</strong>siders what is known from<br />

research literature about its prevalence.<br />

Secti<strong>on</strong> 3 explores the c<strong>on</strong>text of <strong>and</strong> influences <strong>on</strong> ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse <strong>and</strong> it reviews<br />

literature <strong>on</strong> what is known about the impacts of abuse. This secti<strong>on</strong> also looks at<br />

community attitudes to abuse <strong>and</strong> it presents a classificati<strong>on</strong> for policies, practices<br />

<strong>and</strong> regulatory frameworks affecting ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse.<br />

Secti<strong>on</strong> 4 identifies <strong>and</strong> describes some recent developments in key areas of public<br />

policy relating to ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse. These are: family <strong>and</strong> domestic violence; social<br />

security <strong>and</strong> crisis support; housing <strong>and</strong> homelessness; child support <strong>and</strong> family<br />

assistance; <strong>and</strong> financial capability <strong>and</strong> financial counselling; <strong>and</strong> legal assistance<br />

<strong>and</strong> legal costs.<br />

Secti<strong>on</strong> 5 identifies <strong>and</strong> describes key legal <strong>and</strong> regulatory frameworks which have<br />

significance for underst<strong>and</strong>ings of <strong>and</strong> resp<strong>on</strong>ses to ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse. These are:<br />

family violence laws; family law (property); victims’ compensati<strong>on</strong>; superannuati<strong>on</strong>;<br />

migrati<strong>on</strong> laws; anti-discriminati<strong>on</strong> laws; <strong>and</strong> c<strong>on</strong>sumer protecti<strong>on</strong> regulati<strong>on</strong>.<br />

Secti<strong>on</strong> 6 provides an overview of employment policies, regulati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> practices as<br />

they relate to ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse.<br />

Secti<strong>on</strong> 7 c<strong>on</strong>siders community services policies <strong>and</strong> practices which relate to <strong>and</strong><br />

impact <strong>on</strong> ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse.<br />


Ec<strong>on</strong>omic <strong>Abuse</strong><br />

This secti<strong>on</strong> is c<strong>on</strong>cerned with the nature of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse <strong>and</strong> the ways in which it has<br />

been understood <strong>and</strong> described. First, it identifies ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse as a form of domestic<br />

<strong>and</strong> family violence <strong>and</strong> draws <strong>on</strong> the research literature to describe the types of behaviours<br />

that can c<strong>on</strong>stitute ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse. Sec<strong>on</strong>d, it c<strong>on</strong>siders other forms of violence <strong>and</strong><br />

exploitati<strong>on</strong> which may overlap with ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse. Finally it explores what is known from<br />

the research literature about the prevalence of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse.<br />

Describing ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse<br />

Ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse—also referred to as ec<strong>on</strong>omic violence, ec<strong>on</strong>omic c<strong>on</strong>trol, ec<strong>on</strong>omic<br />

deprivati<strong>on</strong>, financial abuse <strong>and</strong> financial c<strong>on</strong>trol—is a form of domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence,<br />

involving behaviours that negatively affect a pers<strong>on</strong> financially <strong>and</strong> undermine that pers<strong>on</strong>’s<br />

efforts to become ec<strong>on</strong>omically independent (Weaver et al. 2009). While ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse<br />

may be recognised <strong>and</strong> understood by those affected by domestic violence <strong>and</strong> by people<br />

who work with them (Brookes 2006) it is has <strong>on</strong>ly recently become a focus for research in<br />

Australia, with early work including reports by Branigan (2004) <strong>and</strong> by Green <strong>and</strong> Pearce<br />

(2002, cited by Brookes 2006). Ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse has also <strong>on</strong>ly recently been included as a<br />

form of domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence in some, but not all, Australian family violence laws<br />

(ALRC/NSWLRC 2010).<br />

In Victoria, Domestic Violence Victoria (DV Vic), the peak body representing domestic <strong>and</strong><br />

family violence services, provides the following definiti<strong>on</strong> of family violence:<br />

Family Violence is the repeated use of violent, threatening, coercive or<br />

c<strong>on</strong>trolling behaviour by an individual against a family member(s), or some<strong>on</strong>e<br />

with whom they have, or have had an intimate relati<strong>on</strong>ship including carers.<br />

Violent behaviour includes not <strong>on</strong>ly physical assaults but an array of power<br />

<strong>and</strong> c<strong>on</strong>trol tactics used al<strong>on</strong>g a c<strong>on</strong>tinuum in c<strong>on</strong>cert with <strong>on</strong>e another,<br />

including direct or indirect threats, sexual assault, emoti<strong>on</strong>al <strong>and</strong> psychological<br />

torment, ec<strong>on</strong>omic c<strong>on</strong>trol, property damage, social isolati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> behaviour<br />

which causes a pers<strong>on</strong> to live in fear.<br />

Currently <strong>on</strong>ly certain behaviours <strong>and</strong> acti<strong>on</strong>s defined as family violence are<br />

criminal offences, any behaviour that c<strong>on</strong>stitutes family violence is<br />

unacceptable.<br />

Family violence can occur within any family relati<strong>on</strong>ship, including same sex<br />

relati<strong>on</strong>ships. It affects transgender people, the elderly <strong>and</strong> people with<br />

disabilities. While it can be perpetuated by any member of a family against<br />

another, it is more likely to be perpetrated by men (predominately by a<br />

woman’s current or ex-partner) against women <strong>and</strong> children.<br />

The Victorian Indigenous Family Violence Taskforce has defined family<br />

violence as: ‘An issue focused around a wide range of physical, emoti<strong>on</strong>al,<br />

sexual, social, spiritual, cultural, psychological <strong>and</strong> ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuses that<br />

occur within families, intimate relati<strong>on</strong>ships, extended families, kinship<br />

networks <strong>and</strong> communities. It extends to <strong>on</strong>e <strong>on</strong> <strong>on</strong>e fighting, abuse of<br />

Indigenous community workers, as well as self harm, injury <strong>and</strong> suicide.’ (DV<br />

Vic 2011, accessed 24 June 2012)<br />


The DV Vic definiti<strong>on</strong> informs the underst<strong>and</strong>ing of domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence adopted in<br />

this paper. In Australia generally the term family violence is more typically used to refer to<br />

violence perpetrated by a range of family or community members while domestic violence<br />

refers to violence perpetrated by a male partner towards a woman. Both terms acknowledge<br />

the gendered nature of violence <strong>and</strong> they are often used interchangeably (Murray & Powell<br />

2011). Throughout this paper they are used together to maintain a focus <strong>on</strong> the intimate<br />

partner relati<strong>on</strong>ships in which most family violence occurs <strong>and</strong> to include c<strong>on</strong>siderati<strong>on</strong> of the<br />

other family <strong>and</strong> community c<strong>on</strong>texts in which ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse occurs, including for<br />

Aboriginal <strong>and</strong> Torres Strait Isl<strong>and</strong>er women (Bryant & Willis 2008), older adults (Bagshaw,<br />

Wendt & Zannettino 2009; McFerran 2009) <strong>and</strong> people with disabilities (Hague et al. 2008).<br />

For example in relati<strong>on</strong> to people with disabilities, ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse may be perpetrated by<br />

some<strong>on</strong>e who is not a relative or intimate partner but is in a family-like relati<strong>on</strong>ship living with<br />

the pers<strong>on</strong> with a disability or is providing care <strong>and</strong> pers<strong>on</strong>al support to that pers<strong>on</strong> in a<br />

home envir<strong>on</strong>ment (Office of the Public Advocate 2010).<br />

Acknowledging that the vast majority of domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence is perpetrated by men<br />

against women, the term woman is used in making n<strong>on</strong>-specific references to people<br />

affected by violence. This is not intended to suggest that all men are perpetrators of violence<br />

nor that men are never victims of abuse. Violence may occur in same-sex relati<strong>on</strong>ships <strong>and</strong><br />

may be perpetrated by women; however, typically domestic violence is perpetrated by men<br />

against their current or former female partner.<br />

There is no single broadly adopted definiti<strong>on</strong> of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse. Definiti<strong>on</strong>s vary somewhat<br />

according to their purpose (for example, for legal, statistical or research purposes).<br />

Ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse as a form of domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence is most often defined in terms of<br />

behaviours of the pers<strong>on</strong> perpetrating the violence. In definiti<strong>on</strong>s of family <strong>and</strong> domestic<br />

violence in the family violence laws in Australia that include ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse, it has been<br />

formulated as including the following:<br />

unreas<strong>on</strong>able c<strong>on</strong>trolling behaviour without c<strong>on</strong>sent that denies a pers<strong>on</strong> financial<br />

aut<strong>on</strong>omy<br />

withholding financial support reas<strong>on</strong>ably necessary for the maintenance of a partner;<br />

coercing a partner to relinquish c<strong>on</strong>trol over assets<br />

unreas<strong>on</strong>ably preventing a pers<strong>on</strong> from taking part in decisi<strong>on</strong>s over household<br />

expenditure or the dispositi<strong>on</strong> of joint property<br />

coercing a pers<strong>on</strong> to claim social security payments<br />

preventing a pers<strong>on</strong> from seeking or keeping employment.<br />

(ALRC/NSWLRC 2010, pp. 196-197). 2<br />

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) defines ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse as:<br />

actual or threatened (abuse), including deprivati<strong>on</strong> of basic necessities;<br />

seizure of income or assets; withholding or c<strong>on</strong>trolling against a pers<strong>on</strong>’s will<br />

their access to m<strong>on</strong>ey, food, clothes <strong>and</strong> pers<strong>on</strong>al items such as car keys or<br />

bankbook; unreas<strong>on</strong>able denial of the means necessary for participati<strong>on</strong> in<br />

social life; <strong>and</strong> coerci<strong>on</strong>. (ABS 2009, p. 9)<br />

The ABS identifies the relati<strong>on</strong>ships in which ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse might occur as marriage;<br />

defacto relati<strong>on</strong>ships; intimate relati<strong>on</strong>ships, whether of a sexual nature or not; parent-child<br />

2 These formulati<strong>on</strong>s are drawn from the Family Violence Protecti<strong>on</strong> Act 2008 (Vic) s 6; Interventi<strong>on</strong><br />

Orders (Preventi<strong>on</strong> of <strong>Abuse</strong>) Act 2009 (SA) s 8(5); Family Violence Act 2004 (Tas) ss 7, 8; <strong>and</strong> the<br />

Domestic <strong>and</strong> Family Violence Act 2007 (NT) s 5. The full definiti<strong>on</strong> of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse in the<br />

Victorian legislati<strong>on</strong> is given in full in Appendix B of this report.<br />


elati<strong>on</strong>ships; sibling relati<strong>on</strong>ships; domestic relati<strong>on</strong>ships; relatives through blood, marriage,<br />

or cultural, ethnic or religious beliefs (including kinship relati<strong>on</strong>ships); <strong>and</strong> relati<strong>on</strong>ships of<br />

dependency, or involving pers<strong>on</strong>al or financial commitment (ABS 2009, p. 9).<br />

Within the practice <strong>and</strong> research literature c<strong>on</strong>cerned with domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence,<br />

definiti<strong>on</strong>s of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse are somewhat broader. For example Tolman (2011 p. 1)<br />

identifies ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse “in its broadest c<strong>on</strong>ceptualisati<strong>on</strong>s, (as) the set of behaviors<br />

designed to harm women’s ec<strong>on</strong>omic wellbeing”. Similarly Adams <strong>and</strong> colleagues (Adams et<br />

al. 2008, p. 564) describe ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse as involving behaviours that ‘c<strong>on</strong>trol a woman’s<br />

ability to acquire, use, <strong>and</strong> maintain ec<strong>on</strong>omic resources, thus threatening her ec<strong>on</strong>omic<br />

security <strong>and</strong> potential for self-sufficiency’.<br />

Recent research, reports from practiti<strong>on</strong>ers <strong>and</strong> reviews of family <strong>and</strong> domestic violence<br />

research have identified types of behaviours which can c<strong>on</strong>stitute ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse. For<br />

example, from her research in the United Kingdom, Sharp (2008, pp. 1-2) identified these<br />

four types of abuse:<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

interfering with educati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> employment<br />

c<strong>on</strong>trolling access to ec<strong>on</strong>omic resources<br />

refusing to c<strong>on</strong>tribute<br />

generating ec<strong>on</strong>omic cost.<br />

Based <strong>on</strong> their review of research in the United States, Adams et al. (2008) identified three<br />

types of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse:<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

preventing women from acquiring resources<br />

preventing women from using resources<br />

exploiting women’s resources.<br />

Combining these, the following four types of behaviours can be identified:<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

Preventing acquisiti<strong>on</strong> of ec<strong>on</strong>omic resources:<br />

o through interfering with educati<strong>on</strong>, training <strong>and</strong> employment<br />

o through preventing acquisiti<strong>on</strong> of other ec<strong>on</strong>omic resources.<br />

Preventing use of resources/c<strong>on</strong>trolling access to ec<strong>on</strong>omic resources.<br />

Refusing to c<strong>on</strong>tribute.<br />

Exploiting women’s resources <strong>and</strong>/or generating ec<strong>on</strong>omic costs.<br />

Examples of these types of behaviours are identified in recent research studies from<br />

Australia (Braaf & Barrett Meyering 2011; Branigan 2004; Branigan 2007; Fraser, Hunter &<br />

Borrell 2011; McFerran 2011), the UK (Refuge 2005; Sharp 2008), the USA (Adams et al.<br />

2008; Anders<strong>on</strong> et al. 2003; Moe & Bell 2004; Postmus et al. 2012; Tolman & Wang 2005),<br />

<strong>and</strong> Canada (Power 2006).<br />


Case Study: Maria<br />

Maria’s husb<strong>and</strong> used manipulative behaviour to try to ensure Maria remained reliant <strong>on</strong> him<br />

for financial security. Initially he discouraged her from joining the workforce, saying she<br />

should c<strong>on</strong>centrate <strong>on</strong> minding their three children. After the children started school Maria<br />

wanted to study nursing. Outwardly her husb<strong>and</strong> gave his approval but he made it difficult, if<br />

not impossible, for Maria to study effectively.<br />

Maria’s husb<strong>and</strong> promised to look after the kids but double-booked so Maria had to miss<br />

classes or study. He hid her study documents, professing ignorance if she asked him about<br />

them. He accused her of being selfish if she made study a priority over his or the children’s<br />

needs. He took steps to make her exhausted when she sat exams or had other important<br />

study days, coming home late <strong>and</strong> waking her, or provoking arguments or stressful<br />

encounters close to bedtime.<br />

Maria passed her course <strong>and</strong> began working. Her husb<strong>and</strong> appeared to support her but as<br />

time went by increasingly he sabotaged her efforts to be a reliable, c<strong>on</strong>sistent employee. He<br />

promised her use of the car then took it himself. He offered to drive her to the stati<strong>on</strong> then<br />

pretended to forget. He insisted she stay home if the children were sick <strong>and</strong> he never took<br />

time off to care for them. He sometimes turned up at her workplace unexpectedly, even<br />

though she asked him not to.<br />

After Maria left her husb<strong>and</strong> his visits to work c<strong>on</strong>tinued <strong>and</strong> were openly nasty. He often<br />

called <strong>and</strong> shouted at her over the ph<strong>on</strong>e <strong>and</strong> he threatened her workmates.<br />

Case study from Good Shepherd Youth & Family Service family violence program.<br />

The list below has been drawn from the findings of this body of research, from reviews of<br />

literature (Fawole 2008; Gilfus 2002; L<strong>and</strong>vogt 2011; Nati<strong>on</strong>al Coaliti<strong>on</strong> against Domestic<br />

Violence [NCADV] n.d.; Renzetti 2009; Swanberg, Macke & Logan 2005; Tolman 2011) <strong>and</strong><br />

from practiti<strong>on</strong>er accounts of abuse (Fraser, Hunter & Borrell 2011; Green & Pearce 2002;<br />

H<strong>and</strong>, Chung & Peters 2009).<br />

A.1 Preventing acquisiti<strong>on</strong> of ec<strong>on</strong>omic resources through interfering with<br />

educati<strong>on</strong>, training <strong>and</strong> employment<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

sabotaging transport (for example, hiding keys or taking car, refusing to give a ride to<br />

work)<br />

failing to provide promised childcare<br />

hiding work clothes<br />

destroying documents (for example, books for study, essays)<br />

physically restraining women<br />

inflicting injuries<br />

cutting a woman’s hair<br />

preventing sleep<br />

stealing/withholding medicati<strong>on</strong><br />

harassing with ph<strong>on</strong>e calls to work during the day<br />

harassing co-workers<br />

threatening or dem<strong>and</strong>ing woman quits job/study<br />

following woman to <strong>and</strong> from work.<br />


A.2 Preventing acquisiti<strong>on</strong> of ec<strong>on</strong>omic resources through other interference<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

taking pay<br />

interfering with receipt of other income (for example, child support, income support)<br />

refusing to include a woman’s name <strong>on</strong> property titles or car ownership papers<br />

not allowing car ownership<br />

preventing a woman having access to her own bank account/joint bank account<br />

preventing access to financial informati<strong>on</strong><br />

preventing involvement in important financial decisi<strong>on</strong>s.<br />

B. Preventing use of resources/c<strong>on</strong>trolling access to ec<strong>on</strong>omic resources<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

c<strong>on</strong>trolling a woman’s ability to make use of her own or shared resources<br />

c<strong>on</strong>trolling how m<strong>on</strong>ey is spent <strong>and</strong> limiting access (for example, denying access<br />

to m<strong>on</strong>ey for necessities such as food or allocating a specific amount of m<strong>on</strong>ey<br />

<strong>and</strong> no more to be spent <strong>on</strong> household necessities)<br />

limiting access to <strong>and</strong> m<strong>on</strong>itoring use of transportati<strong>on</strong><br />

c<strong>on</strong>trolling a woman’s credit card, bank account access<br />

m<strong>on</strong>itoring all spending <strong>and</strong> making a woman account for all m<strong>on</strong>ey spent.<br />

C. Refusing to c<strong>on</strong>tribute<br />

refusing to c<strong>on</strong>tribute to household expenses (including making woman solely<br />

resp<strong>on</strong>sible for household debts such as utility bills)<br />

refusing to earn income or claim incomes support or other benefits;<br />

D. Exploiting a woman’s resources <strong>and</strong> generating ec<strong>on</strong>omic costs<br />

depleting a woman’s resources including stealing m<strong>on</strong>ey <strong>and</strong> causing debts to be<br />

generated in her name<br />

stealing, destroying or damaging household goods, a woman’s bel<strong>on</strong>gings,<br />

houses, cars<br />

pawning a woman’s property or shared property<br />

running up debts in a woman’s name (for example, fines associated with cars,<br />

business losses), possibly leading to bankruptcy<br />

obtaining credit in a woman’s name or in both names, using up the credit <strong>and</strong><br />

running up debts<br />

spending m<strong>on</strong>ey required for household needs (for example, rent, food, bills).<br />

forcing a woman to commit social security or tax fraud.<br />

The Power <strong>and</strong> C<strong>on</strong>trol Wheel shown below was developed <strong>on</strong> the basis of women’s<br />

experiences of domestic violence to document the most comm<strong>on</strong> forms of abusive<br />

behaviours or tactics used by men against women. It includes ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse as <strong>on</strong>e<br />

aspect of a pattern of acti<strong>on</strong>s used to intenti<strong>on</strong>ally c<strong>on</strong>trol or dominate a partner. This wheel<br />

is widely used in Australia <strong>and</strong> elsewhere as a tool for assisting workers <strong>and</strong> women who<br />

have experienced violence to identify <strong>and</strong> underst<strong>and</strong> c<strong>on</strong>trolling <strong>and</strong> abusive<br />

behaviours(Christy-McMullin 2011; Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria 2012,<br />

viewed 19 August 2012, http://www.dvrcv.org.au/ellen-pence/>; Sharp 2008).<br />


Some ‘typical scenarios’ of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse identified by Kild<strong>on</strong>an UnitingCare financial<br />

counsellors include:<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

Men who either get their partner to sign up as the car owner or regularly take their<br />

partner’s car <strong>and</strong> run up thous<strong>and</strong>s of dollars in fines; if he is young, the man<br />

typically disappears, as does the car.<br />

Men who hold assets in their names <strong>and</strong> ensure all liabilities are in their partner’s<br />

name – usually credit cards, household bills <strong>and</strong> pers<strong>on</strong>al loans.<br />

Men who use the assets of their partner as security to fund fairly risky projects or<br />

speculati<strong>on</strong>, often getting access to their partner’s superannuati<strong>on</strong> through the<br />

hardship provisi<strong>on</strong>s or persuading them to cash in their l<strong>on</strong>g service leave, family<br />

borrowings etc. In <strong>on</strong>e case, a nurse in her mid 50s had a nervous breakdown. The<br />

counsellor said this woman felt she had been used by her partner as a ‘cash cow’.<br />

Men who c<strong>on</strong>trol their partners by allowing for no separate partner income <strong>and</strong><br />

providing inadequate funds for running a household, maintaining a car, feeding the<br />

family or for pers<strong>on</strong>al spending.<br />

Fraser, Hunter & Borrell 2011, p. 10<br />


Diagram 1: Power <strong>and</strong> C<strong>on</strong>trol Wheel<br />

Domestic <strong>Abuse</strong> Interventi<strong>on</strong> Project 1984<br />

(accessed 21 July 2012, )<br />


As part of repeated or <strong>on</strong>going c<strong>on</strong>trolling behaviour ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse is likely to occur in<br />

c<strong>on</strong>juncti<strong>on</strong> with <strong>and</strong> as part of other forms of domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence as indicated in<br />

the following examples, which draw <strong>on</strong> the ABS (2009) definiti<strong>on</strong>s of forms of family<br />

violence:<br />

interfering with educati<strong>on</strong> or employment may involve physical abuse such as<br />

restraining the woman or preventing sleep<br />

ec<strong>on</strong>omic exploitati<strong>on</strong> of a woman may involve sexual abuse where a woman is<br />

forced or coerced to engage in sexual activities for m<strong>on</strong>ey<br />

<br />

psychological or emoti<strong>on</strong>al abuse whereby manipulative behaviour is used to make a<br />

woman feel she has or is a problem <strong>and</strong> cannot succeed at study or other<br />

endeavours<br />

interference with participati<strong>on</strong> in employment <strong>and</strong> c<strong>on</strong>trolling access to ec<strong>on</strong>omic<br />

resources may involve social abuse whereby a woman is forcibly isolated from family<br />

or friends <strong>and</strong> rendered unreas<strong>on</strong>ably dependent <strong>on</strong> a partner<br />

interference with work participati<strong>on</strong> may involve harassment or stalking such as<br />

c<strong>on</strong>stant ph<strong>on</strong>e calls or repeated visits to a workplace.<br />

Sharp (2008a) has developed an ‘ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse wheel’ to show how the use of ec<strong>on</strong>omic<br />

abuse reinforces <strong>and</strong> overlaps with other types of c<strong>on</strong>trol as a form of domestic violence<br />

Diagram 2: Ec<strong>on</strong>omic <strong>Abuse</strong> Wheel<br />


Ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse <strong>and</strong> elder abuse<br />

Ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse of older people has also been identified as a comm<strong>on</strong> form of ‘elder abuse’,<br />

which is a c<strong>on</strong>cept that is different from, but has a significant overlap with, domestic <strong>and</strong><br />

family violence. Elder abuse may be a form of domestic or family violence or it may occur<br />

outside intimate pers<strong>on</strong>al <strong>and</strong> family relati<strong>on</strong>ships. The term refers to the harm or neglect of<br />

an older pers<strong>on</strong> by a pers<strong>on</strong> with whom the older pers<strong>on</strong> has a relati<strong>on</strong>ship of a kind that<br />

implies trust <strong>and</strong>/or dependence (ABS 2006; Elder <strong>Abuse</strong> Preventi<strong>on</strong> Unit, viewed 7 July<br />

2012 at ). Thus, elder abuse perpetrated by a<br />

partner, family member or by an unpaid carer in an informal relati<strong>on</strong>ship is a form of<br />

domestic or family violence while the c<strong>on</strong>cept also includes abuse in a much wider range of<br />

relati<strong>on</strong>ships, including with paid carers <strong>and</strong> in paid care settings (Office of the Public<br />

Advocate 2010, Queensl<strong>and</strong> Law Society 2010). Outside Australia the term has also been<br />

used to refer to single incidents such as decepti<strong>on</strong> or c<strong>on</strong>trolling behaviour perpetrated by<br />

strangers; for example salespeople (Straka & M<strong>on</strong>tminy 2006). However, in Australia abuse<br />

or fraud perpetrated by strangers is not usually included in definiti<strong>on</strong>s of elder abuse.<br />

In Australia, the majority of abusers of older people (80-90 per cent) have been found to be<br />

close family members (Kurrle 2004, p.809). Several studies have found ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse to<br />

be the most comm<strong>on</strong> form of reported or suspected elder abuse in family relati<strong>on</strong>ships, with<br />

the older pers<strong>on</strong>’s adult s<strong>on</strong> or daughter most likely to be the abuser (Bagshaw, Wendt <strong>and</strong><br />

Zannettino 2007). Seniors Rights Victoria (2012, p. 5) report that, am<strong>on</strong>g older people<br />

approaching their service for informati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> support relating to abuse, financial abuse is the<br />

most comm<strong>on</strong> form <strong>and</strong> it “most comm<strong>on</strong>ly manifests as financial loss arising from the<br />

disposal of an older pers<strong>on</strong>’s assets in exchange for their future care <strong>and</strong> accommodati<strong>on</strong>,<br />

often under pressure from another party”.<br />

The complex social <strong>and</strong> legal c<strong>on</strong>texts of elder abuse require additi<strong>on</strong>al c<strong>on</strong>siderati<strong>on</strong>s that<br />

are bey<strong>on</strong>d the scope of this paper. These include that abuse often occurs where an elderly<br />

pers<strong>on</strong> is vulnerable due to guardianship or power of attorney arrangements, which may be<br />

‘vehicles for financial elder abuse’ (Productivity Commissi<strong>on</strong> 2011, p. 454).<br />

Ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse, labour exploitati<strong>on</strong>, trafficking <strong>and</strong> forced labour<br />

The boundaries between ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse <strong>and</strong> other forms of violence <strong>and</strong> exploitati<strong>on</strong> can<br />

be blurred. While there is very limited evidence that other forms of abuse <strong>and</strong> exploitati<strong>on</strong><br />

are comm<strong>on</strong> in Australia they may be experienced by some women <strong>and</strong> there are groups<br />

who are vulnerable to such abuse <strong>and</strong> exploitati<strong>on</strong>. The most comm<strong>on</strong> form may be labour<br />

exploitati<strong>on</strong>, involving employment with pay <strong>and</strong> c<strong>on</strong>diti<strong>on</strong>s that are beneath minimum<br />

regulated st<strong>and</strong>ards (Nelms, Nichols<strong>on</strong> & Wheatley 2011). Women <strong>and</strong> younger men such<br />

as students <strong>and</strong> others <strong>on</strong> temporary visas may be particularly vulnerable to labour<br />

exploitati<strong>on</strong> (Burn et al. 2012). A situati<strong>on</strong> of forced labour exists where a pers<strong>on</strong> cannot<br />

leave the work because of threats or force (Burn et al. 2012) <strong>and</strong> some situati<strong>on</strong>s of forced<br />

labour may c<strong>on</strong>stitute slavery (Cullen & McSherry 2009). A separate problem is where<br />

women are trafficked to Australia for the purpose of placing them in exploitative or abusive<br />

situati<strong>on</strong>s such as into forced prostituti<strong>on</strong>.<br />

While the overlaps between ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse <strong>and</strong> these other forms of abuse <strong>and</strong><br />

exploitati<strong>on</strong> are recognised, this paper does not include an examinati<strong>on</strong> of this broader<br />

literature. Where labour exploitati<strong>on</strong> occurs within family <strong>and</strong> intimate partner relati<strong>on</strong>ships,<br />

for example where an abusive partner coerces a woman to work in a family enterprise<br />

without any benefit to the woman, this is within the definiti<strong>on</strong> of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse used in this<br />

paper. Elsewhere this type of situati<strong>on</strong> could be termed ‘servile marriage’. Servile marriage is<br />


also outside the scope of this paper, while it is recognised that forced marriage can be a<br />

form of domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence<br />

How comm<strong>on</strong> is ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse?<br />

Historically ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse has not been included as a form of domestic <strong>and</strong> family<br />

violence in law nor in definiti<strong>on</strong>s used in surveys of violence. Therefore, there is limited<br />

informati<strong>on</strong> from Australian sources about its prevalence in the populati<strong>on</strong>. Key nati<strong>on</strong>al data<br />

sources <strong>on</strong> domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence are the Pers<strong>on</strong>al Safety Survey c<strong>on</strong>ducted by the<br />

ABS (ABS 2006) <strong>and</strong> the Australian comp<strong>on</strong>ent of the Internati<strong>on</strong>al Violence Against Women<br />

Survey (IVAWS) (Mouzos & Makkai 2004), neither of which included ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse in their<br />

definiti<strong>on</strong>s of domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence. The Pers<strong>on</strong>al Safety Survey found that two per<br />

cent of women had been subject to violence by a current partner <strong>and</strong> 15 per cent had<br />

experienced violence by a previous partner. By comparis<strong>on</strong>, just under <strong>on</strong>e per cent of men<br />

had experienced violence from a current partner <strong>and</strong> almost five per cent had experienced<br />

violence from a previous partner (ABS 2006, p. 11). The IVAWS survey found that 34 per<br />

cent of women who had a current or former intimate partner had been subject to domestic<br />

violence at least <strong>on</strong>ce, with 36 per cent experiencing violence from a former partner <strong>and</strong> 10<br />

per cent from a current partner (Mouzos & Makkai 2004, p. 3).<br />

While there is limited Australian research <strong>on</strong> its prevalence, there are research findings that<br />

suggest ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse may be a very comm<strong>on</strong> form of violence affecting women who<br />

seek assistance because of domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence. A recent Australian study found<br />

80 per cent of 134 women who reported they had experienced domestic violence had been<br />

subject to financial abuse (Evans 2007). In this study financial abuse referred to “a situati<strong>on</strong><br />

where <strong>on</strong>e partner in a relati<strong>on</strong>ship maintains c<strong>on</strong>trol over the finances <strong>and</strong> prevents the<br />

other from having ready access to available funds” (Evans 2007, p. 25). Thus, the 80 per<br />

cent of women would not include any who experienced interference with their participati<strong>on</strong> in<br />

educati<strong>on</strong>, training or employment but who did not also experience c<strong>on</strong>trol over their<br />

finances. In a recent Australian <strong>on</strong>line survey of workers nearly half of resp<strong>on</strong>dents who had<br />

experienced domestic violence reported that the violence affected their capacity to get to<br />

work; 31 per cent of this group reported that car keys or transport m<strong>on</strong>ey were hidden or<br />

stolen, 23 per cent reported that pers<strong>on</strong>al documents were hidden or stolen <strong>and</strong> 23 per cent<br />

reported that their partner refused or failed to show up to care for children (McFerran 2011,<br />

p. 9).<br />

Much of the other relevant research available is from the United States <strong>and</strong> this also mostly<br />

c<strong>on</strong>cerns women seeking assistance due to domestic violence. One recent United States<br />

study found that over 90 per cent of 120 women participating in a domestic violence support<br />

group had experienced some form of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse (Postmus et al. 2012). Examples<br />

included: experiences of a partner doing things to keep the woman from going to her job (68<br />

per cent); a partner spending m<strong>on</strong>ey that was needed for rent or bills (69 per cent); a partner<br />

running up debt under the woman’s name by using her credit cards or running up ph<strong>on</strong>e bills<br />

(59 per cent); <strong>and</strong> a partner making a woman ask for m<strong>on</strong>ey (74 per cent) (Postmus et al.<br />

2012). In another US study which trialled a ‘Scale of Ec<strong>on</strong>omic <strong>Abuse</strong>’ 99 per cent of 120<br />

women who were seeking support from domestic violence services were found to have been<br />

subject to ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse <strong>and</strong>, of those who were <strong>on</strong> low incomes, 76 per cent reported<br />

that the material hardship they faced was very much or completely the resp<strong>on</strong>sibility of their<br />

abusive partner (Adams et al. 2008, p. 581). <strong>Review</strong>ing US studies from the late 1980s to<br />

mid 2000s Adams et al. (2008) report findings of between 29 <strong>and</strong> 62 per cent of women<br />

experiencing domestic violence reporting that their partners’ interfered with their ability to<br />

further their educati<strong>on</strong>. Other research found 38 per cent of 485 women seeking support<br />

from domestic violence services reported that their partners had stolen m<strong>on</strong>ey from them<br />

(Anders<strong>on</strong> et al. 2003). The prevalence of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse varies c<strong>on</strong>siderably between<br />


studies, which c<strong>on</strong>cern different groups, use different methods <strong>and</strong> adopt different definiti<strong>on</strong>s<br />

of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse. However, overall they suggest that ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse is often present<br />

where women experience other forms of violence.<br />

Findings from research studies in the UK c<strong>on</strong>cerning women who have sought assistance<br />

due to domestic violence show similarly high levels of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse experienced<br />

c<strong>on</strong>currently with other forms of domestic violence. <strong>Review</strong>ing UK research, Sharp (2008)<br />

reports that studies have found between 43 <strong>and</strong> 98 per cent of women have experienced<br />

ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse as part of domestic violence. Some UK research sheds light <strong>on</strong> the<br />

incidence of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse. 3 In a study by Robins<strong>on</strong> (2003, p. 8) 64 per cent of women<br />

who sought assistance for domestic violence experienced financial abuse <strong>and</strong> half of these<br />

women reported that they experienced financial abuse ‘almost c<strong>on</strong>stantly’, a much higher<br />

percentage than for other forms of abuse.<br />

The nati<strong>on</strong>ally representative British Crime Survey undertaken in the UK in 2001 did include<br />

ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse as a form of domestic violence (Walby & Allen 2004). Walby <strong>and</strong> Allen<br />

(2004) reported that four per cent of women <strong>and</strong> two per cent of men were subject to<br />

domestic violence during the previous year <strong>and</strong> that these figures increased to six <strong>and</strong> five<br />

per cent respectively when emoti<strong>on</strong>al <strong>and</strong> financial abuses were included. They estimated<br />

that <strong>on</strong>e in five women <strong>and</strong> <strong>on</strong>e in ten men had experienced at least <strong>on</strong>e incident of ‘n<strong>on</strong>sexual<br />

domestic threat or force’ since they were 16 <strong>and</strong> that if financial <strong>and</strong> emoti<strong>on</strong>al abuse<br />

were included, then 26 per cent of women <strong>and</strong> 17 per cent of men had experienced<br />

domestic violence since the age of 16 (Walby & Allen 2004, p. 12). This study also found<br />

that nearly half (41%) of women who had been subject to domestic violence had also been<br />

subject to emoti<strong>on</strong>al or financial abuse (Walby & Allen 2004, pp. 18-19).<br />

The findings of these Australian <strong>and</strong> overseas research studies identifying ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse<br />

as occurring al<strong>on</strong>g with other forms of domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence are c<strong>on</strong>sistent with<br />

reports from Australian domestic violence services (ALRC/NSWLRC 2010, p 214). They are<br />

also c<strong>on</strong>sistent with underst<strong>and</strong>ings of domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence as a pattern of coercive<br />

c<strong>on</strong>trol <strong>and</strong> of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse as <strong>on</strong>e means for a perpetrator of violence in an intimate<br />

partner relati<strong>on</strong>ship to establish <strong>and</strong> sustain an unequal power balance. In the next secti<strong>on</strong><br />

ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse is located within the broader c<strong>on</strong>text of it as an element of domestic <strong>and</strong><br />

family violence.<br />

3 While prevalence refers to the proporti<strong>on</strong> of a populati<strong>on</strong> that has experienced a particular type of<br />

violence (<strong>on</strong>ce or more times), incidence refers to the total number of occasi<strong>on</strong>s <strong>on</strong> which the violence<br />

occurred.<br />


Influences, Impacts <strong>and</strong> Points of Interventi<strong>on</strong><br />

It is necessary to locate ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse within the broader c<strong>on</strong>text of domestic <strong>and</strong> family<br />

violence <strong>and</strong> the c<strong>on</strong>text of broader social <strong>and</strong> ec<strong>on</strong>omic arrangements to identify influencing<br />

factors <strong>and</strong> impacts <strong>and</strong> to start drawing out the multiplicity of c<strong>on</strong>necti<strong>on</strong>s between public<br />

policies <strong>and</strong> practices <strong>and</strong> ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse. In this secti<strong>on</strong> an ecological model is applied to<br />

ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse to illustrate the complexity of the relati<strong>on</strong>ships between influencing factors<br />

<strong>and</strong> c<strong>on</strong>sequences including the underlying c<strong>on</strong>diti<strong>on</strong>s which may increase or may decrease<br />

risks of abuse. Following this, the discussi<strong>on</strong> focuses <strong>on</strong> what is known about vulnerability to<br />

ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse. It then turns to an examinati<strong>on</strong> of the direct c<strong>on</strong>sequences of ec<strong>on</strong>omic<br />

abuse <strong>and</strong> of the financial or ec<strong>on</strong>omic c<strong>on</strong>sequences of domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence.<br />

Applying an ecological model to ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse<br />

In Figure One an ‘ecological model’ (Br<strong>on</strong>fenbrenner 1979) is applied to ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse.<br />

This model provides a visual representati<strong>on</strong> of the multiple levels of influences <strong>on</strong> ec<strong>on</strong>omic<br />

abuse <strong>and</strong> it gives some emphasis to gender inequality including the unequal ec<strong>on</strong>omic<br />

positi<strong>on</strong> of women. Thus the model includes individual, situati<strong>on</strong>al, community <strong>and</strong> societal<br />

factors that influence abuse <strong>and</strong> ec<strong>on</strong>omic wellbeing. This type of model has been used in a<br />

wide range of c<strong>on</strong>texts to explore influences <strong>on</strong> violence (World Health Organizati<strong>on</strong> 2002, p.<br />

12) including, in Victoria, VicHealth’s (2007) framework for preventing violence against<br />

women.<br />

Influences at all levels may be positive or negative; they may either reduce or increase the<br />

likelihood of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse occurring or they may either lessen or exacerbate the negative<br />

c<strong>on</strong>sequences of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse. The solid arrows in Figure One show the directi<strong>on</strong> of<br />

causal influences. The complicated relati<strong>on</strong>ships between causal factors <strong>and</strong> resp<strong>on</strong>ses are<br />

indicated by the arrows identifying that causal influences may operate in both directi<strong>on</strong>s.<br />

This model can also be used to guide an explorati<strong>on</strong> of the relati<strong>on</strong>s of public policies <strong>and</strong><br />

practices—including government policy <strong>and</strong> services, regulatory frameworks, <strong>and</strong> community<br />

sector policies <strong>and</strong> practices—to ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse that captures the sphere of influence (for<br />

example, societal, community, relati<strong>on</strong>ship/individual) <strong>and</strong> later secti<strong>on</strong>s of this report<br />

address these issues.<br />


Figure 1: An ecological model of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse<br />

For example,<br />

community<br />

awareness of<br />

<strong>and</strong> attitudes<br />

to ec<strong>on</strong>omic<br />

abuse.<br />

For example,<br />

financial insecurity<br />

poverty, employment,<br />

homelessness<br />

Other impacts of<br />

domestic <strong>and</strong><br />

family violence<br />

Society<br />

Community<br />

Relati<strong>on</strong>ship<br />

Individual<br />

Decisi<strong>on</strong> to stay<br />

or leave abusive<br />

relati<strong>on</strong>ship<br />

Immediate,<br />

medium <strong>and</strong><br />

l<strong>on</strong>g-term<br />

impacts<br />

For example,<br />

norms/values <strong>and</strong><br />

structures (such as<br />

gender inequity)<br />

employment,<br />

welfare system<br />

For example,<br />

household stress,<br />

ec<strong>on</strong>omic<br />

dependence, gender<br />

attitudes,<br />

Society/community<br />

resp<strong>on</strong>ses to<br />

domestic & family<br />

violence<br />

Ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse <strong>and</strong> ec<strong>on</strong>omic independence<br />

The earlier discussi<strong>on</strong> of the nature of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse highlighted the ways in which<br />

ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse involves power dynamics <strong>and</strong> is about c<strong>on</strong>trolling behaviours which are<br />

directed to maintaining power <strong>and</strong> preventing women’s independence in an abusive<br />

relati<strong>on</strong>ship. Unequal power—including unequal ec<strong>on</strong>omic power—in a relati<strong>on</strong>ship can<br />

provide the c<strong>on</strong>diti<strong>on</strong>s that allow or enable domestic violence to occur by making it difficult<br />

for women to leave relati<strong>on</strong>ships in which they experience violence (Ly<strong>on</strong> 2000) <strong>and</strong> lack of<br />

financial independence has been found to be a major factor influencing a woman’s decisi<strong>on</strong><br />

to remain in an abusive relati<strong>on</strong>ship (Anders<strong>on</strong> & Saunders 2003). Thus, reducing ec<strong>on</strong>omic<br />

dependence <strong>and</strong> improving women’s financial security are seen as essential for leaving a<br />

violent partner (Braaf & Barrett Meyering 2011; Nati<strong>on</strong>al Council to Reduce Violence Against<br />

Women <strong>and</strong> their Children 2009). Here the relati<strong>on</strong>ship between the impacts of ec<strong>on</strong>omic<br />

abuse <strong>and</strong> resp<strong>on</strong>ses to ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse can be seen as critical to <strong>and</strong> difficult to separate<br />

from the impacts <strong>and</strong> resp<strong>on</strong>ses to domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence more generally.<br />


Particular vulnerabilities to ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse<br />

With survey <strong>and</strong> research studies pointing to ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse occurring in c<strong>on</strong>juncti<strong>on</strong> with<br />

other forms of domestic violence it is likely that any patterns of vulnerability to ec<strong>on</strong>omic<br />

abuse are similar to patterns of vulnerability identified for domestic violence more generally.<br />

While domestic violence is found across all socioec<strong>on</strong>omic groups some groups may face<br />

particular risks <strong>and</strong> these risks may arise from the complex interacti<strong>on</strong>s of a range of factors.<br />

As survey research has not traditi<strong>on</strong>ally measured ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse, the informati<strong>on</strong> that is<br />

available about vulnerability to ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse must largely be drawn from studies that can<br />

tell us much about the particular ways in which different groups may be vulnerable to<br />

ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse but less about the likelihood of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse being more or less<br />

comm<strong>on</strong> as a form of domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence for some groups of women than for<br />

others.<br />

Australian surveys of women’s experiences of domestic violence, while not including<br />

measures of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse, identify young women aged between 18 <strong>and</strong> 24 years as<br />

particularly at risk of experiencing domestic violence (Mouzos & Makkai 2004). Women are<br />

also identified as being at higher risk of experiencing violence in the periods prior to <strong>and</strong><br />

following separati<strong>on</strong> from a partner <strong>and</strong> during pregnancy (Mouzos & Makkai 2004;<br />

VicHealth 2007).<br />

There has been some recent attenti<strong>on</strong> in Australia <strong>and</strong> elsewhere to the domestic <strong>and</strong> family<br />

violence experienced by older people <strong>and</strong> reviews of the literature suggest there are some<br />

factors comm<strong>on</strong> in older age groups that have implicati<strong>on</strong>s for effective resp<strong>on</strong>ses for older<br />

women experiencing domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence (Bagshaw, Wendt & Zannettino 2009;<br />

McFerran 2009; Straka & M<strong>on</strong>tminy 2006). These factors include reluctance to report<br />

violence, financial problems <strong>and</strong> financial dependence (including barriers to employment),<br />

<strong>and</strong> health <strong>and</strong> care issues, all of which may make it difficult for women to leave abusive<br />

relati<strong>on</strong>ships. In relati<strong>on</strong> to care, Straka <strong>and</strong> M<strong>on</strong>tminy (2006) note that both women<br />

receiving <strong>and</strong> providing care may experience this as a barrier to leaving an abusive<br />

relati<strong>on</strong>ship. Bagshaw, Wendt <strong>and</strong> Zannettino (2009) note that studies have found that<br />

abuse of older people within the family is still largely the abuse of older women by older <strong>and</strong><br />

younger men. They also suggest that for older women a particular problem may be a lack of<br />

recogniti<strong>on</strong> of forms of abuse that are not physical or sexual as domestic violence.<br />

Bagshaw, Wendt <strong>and</strong> Zannettino (2009) also identify ‘effects’ of rurality, race <strong>and</strong> culture as<br />

interacting to influence older people’s vulnerability to ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse. Increased risks<br />

associated with these factors include the existence of barriers to seeking help which include<br />

cultural norms, low English language skills <strong>and</strong>/or accessibility of appropriate services <strong>and</strong><br />

informati<strong>on</strong>. Other women who may face such barriers include Aboriginal <strong>and</strong> Torres Strait<br />

Isl<strong>and</strong>er women, women with a disability, women with mental health issues or illness <strong>and</strong><br />

women who are lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex people (State of Victoria 2010).<br />

The nature of women’s dependence <strong>on</strong> a partner or other family member may increase the<br />

vulnerability of some groups of women who experience domestic violence to experiencing<br />

ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse as part of this violence (S<strong>and</strong>ers & Schnabel 2007). For example women<br />

who are asylum seekers, refugees or recent migrants applying for residency or work visas,<br />

women in small family agricultural businesses, women with a disability, <strong>and</strong> women in some<br />

Aboriginal <strong>and</strong> Torres Strait Isl<strong>and</strong>er communities may have particular vulnerabilities to<br />

ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse.<br />

Women with a disability or illness who have physical care needs or cognitive impairments<br />

may have particular vulnerabilities to domestic violence (Healey et al. 2008). A recent<br />

Victorian study of violence against people with cognitive impairments identified financial<br />

abuse <strong>and</strong> neglect by a range of different family members including intimate partners <strong>and</strong><br />


also parents <strong>and</strong> children <strong>and</strong> paid staff who were carers of the pers<strong>on</strong> they abused (Office<br />

of the Public Advocate 2010). A British study of women with disabilities by Hague et al.<br />

(2008) identified examples of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse by intimate partners that included women<br />

being denied m<strong>on</strong>ey for medicines <strong>and</strong> for essential pers<strong>on</strong>al needs related to impairment<br />

<strong>and</strong> of abusive partners taking over total c<strong>on</strong>trol of the finances of women who were highly<br />

dependent. Similarly Smith <strong>and</strong> Hilt<strong>on</strong> (2008) report women with disabilities being prevented<br />

from going to work by partners <strong>and</strong> other family members who for example, refused to assist<br />

with daily routines such as grooming, damaged communicati<strong>on</strong> devices or removed batteries<br />

from electric wheelchairs.<br />

Ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse in the form of ‘humbugging’ has been identified as a particular problem for<br />

people in some indigenous communities (ALRC/NSWLRC 2010, p. 214; Bryant & Willis<br />

2008). Humbugging is the practice of dem<strong>and</strong>ing m<strong>on</strong>ey or other material resources from<br />

relatives, it is often enforced by threatening behaviour (ALRC/NSWLRC 2010, p. 214) or<br />

through ‘trickery <strong>and</strong> deceit’ <strong>and</strong> it is most comm<strong>on</strong>ly perpetrated by young men (NCRVAWV<br />

2009, p. 189). It can leave people with little or no m<strong>on</strong>ey for food <strong>and</strong> other essentials <strong>and</strong>,<br />

while humbugging may occur throughout communities, the most comm<strong>on</strong> victims are<br />

women. Bryant <strong>and</strong> Willis (2008, p. 6) note that while the extent of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse in<br />

indigenous communities has not been quantified “its physical, emoti<strong>on</strong>al <strong>and</strong> mental effects<br />

are potentially devastating”. While there may be particular difficulties identifying <strong>and</strong><br />

addressing humbugging in the c<strong>on</strong>text of kinship <strong>and</strong> family obligati<strong>on</strong>s <strong>and</strong> practices which<br />

promote sharing, no relevant research literature was found <strong>on</strong> this.<br />

Other groups may be at increased risk of violence due to facing cultural or language barriers<br />

to seeking help (B<strong>on</strong>ar & Roberts 2006 cited by Dimopolous 2011). Low English language<br />

skills can be a barrier to accessing informati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> services while cultural norms in some<br />

communities may create barriers for some women. In a discussi<strong>on</strong> of elder abuse Wainer et<br />

al. (2010, p. 10) make the point that “the management of m<strong>on</strong>ey <strong>and</strong> intergenerati<strong>on</strong>al asset<br />

transfer within families is culturally bound <strong>and</strong> draws <strong>on</strong> deeply held values about<br />

appropriate behaviour <strong>and</strong> resp<strong>on</strong>sibilities between generati<strong>on</strong>s”. This has a wider<br />

applicability to domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence <strong>and</strong> may be a factor increasing risk in some age<br />

groups <strong>and</strong> for some groups from particular ethnic <strong>and</strong> cultural backgrounds. However, it<br />

needs to be remembered that culturally <strong>and</strong> linguistically diverse (CALD) groups are not<br />

homogeneous <strong>and</strong> cannot be treated as such, a point which has been stressed by<br />

researchers (Dimopoulos 2011; Morgan & Chadwick 2009).<br />

A group of migrant women who are particularly vulnerable to being trapped in situati<strong>on</strong>s of<br />

violence <strong>and</strong> abuse are women who are in relati<strong>on</strong>ships with citizens or permanent residents<br />

of Australia but who themselves are awaiting permanent residency (Pham 2011). The<br />

Australian Domestic & Family Violence Clearinghouse’s (ADFVC) recent qualitative study<br />

included several women whose partners had attempted to sabotage their migrati<strong>on</strong><br />

applicati<strong>on</strong>s or make it difficult for them to apply for work visas or residency (Braaf & Barrett<br />

Meyering 2011). Vulnerability for women in these circumstances may also be high because<br />

of social isolati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> lack of alternative means of financial support, including inability to take<br />

up paid work due to language <strong>and</strong> skill barriers or visa restricti<strong>on</strong>s <strong>and</strong> lack of eligibility for<br />

income support payments.<br />

Women living in rural <strong>and</strong> remote areas, including women in indigenous communities, may<br />

be less likely to seek help for domestic violence. Drawing together the findings from a<br />

number of Australian studies, Mitchell (2011) identifies the ideology of self-reliance, informal<br />

sancti<strong>on</strong>s <strong>and</strong> social c<strong>on</strong>trol as factors in this al<strong>on</strong>g with traditi<strong>on</strong>al gender roles as risk<br />

factors. Women in rural <strong>and</strong> remote areas may also find it harder to seek help or leave a<br />

violent relati<strong>on</strong>ship. Morgan <strong>and</strong> Chadwick (2009) also review relevant Australian literature<br />

<strong>and</strong> they identify the barriers as isolati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> a lack of services (including lack of access to<br />

services that women perceive as c<strong>on</strong>fidential <strong>and</strong> as providing an<strong>on</strong>ymity).<br />


Exploring the impacts of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse<br />

Referring to the Australian c<strong>on</strong>text, Brookes has observed:<br />

there has been little research to underst<strong>and</strong> how (ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse) is used,<br />

how it is experienced by women, its role in c<strong>on</strong>trolling <strong>and</strong> manipulating<br />

women, in creating dependence <strong>and</strong> isolati<strong>on</strong>, in obstructing women’s escape;<br />

<strong>and</strong> its l<strong>on</strong>g-term impact <strong>on</strong> women even after leaving the relati<strong>on</strong>ship.<br />

(Brookes 2006, p. 2)<br />

A scan of the literature suggests this c<strong>on</strong>tinues to be the case <strong>and</strong> also that there is very<br />

limited research which has specifically examined the impacts of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse <strong>on</strong> women,<br />

children, families <strong>and</strong> <strong>on</strong> the community. However, much is known about the impacts of the<br />

domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence of which ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse is <strong>on</strong>e element. In additi<strong>on</strong> it is not<br />

always possible or sensible to try to disentangle the impacts of <strong>on</strong>e form of violence from the<br />

impacts of other forms of violence. As illustrated earlier, ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse <strong>and</strong> other forms of<br />

violence occur together <strong>and</strong> overlap as part of patterns of c<strong>on</strong>trolling behaviour; this is also<br />

likely to be the case for the impacts of violence as indicated in the model presented in Figure<br />

One. Domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence can have significant negative c<strong>on</strong>sequences for<br />

ec<strong>on</strong>omic wellbeing whether or not an abusive partner’s behaviour includes ec<strong>on</strong>omic<br />

abuse. At the same time, ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse leading to financial hardship potentially has a<br />

whole range of negative c<strong>on</strong>sequences for health, housing, employment, interpers<strong>on</strong>al<br />

relati<strong>on</strong>ships <strong>and</strong> parenting while these factors can also impact <strong>on</strong> children’s wellbeing.<br />

Some of the direct <strong>and</strong> most apparent c<strong>on</strong>sequences for victims of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse are the<br />

financial or ec<strong>on</strong>omic c<strong>on</strong>sequences. These are c<strong>on</strong>sequences for people while they are in<br />

violent relati<strong>on</strong>ships, <strong>on</strong> leaving violent relati<strong>on</strong>ships, when attempting to gain financial<br />

stability following exit from violent relati<strong>on</strong>ships <strong>and</strong> <strong>on</strong> their prospects for ec<strong>on</strong>omic security<br />

in the l<strong>on</strong>g term.<br />

As Outlaw (2009, p. 264) puts it “(e)c<strong>on</strong>omic abuse involves imposed ec<strong>on</strong>omic dependence<br />

of the abused by the abuser, if not outright stealing by the abusive spouse”. Ec<strong>on</strong>omic<br />

dependence <strong>on</strong> an abusive partner can be a critical obstacle to leaving the relati<strong>on</strong>ship<br />

(Adams et al. 2008). In additi<strong>on</strong> to victims being unable to access funds needed to leave,<br />

domestic violence can cause social isolati<strong>on</strong> which reduces opti<strong>on</strong>s for leaving<br />

(ALRC/NSWLRC 2010). However, while c<strong>on</strong>cerns about financial insecurity—including<br />

c<strong>on</strong>cerns for impacts <strong>on</strong> children—are <strong>on</strong>e reas<strong>on</strong> women stay in abusive relati<strong>on</strong>ships,<br />

financial issues have also been identified as providing the impetus for women to leave<br />

abusive relati<strong>on</strong>ships (Braaf &Barrett Meyering 2010).<br />

Ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse threatens short <strong>and</strong> l<strong>on</strong>g-term ec<strong>on</strong>omic wellbeing. Women <strong>on</strong> low incomes<br />

in a relati<strong>on</strong>ship with an abusive partner report a lack of resources needed for day-to-day<br />

survival such as m<strong>on</strong>ey, housing, childcare <strong>and</strong> transportati<strong>on</strong> (Adams et al. 2008; Power<br />

2006; Short et al. 2000). <strong>Abuse</strong> can impact <strong>on</strong> women’s capacity to work leading to<br />

interrupted employment <strong>and</strong> to unemployment (Lindhorst et al. 2007; Lloyd 1997; Swanberg,<br />

Macke <strong>and</strong> Logan 2007).<br />

In Australia, domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence is often associated with poverty <strong>and</strong><br />

homelessness (Australian Institute of Health & Welfare [AIHW] 2007; Branigan 2004) <strong>and</strong>,<br />

while financial hardship prevents some women leaving abusive relati<strong>on</strong>ships, it also<br />

sometimes prompts women to return. Lack of m<strong>on</strong>ey can limit women’s capacity to access<br />

services needed to support recovery <strong>and</strong> prevent women taking up safety measures such as<br />

installing locks <strong>and</strong> alarms, maintaining a ph<strong>on</strong>e <strong>and</strong> a car or relocating (Braaf & Barrett<br />

Meyering 2011).<br />


A recent qualitative study by the ADFVC (Braaf & Barrett Meyering 2011) comprised<br />

research interviews with 57 women who had experienced domestic violence <strong>and</strong> with<br />

workers. This study identified ec<strong>on</strong>omic c<strong>on</strong>sequences of domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence in<br />

seven areas, many of which can be direct c<strong>on</strong>sequences of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse. Impacts<br />

identified in the ADFVC study <strong>and</strong> their review of literature <strong>and</strong> in other research studies<br />

(cited below) include the following:<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

Impacts <strong>on</strong> employment whereby women’s ability to work is affected or women are<br />

not working while in an abusive relati<strong>on</strong>ship as a c<strong>on</strong>sequence of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse or<br />

other violence or women give up employment when leaving their partner <strong>and</strong> have<br />

difficulty re-entering the paid workforce (see also Costello, Chung & Cars<strong>on</strong> 2005;<br />

McFerran 2011; Murray & Powell 2008; Swanberg, Logan & Macke 2005). Women<br />

may also find it difficult to maintain employment after leaving a violent relati<strong>on</strong>ship as<br />

they try to manage other c<strong>on</strong>sequences of the violence including legal issues <strong>and</strong><br />

housing (see also Evans 2007; Franzway, Zafferey & Chung 2007; Lloyd 1997; Ly<strong>on</strong><br />

2000; Murray & Powell 2008)<br />

Impacts relating to debts, bills <strong>and</strong> banking. Women exit from relati<strong>on</strong>ships carrying<br />

debts including mortgages, credit card bills <strong>and</strong> business debts including debts<br />

incurred by ex-partners in joint names <strong>and</strong> in women’s names. Debts can result in<br />

bad credit ratings, insolvency <strong>and</strong> bankruptcy (see also Branigan 2004, 2007; Evans<br />

2007). Women’s debts following domestic violence may include mortgages, credit<br />

cards, payday loans, utility bills, hire purchase c<strong>on</strong>tracts, mobile ph<strong>on</strong>e plans, parking<br />

fines <strong>and</strong> Centrelink overpayments (Braaf <strong>and</strong> Barrett Meyering 2011).<br />

Impacts relating to accommodati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> household goods. Women may lose their<br />

possessi<strong>on</strong>s, have no assets in their name <strong>and</strong> may face immediate homelessness<br />

as well as difficulty finding safe, affordable <strong>and</strong> appropriate accommodati<strong>on</strong>.<br />

Domestic violence is the most comm<strong>on</strong> reas<strong>on</strong> for women seeking help from<br />

homelessness services in Australia (Tually et al. 2008) <strong>and</strong> women may also<br />

experience insecure, unsafe or unsuitable housing <strong>on</strong> exiting violent relati<strong>on</strong>ships.<br />

Lack of affordable housing can result in women relocating to areas where they feel<br />

isolated from friends, family <strong>and</strong> other supports <strong>and</strong> where children have to change<br />

schools or travel l<strong>on</strong>g distances to school. Women who have to relocate face<br />

associated costs of moving, loss of possessi<strong>on</strong>s, storage fees <strong>and</strong> rental b<strong>on</strong>ds.<br />

Recent nati<strong>on</strong>al data <strong>on</strong> people seeking crisis accommodati<strong>on</strong> assistance shows that<br />

40 per cent of single women aged 25 years <strong>and</strong> over without children seeking<br />

assistance were doing so because of domestic or family violence <strong>and</strong> for women with<br />

children this was the case for 48 per cent of incidents of seeking assistance (AIHW<br />

2011, p. 15).<br />

Impacts relating to social security <strong>and</strong> other material supports. Women experiencing<br />

domestic violence may require immediate financial <strong>and</strong> material assistance as well<br />

as <strong>on</strong>going income support. On the basis of their interviews Braaf <strong>and</strong> Barrett<br />

Meyering (2010, p. 3) c<strong>on</strong>clude that “regardless of prior ec<strong>on</strong>omic circumstances,<br />

many women experience financial risk or poverty as a result of domestic violence”.<br />

There is c<strong>on</strong>siderable research showing that women who are sole parents are am<strong>on</strong>g<br />

the most financially disadvantaged people in Australia, with high levels of reliance <strong>on</strong><br />

government income support payments am<strong>on</strong>g this group (Australian Council of<br />

Social Service [ACOSS] 2010). Further, analysis of data from the 1996 Women’s<br />

Safety Survey found that a woman experiencing physical violence in the last three<br />

years had a 35 per cent increased chance of receiving some form of government<br />

income support payments (Access Ec<strong>on</strong>omics 2004, p. 59).<br />


Impacts relating to child support. Adequacy of child support payments is a c<strong>on</strong>cern<br />

for some women. Avoidance of child support payments by abusive partners<br />

c<strong>on</strong>tinues ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse while also c<strong>on</strong>tributing to poor financial outcomes (Corrie<br />

2011). Women may also choose not to pursue child support or receive less than child<br />

support than they should to avoid further violence (Patrick, Cook & McKenzie 2008;<br />

Patrick, Cook & Taket 2007).<br />

Impacts relating to legal matters. Legal costs may relate to protecti<strong>on</strong> orders, family<br />

law matters involving children <strong>and</strong> property settlements, wills, victim compensati<strong>on</strong>,<br />

bankruptcy <strong>and</strong> legal acti<strong>on</strong> relating to jointly owned business. Costs include legal<br />

fees, lost work days, child care <strong>and</strong> costs of court-appointed specialists (see also<br />

Ly<strong>on</strong>s 2000). For the women in Braaf <strong>and</strong> Barrett Meyering’s (2011) study, legal<br />

issues were “pivotal” to women’s financial outcomes with positive legal acti<strong>on</strong>s also<br />

bringing intangible benefits relating to the acknowledgement of women’s experiences<br />

<strong>and</strong> making ex-partners accountable for behaviour. On the downside, legal<br />

processes could cause stress <strong>and</strong> hardship. Another extremely serious impact<br />

relating to legal matters is the possibility of women’s criminalisati<strong>on</strong> through<br />

ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse. For example, ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse may involve coerci<strong>on</strong> by a partner to<br />

defraud Centrelink or a woman destitute as a result of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse may commit<br />

a criminal offence to survive (ALRC/NSWLRC 2010; Gilfus 2002).<br />

Impacts relating to migrati<strong>on</strong> matters. Women who are migrants to Australia <strong>on</strong><br />

spousal visas may have no or extremely limited access to income support payments<br />

or ability to enter paid work if they leave an abusive partner (Pham 2011).<br />

Impacts relating to health In additi<strong>on</strong> to any health impacts resulting from the<br />

experience of violence, ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse may affect physical <strong>and</strong> psychological<br />

health through poverty <strong>and</strong> low income <strong>and</strong> the stress associated with this.<br />

These impacts are likely to interact with a whole range of other impacts where ec<strong>on</strong>omic<br />

abuse occurs as <strong>on</strong>e of several forms of violence. Ec<strong>on</strong>omic impacts <strong>on</strong> women are also<br />

likely to be impacts <strong>on</strong> their children <strong>and</strong> women who seek assistance for family violence are<br />

often mothers with children. For example, in Victoria in 2010-2011, more than half of the<br />

women seeking assistance for family violence through a specialist family violence court had<br />

children in their care (State of Victoria 2012b, p. 19).<br />

There is a growing body of research c<strong>on</strong>cerning the ways in which family violence affects<br />

children <strong>and</strong> recent reviews of the literature point to significant negative behavioural <strong>and</strong><br />

emoti<strong>on</strong>al impacts of intimate partner domestic violence <strong>on</strong> children (ADFVC 2011; Holt<br />

Buckley & Whelan 2008). While some impacts of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse are noted above there is<br />

less informati<strong>on</strong> about how this form of abuse affects children. However, it is known that<br />

domestic violence is a factor in youth homelessness—as shown in nati<strong>on</strong>al homelessness<br />

data collecti<strong>on</strong>s (AIHW 2011)—<strong>and</strong> the Nati<strong>on</strong>al Youth Commissi<strong>on</strong> (2011) cites a<br />

l<strong>on</strong>gitudinal study of homeless young people aged 12 to 20 years which found <strong>on</strong>e third had<br />

left home because of family violence.<br />

As Braaf <strong>and</strong> Barrett Meyering (2011) point out, another c<strong>on</strong>sequence of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse is<br />

that it can be a means by which men c<strong>on</strong>tinue to c<strong>on</strong>trol their partners’ lives after separati<strong>on</strong>.<br />

Some debts may c<strong>on</strong>tinue to accrue after separati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> other debts may c<strong>on</strong>tinue to arise<br />

in the immediate period following separati<strong>on</strong> such as mortgage repayments <strong>on</strong> joint<br />

properties. As well as leaving abusive relati<strong>on</strong>ships with a poor credit rating <strong>and</strong> outst<strong>and</strong>ing<br />

debts, ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse may result in women being inexperienced <strong>and</strong> lacking c<strong>on</strong>fidence in<br />

dealing with financial matters (Evans 2007; V<strong>on</strong>DeLinde & Correia 2005). Adams (2011, p.<br />


3) suggests the impacts of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse are in three dimensi<strong>on</strong>s of women’s financial<br />

lives:<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

Financial stability, which requires having “not <strong>on</strong>ly income to cover daily living<br />

expenses, but also assets available to leverage in times of hardship, meet financial<br />

goals, <strong>and</strong> build l<strong>on</strong>g-term security” (including finding <strong>and</strong> maintaining affordable<br />

housing).<br />

Ec<strong>on</strong>omic self-sufficiency, which Adams sees as being dependent <strong>on</strong> employment<br />

<strong>and</strong> which is defined as having the income necessary to meet basic needs (for<br />

example, food, housing, child care, health care, transportati<strong>on</strong>, taxes).<br />

Subjective financial wellbeing whereby women believe they are able to provide for<br />

their families away from their ex-partner, with this affecting the decisi<strong>on</strong> not to return<br />

to an abusive relati<strong>on</strong>ship.<br />

Relevant to all three of these dimensi<strong>on</strong>s, S<strong>and</strong>ers <strong>and</strong> Shnebel (2007, p. 49) note that<br />

domestic violence in whatever form:<br />

c<strong>on</strong>sumes a woman’s time <strong>and</strong> energy <strong>and</strong> damages self-c<strong>on</strong>fidence <strong>and</strong> ability to<br />

focus <strong>on</strong> l<strong>on</strong>g <strong>and</strong> short-term goals, all of which are essential for successful transiti<strong>on</strong><br />

from ec<strong>on</strong>omic dependency to building ec<strong>on</strong>omic resources of her own.<br />

In a circular relati<strong>on</strong>ship the <strong>on</strong>going experience of low income or poverty may prevent<br />

women accessing the support they need <strong>and</strong> can result women feeling that the financial<br />

implicati<strong>on</strong>s of the relati<strong>on</strong>ship are operating as a c<strong>on</strong>tinuati<strong>on</strong> of the abuse. This example<br />

from research c<strong>on</strong>ducted by Good Shepherd Youth & Family Service illustrates just <strong>on</strong>e of<br />

the ways in which ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse can undermine women:<br />

For Emma, her ex-partner’s c<strong>on</strong>trolling behaviour meant she was not able to<br />

purchase anything for herself, even basic items such as underwear. It takes a<br />

lot for her to spend any m<strong>on</strong>ey <strong>on</strong> herself now as she still fears that she is<br />

doing something wr<strong>on</strong>g. She also puts a c<strong>on</strong>siderable amount of pressure <strong>on</strong><br />

herself <strong>and</strong> becomes immobilised for fear of c<strong>on</strong>sequences. (Corrie 2011)<br />

Awareness of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse<br />

Ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse as a form of domestic violence has been the subject of c<strong>on</strong>siderable policy<br />

attenti<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> a focus for some activists, academics <strong>and</strong> community organisati<strong>on</strong>s in recent<br />

years. At the same time public awareness <strong>and</strong> underst<strong>and</strong>ing of the issues is poor <strong>and</strong> there<br />

is also evidence that awareness of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse in some key instituti<strong>on</strong>s lags behind that<br />

which would be required to achieve significant positive acti<strong>on</strong> to address the problem.<br />

Resp<strong>on</strong>ses to a 2009 nati<strong>on</strong>al survey of community attitudes to violence against women<br />

commissi<strong>on</strong>ed by the Australian Government show that since an earlier survey in 1995<br />

awareness of domestic violence as a serious issue has increased <strong>and</strong> percepti<strong>on</strong>s of what<br />

c<strong>on</strong>stitutes domestic violence have broadened (VicHealth 2010, McGregor 2009). However,<br />

they also show that recogniti<strong>on</strong> of n<strong>on</strong>-physical behaviours—including ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse—as<br />

forms of domestic violence remains low. Some of the relevant findings from the survey<br />

include:<br />

<br />

The vast majority of the community (97 per cent of resp<strong>on</strong>dents) agreed that physical<br />

<strong>and</strong> sexual assault, <strong>and</strong> threats, c<strong>on</strong>stituted domestic violence in 2009.<br />


Compared with 1995, people were more likely to underst<strong>and</strong> that domestic violence<br />

can take a variety of forms, including physical <strong>and</strong> sexual assault, threats of harm to<br />

family members, <strong>and</strong> psychological, verbal <strong>and</strong> ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse.<br />

Twenty-five per cent of survey resp<strong>on</strong>dents did not believe that “c<strong>on</strong>trolling a partner<br />

by denying them m<strong>on</strong>ey” was a form of domestic violence (compared with 33 per<br />

cent in 1995).<br />

N<strong>on</strong>-physical forms of violence tended to be seen as less serious with, for example,<br />

<strong>on</strong>e in five resp<strong>on</strong>dents categorising “yelling abuse at a partner” <strong>and</strong> “c<strong>on</strong>trolling a<br />

partner by denying them m<strong>on</strong>ey” as either “not that serious” or “not serious at all”<br />

(VicHealth 2010, McGregor 2009).<br />

Analyses of resp<strong>on</strong>ses to the survey identified that a pers<strong>on</strong>’s str<strong>on</strong>g support for gender<br />

equity as a str<strong>on</strong>g predictor for believing n<strong>on</strong>-physical behaviours are always domestic<br />

violence. C<strong>on</strong>versely, the str<strong>on</strong>gest predictors for a pers<strong>on</strong> holding violence-supportive<br />

attitudes were being male <strong>and</strong> having low levels of support for gender equity or equality.<br />

These findings held when other demographic factors were statistically c<strong>on</strong>trolled (McGregor<br />

2009, pp. 35-36). The survey report’s authors point out that the c<strong>on</strong>sequences of n<strong>on</strong>recogniti<strong>on</strong><br />

in the community of ec<strong>on</strong>omic, emoti<strong>on</strong>al <strong>and</strong> psychological abuse as forms of<br />

domestic violence <strong>and</strong> lack of acknowledgement of their seriousness have implicati<strong>on</strong>s for<br />

“how readily women <strong>and</strong> others affected by n<strong>on</strong>-physical forms of domestic violence will<br />

seek help <strong>and</strong> access specialised systems of support” <strong>and</strong> for “how accurately we can<br />

measure the prevalence of violence against women across the spectrum of unlawful<br />

behaviours <strong>and</strong> across the diversity of women’s experiences” (VicHealth 2010, p 23). Clearly<br />

another c<strong>on</strong>sequence relates to the capacity of the community to prevent women being<br />

subjected to domestic violence when significant proporti<strong>on</strong>s of the populati<strong>on</strong> do not<br />

c<strong>on</strong>sider the violence to be a problem.<br />

Women who experience ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse may also be unaware that this is domestic<br />

violence. Braaf <strong>and</strong> Barrett Meyering (2011, p. 115) report that “numerous” women in their<br />

recent qualitative study reported that they had not realised they were experiencing domestic<br />

violence until they left the relati<strong>on</strong>ship <strong>and</strong> that these women were mostly those who had<br />

experienced n<strong>on</strong>-physical forms of domestic violence “such as ec<strong>on</strong>omic or emoti<strong>on</strong>al<br />

abuse”.<br />

A key issue for c<strong>on</strong>siderati<strong>on</strong> of the sectors <strong>and</strong> issues for women experiencing ec<strong>on</strong>omic<br />

abuse <strong>and</strong> the public policies, legal frameworks <strong>and</strong> community services which relate to<br />

these is the questi<strong>on</strong> of where women go to seek assistance for violence <strong>and</strong> abuse,<br />

including for assistance with financial matters. It is known that many incidents of domestic<br />

violence go unreported <strong>and</strong> that most women do not seek assistance from specialist<br />

domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence services or other agencies (Mouzos & Makkai 2004) but less is<br />

known about the services <strong>and</strong> assistance women do go to. A recent study by Bagshaw <strong>and</strong><br />

Brown (2010) which surveyed women with children found that, <strong>on</strong> leaving an abusive<br />

relati<strong>on</strong>ship, women initially went to friends <strong>and</strong> family <strong>and</strong> to general practiti<strong>on</strong>ers; through<br />

these people they accessed counselling <strong>and</strong> other support services <strong>and</strong> these were mostly<br />

generalist services rather than domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence services. For financial<br />

assistance women went to Centrelink <strong>and</strong> most went to private legal practiti<strong>on</strong>ers for family<br />

court matters, although the number who did so declined after 2006 with the introducti<strong>on</strong> of<br />

the network of Family Relati<strong>on</strong>ship Centres, which provide an alternative to courts for<br />

dealing with family law matters.<br />


The c<strong>on</strong>necti<strong>on</strong>s between policies, frameworks <strong>and</strong> practices <strong>and</strong> ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse<br />

The remaining secti<strong>on</strong>s of this paper are c<strong>on</strong>cerned with identifying the key public policies,<br />

legal <strong>and</strong> regulatory frameworks, employment policies <strong>and</strong> practices <strong>and</strong> community<br />

services policies <strong>and</strong> practices which relate to or impact <strong>on</strong> ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse. The purpose of<br />

this is to identify what areas of policy <strong>and</strong> practice are crucial sites for targeting interventi<strong>on</strong>s<br />

to address abuse.<br />

In the c<strong>on</strong>text of identifying key sectors <strong>and</strong> issues it is helpful to categorise the policies,<br />

practices <strong>and</strong> frameworks that have some impact <strong>on</strong> ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse. The approach<br />

adopted here is based <strong>on</strong> <strong>on</strong>e which is comm<strong>on</strong>ly used to categorise interventi<strong>on</strong>s to<br />

address violence as primary, sec<strong>on</strong>dary or tertiary interventi<strong>on</strong>s. 4 While the comm<strong>on</strong><br />

categorisati<strong>on</strong> is of positive interventi<strong>on</strong>s designed to tackle violence, the three categories<br />

can be used to classify a wide range of policies, practices <strong>and</strong> frameworks that influence<br />

ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse whether this is a positive influence that diminishes abuse or mitigates its<br />

impacts or a negative influence that facilitates or perpetuate abuse or worsens rather than<br />

reduces its impacts. Thus, the three categories include:<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

Primary factors: positive preventative measures that reduce the likelihood of abuse<br />

occurring, <strong>and</strong> negative factors that increase the likelihood of abuse occurring.<br />

Sec<strong>on</strong>dary factors: positive protective measures that resp<strong>on</strong>d to incidents of abuse,<br />

including early interventi<strong>on</strong>s <strong>and</strong> negative factors that lead to ineffective protecti<strong>on</strong>s<br />

or that facilitate abuse.<br />

Tertiary factors: positive measures that follow up to mitigate impacts or make<br />

perpetrators accountable <strong>and</strong> negative factors that extend or worsen the abuse.<br />

In reality these categories overlap <strong>and</strong> particular policies, frameworks <strong>and</strong> practices may<br />

have elements of each category. In additi<strong>on</strong>, policies, practices <strong>and</strong> regulati<strong>on</strong>s can be<br />

classified according to the spheres of influence identified earlier in the ecological model.<br />

These are the spheres of society, community <strong>and</strong> relati<strong>on</strong>ship/individual. The final three<br />

secti<strong>on</strong>s of this paper identify key policies, frameworks <strong>and</strong> practices that influence<br />

ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse as primary, sec<strong>on</strong>dary or tertiary influences in <strong>on</strong>e or more of the spheres<br />

of society, community <strong>and</strong> relati<strong>on</strong>ship/individual.<br />

4 This categorisati<strong>on</strong> draws <strong>on</strong> Chappell <strong>and</strong> Di Martino’s (2000) categorisati<strong>on</strong> of approaches to<br />

workplace violence.<br />


Public Policies <strong>and</strong> Practices<br />

There are a myriad of public policies that relate to <strong>and</strong> impact <strong>on</strong> ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse in additi<strong>on</strong><br />

to those that have been formulated <strong>and</strong> articulated specifically with the aims of tackling<br />

domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence. These range from primary influences acting at the societal<br />

level (such as policies which relate to social inclusi<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> gender equality in society) to<br />

much more narrowly targeted sec<strong>on</strong>dary <strong>and</strong> tertiary interventi<strong>on</strong>s (such as policies which<br />

determine the specific nature <strong>and</strong> extent of public assistance provided to individuals at times<br />

of crisis).<br />

Key areas of Australian Government policy are those that determine support <strong>and</strong> services<br />

available through family law, legal assistance <strong>and</strong> the social security system. Homelessness<br />

policies are also critical due to the str<strong>on</strong>g associati<strong>on</strong> between domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence<br />

<strong>and</strong> homelessness. In some areas, including homelessness, policy resp<strong>on</strong>sibility rests with<br />

both the Australian Government <strong>and</strong> the state <strong>and</strong> territory governments. States <strong>and</strong><br />

territories often have resp<strong>on</strong>sibility for human services program <strong>and</strong> service delivery,<br />

including the delivery of justice, policing <strong>and</strong> legal assistance <strong>and</strong> the funding <strong>and</strong><br />

coordinati<strong>on</strong> of many services provided by the n<strong>on</strong>‐government sector.<br />

Areas of public policy which have a significant impact <strong>on</strong> ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse <strong>and</strong> which are the<br />

focus of discussi<strong>on</strong> in this secti<strong>on</strong> are:<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

family <strong>and</strong> domestic violence<br />

social security <strong>and</strong> crisis support<br />

homelessness<br />

child support <strong>and</strong> family assistance<br />

financial capability.<br />

Significant public policy resp<strong>on</strong>ses to domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence in Australia in recent<br />

years in many of these areas dem<strong>on</strong>strate an increased awareness of the problem of<br />

ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse. However this is not uniformly the case in all relevant areas of public policy<br />

nor is it uniformly the case across Australia.<br />

Employment is given a central <strong>and</strong> critical place in women’s ec<strong>on</strong>omic independence in<br />

current public policy—particularly at the federal level—<strong>and</strong> so many strategies directed to<br />

increasing women’s ec<strong>on</strong>omic security <strong>and</strong> achieving ec<strong>on</strong>omic equality are c<strong>on</strong>cerned with<br />

employment opportunity, reward <strong>and</strong> participati<strong>on</strong>. These are discussed in Secti<strong>on</strong> 6 of this<br />

paper.<br />

Family <strong>and</strong> domestic violence policies<br />

At the federal level recent developments in the area of domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence since<br />

the electi<strong>on</strong> of the Labor Government in 2007 have generally been seen as positive with the<br />

adopti<strong>on</strong> of approaches that apply a gendered analysis to policy <strong>and</strong> because of the<br />

government’s preparedness to work more closely with the domestic violence sector than its<br />

predecessor (Murray & Powell 2011, p. 31). The three priority areas of the Australian<br />

Government Office for Women (OFW)—which are all highly relevant to the issue of<br />

ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse—are “reducing violence against women”, “increasing women’s ec<strong>on</strong>omic<br />

security” <strong>and</strong> “ensuring women’s equal place in society” (OFW 2012, , viewed 24<br />

June 2012).<br />


The establishment of a Nati<strong>on</strong>al Council to Reduce Violence Against Women <strong>and</strong> Children in<br />

2008 was followed by the development <strong>and</strong> endorsement by the Comm<strong>on</strong>wealth, states <strong>and</strong><br />

territories—through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG)—of the Nati<strong>on</strong>al Plan to<br />

Reduce Violence Against Women <strong>and</strong> their Children, 2010-2022 (the Nati<strong>on</strong>al Plan) (COAG<br />

2009). This represents a significant development as Australia’s first nati<strong>on</strong>al resp<strong>on</strong>se to<br />

violence against women.<br />

The Nati<strong>on</strong>al Plan does not name ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse as a form of domestic violence, possibly<br />

reflecting the fact that ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse is not recognised in family violence law in all<br />

Australian states <strong>and</strong> territories (see Secti<strong>on</strong> 5 below). However, in defining domestic<br />

violence the Nati<strong>on</strong>al Plan does include “c<strong>on</strong>trol of finances” as an example of c<strong>on</strong>trolling<br />

behaviours which are psychological <strong>and</strong> emoti<strong>on</strong>al abuse (COAG 2010, p. 2), which also<br />

reflects the approach taken in recent change to federal family law (also discussed in Secti<strong>on</strong><br />

5 below). Interventi<strong>on</strong>s identified in the Nati<strong>on</strong>al Plan relating directly to ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse <strong>and</strong><br />

its c<strong>on</strong>sequences are:<br />

primary interventi<strong>on</strong>s at the societal level promoting ec<strong>on</strong>omic equality <strong>and</strong> building<br />

an evidence base<br />

sec<strong>on</strong>dary interventi<strong>on</strong>s including informati<strong>on</strong> strategies for newly arrived migrant<br />

women <strong>and</strong> improving workplace supports.<br />

The outcomes identified in the Nati<strong>on</strong>al Plan include changes in community attitudes as well<br />

as improved services <strong>and</strong> justice. 5 There is c<strong>on</strong>siderable emphasis <strong>on</strong> primary preventi<strong>on</strong><br />

through community involvement <strong>and</strong> educati<strong>on</strong>. However, there may be limited potential for<br />

the Nati<strong>on</strong>al Plan to facilitate increased awareness of the variety of forms of abuse that<br />

c<strong>on</strong>stitute domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence as strategies for changing attitudes do not explicitly<br />

identify this as a goal.<br />

There is some recogniti<strong>on</strong> of the significance of gender inequality <strong>and</strong> women’s ec<strong>on</strong>omic<br />

security in the Nati<strong>on</strong>al Plan with “the advancement of gender equality” am<strong>on</strong>g the 18<br />

strategies identified (COAG 2010, p. 16). The specific interventi<strong>on</strong>s (mainly for the Australian<br />

Government) for the first three years of this particular strategy are mostly directed to<br />

achieving ec<strong>on</strong>omic equality for women. For 2010 to 2013, these interventi<strong>on</strong>s are:<br />

measures to increase women’s ec<strong>on</strong>omic security, including paid parental leave,<br />

superannuati<strong>on</strong> reform <strong>and</strong> increased support for pensi<strong>on</strong>ers<br />

measures to increase women’s leadership opportunities<br />

the provisi<strong>on</strong> of informati<strong>on</strong> about protecti<strong>on</strong>s for women who experience violence to<br />

newly arrived migrants <strong>and</strong> refugees<br />

c<strong>on</strong>sultati<strong>on</strong> with peak employer <strong>and</strong> employee representatives to improve ways for<br />

workplaces to better support women experiencing domestic violence<br />

funding the ADFVC Domestic Violence Workplace Rights <strong>and</strong> Entitlements project.<br />

One other strategy in the Nati<strong>on</strong>al Plan explicitly addresses the ec<strong>on</strong>omic impacts of<br />

domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence; this is a tertiary interventi<strong>on</strong> which is to “support mainstream<br />

services to identify <strong>and</strong> resp<strong>on</strong>d to needs”, a strategy which is presented as resp<strong>on</strong>ding to<br />

the needs for women <strong>and</strong> children “to receive holistic support including health, housing,<br />

educati<strong>on</strong>, employment <strong>and</strong> legal assistance” (COAG 2010, pp. 23-24). Interventi<strong>on</strong>s in the<br />

short-term include the provisi<strong>on</strong> of homelessness services to improve housing opti<strong>on</strong>s for<br />

women <strong>and</strong> funding of income support <strong>and</strong> family assistance payments, including the crisis<br />

payment for women experiencing violence; other interventi<strong>on</strong>s mainly target the health<br />

sector <strong>and</strong> health workers. One other highly relevant strategy in the Nati<strong>on</strong>al Plan relates to<br />

5 Appendix A of this paper provides more detail of the outcomes identified in the Nati<strong>on</strong>al Plan.<br />


the legal frameworks affecting domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence <strong>and</strong> this is also a tertiary<br />

interventi<strong>on</strong> which is for “justice systems to work better together <strong>and</strong> with other systems”<br />

(COAG 2010, p. 27). The establishment of the Australian Law Reform Commissi<strong>on</strong> inquiries<br />

(ALRC 2011c; ALRC/NSWLRC 2010) <strong>and</strong> c<strong>on</strong>siderati<strong>on</strong> of their recommendati<strong>on</strong>s are<br />

identified as interventi<strong>on</strong>s in this area; relevant aspects of these are discussed in Secti<strong>on</strong> 5<br />

of this paper.<br />

Changes to legal definiti<strong>on</strong>s of domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence in some states <strong>and</strong> territories<br />

are possibly some of the most significant developments in the policy l<strong>and</strong>scape relating to<br />

ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse. Broad policy frameworks that take a whole-of-government approach <strong>and</strong><br />

that take holistic approaches to domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence are also likely to be crucial for<br />

this level of government as it is at the state <strong>and</strong> territory level where a range of programs<br />

<strong>and</strong> services including justice, policing <strong>and</strong> legal assistance are provided <strong>and</strong> also where<br />

many community services provided by the not-for-profit sector are funded <strong>and</strong> coordinated.<br />

While most Australian states <strong>and</strong> territories have implemented some level of integrated<br />

resp<strong>on</strong>se to family violence in recent years the broadest policy resp<strong>on</strong>se to violence against<br />

women is probably that taken in Victoria where the government established a Statewide<br />

Steering Committee to Reduce Family Violence, while the most comprehensive integrati<strong>on</strong><br />

of family violence resp<strong>on</strong>ses has occurred in the smaller jurisdicti<strong>on</strong>s of Tasmania <strong>and</strong> the<br />

Australian Capital Territory (ALRC/NSWLRC 2010).<br />

Tertiary interventi<strong>on</strong>s that are part of integrated resp<strong>on</strong>ses to family violence are targeted to<br />

resp<strong>on</strong>ding to women during crisis when safety c<strong>on</strong>cerns are at the fore. Domestic <strong>and</strong><br />

family violence strategies do not have a str<strong>on</strong>g focus <strong>on</strong> women’s post-crisis <strong>and</strong> l<strong>on</strong>ger-term<br />

needs. In Victoria a project involving a number of community sector agencies working with<br />

women who have experienced domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence has c<strong>on</strong>sidered the <strong>on</strong>going<br />

<strong>and</strong> l<strong>on</strong>ger-term needs of women experiencing violence bey<strong>on</strong>d crisis (Desm<strong>on</strong>d 2011). This<br />

project identifies desired outcomes of a post-crisis resp<strong>on</strong>se as a reducti<strong>on</strong> of instances of<br />

women returning to violence, a reducti<strong>on</strong> of women <strong>and</strong> children’s re-entry to crisis systems<br />

<strong>and</strong> increased ec<strong>on</strong>omic <strong>and</strong> social participati<strong>on</strong>. A key comp<strong>on</strong>ent of a proposed model is<br />

the provisi<strong>on</strong> of financial assistance <strong>and</strong> funding including to assist women build financial<br />

security (Desm<strong>on</strong>d 2011).<br />

There has been c<strong>on</strong>siderable activity in relati<strong>on</strong> to policy development in some states <strong>and</strong><br />

territories over the last decade, with recent policies <strong>and</strong> plans reflecting the development of<br />

the Nati<strong>on</strong>al Plan. However, very recently there have also been changes in governments in<br />

several states (New South Wales, Queensl<strong>and</strong> <strong>and</strong> Victoria) <strong>and</strong> in two states (Victoria <strong>and</strong><br />

Queensl<strong>and</strong>). These changes have been accompanied by significant budget cutbacks<br />

meaning there may be some uncertainty as to the significance of recent state plans <strong>and</strong><br />

frameworks as key drivers of change. Existing plans to address violence against women in<br />

Australian states <strong>and</strong> territories vary in the extent to which they include priorities <strong>and</strong><br />

strategies to address ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse. They include:<br />

<br />

<br />

In New South Wales, a five‐year domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence acti<strong>on</strong> plan ‐ Stop the<br />

Violence, End the Silence: NSW Domestic <strong>and</strong> Family Violence Acti<strong>on</strong> Plan (New<br />

South Wales Department of Premier <strong>and</strong> Cabinet 2010) with acti<strong>on</strong>s across five<br />

areas of preventi<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> early interventi<strong>on</strong>: protecti<strong>on</strong>; safety <strong>and</strong> justice; provisi<strong>on</strong> of<br />

services <strong>and</strong> support; building capacity; <strong>and</strong> data collecti<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> research.<br />

The Victorian Government’s 10 year A Right to Respect: Victoria's Plan to Prevent<br />

Violence against Women 2010-2020 (State of Victoria 2010a) which identified the<br />

key drivers of violence against women as unequal power relati<strong>on</strong>s between women<br />

<strong>and</strong> men, adherence to rigid gender stereotypes <strong>and</strong> broader cultures of violence.<br />

The framework aimed for broad engagement to change cultures through five key<br />

settings of educati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> training: local government; health <strong>and</strong> community services;<br />

sports <strong>and</strong> recreati<strong>on</strong>; workplaces; <strong>and</strong> media, arts <strong>and</strong> popular culture. In early 2012<br />


the Victorian Government commenced a process of c<strong>on</strong>sultati<strong>on</strong> <strong>on</strong> a new three year<br />

acti<strong>on</strong> plan (State of Victoria 2012a).<br />

Also in Victoria, A Right to Safety <strong>and</strong> Justice: Strategic Framework to Guide<br />

C<strong>on</strong>tinuing Family Violence Reform in Victoria 2010-2020 (State of Victoria 2010b)<br />

set out six priority acti<strong>on</strong> areas, <strong>on</strong>e of which focused <strong>on</strong> system capacity <strong>and</strong><br />

included increasing the capacity of mainstream services to resp<strong>on</strong>d to family<br />

violence, developing resp<strong>on</strong>ses to provide l<strong>on</strong>g <strong>and</strong> medium-term housing opti<strong>on</strong>s,<br />

<strong>and</strong> increasing legal support.<br />

For our S<strong>on</strong>s <strong>and</strong> Daughters: A Queensl<strong>and</strong> Government Strategy to reduce<br />

domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence 2009‐2014 (Queensl<strong>and</strong> Government 2009). The<br />

Queensl<strong>and</strong> strategy included a community engagement program to increase<br />

awareness of the social <strong>and</strong> pers<strong>on</strong>al impacts of domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence<br />

initiatives <strong>and</strong> c<strong>on</strong>tinued support for an Elder <strong>Abuse</strong> Preventi<strong>on</strong> Unit including the<br />

development of a helpline for people experiencing elder abuse, <strong>and</strong> their friends,<br />

carers <strong>and</strong> families <strong>and</strong> the funding of five Seniors Legal <strong>and</strong> Support Services, to<br />

provide free assistance for seniors who are at risk or experiencing elder abuse or<br />

financial exploitati<strong>on</strong>.<br />

In South Australia A Right to Safety: The next Phase of South Australia’s Women’s<br />

Safety Strategy 2011-2022 (Government of South Australia 2011) includes the<br />

promoti<strong>on</strong> of employment participati<strong>on</strong> to achieve gender equality am<strong>on</strong>g its<br />

preventative strategies <strong>and</strong> it includes the promoti<strong>on</strong> of workplace measures to<br />

support women.<br />

The WA Strategic Plan for Domestic <strong>and</strong> Family Violence 2009-2013 (Government of<br />

Western Australia 2009) does not have any particular focus <strong>on</strong> ec<strong>on</strong>omic equality or<br />

<strong>on</strong> women’s financial stability. It does include a strategy to provide l<strong>on</strong>g-term housing<br />

opti<strong>on</strong>s with a focus <strong>on</strong> regi<strong>on</strong>al <strong>and</strong> remote areas <strong>and</strong> Aboriginal communities.<br />

Safe at Home: A Criminal Justice Framework for Resp<strong>on</strong>ding to Family Violence in<br />

Tasmania (State of Tasmania 2003) is a whole-of-government strategy that has a<br />

str<strong>on</strong>g justice focus.<br />

<br />

In the Australian Capital Territory, the ACT Preventi<strong>on</strong> of Violence against Women<br />

<strong>and</strong> Children Strategy (ACT Government 2011) identifies as important the c<strong>on</strong>tinuum<br />

of care <strong>and</strong> holistic support including health, housing, educati<strong>on</strong>, employment <strong>and</strong><br />

legal assistance <strong>and</strong> includes strategies aimed at linking service systems <strong>and</strong><br />

identifying <strong>and</strong> addressing gaps in <strong>on</strong>going support resp<strong>on</strong>ses<br />

The overarching policy framework in the Northern Territory is provided by the<br />

Building <strong>on</strong> Our Strengths: A Framework for Acti<strong>on</strong> for Women in the Northern<br />

Territory 2008-2012 (Northern Territory Government 2008) has five priorities, <strong>on</strong>e of<br />

which is safety. A sec<strong>on</strong>d priority which is not specially linked to violence is for<br />

educati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> employment for ec<strong>on</strong>omic security <strong>and</strong> includes increasing access to<br />

financial planning.<br />

In all states <strong>and</strong> territories there is a much wider range of policies which impact <strong>on</strong><br />

resp<strong>on</strong>ses to domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence <strong>and</strong> which may impact <strong>on</strong> ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse. For<br />

example, in New South Wales relevant policies <strong>and</strong> plans identified in the Stop the Violence,<br />

End the Silence: NSW Domestic <strong>and</strong> Family Violence Acti<strong>on</strong> Plan at the time of its release<br />

included those c<strong>on</strong>cerned with: Aboriginal Communities’ wellbeing; child welfare;<br />

homelessness; child sexual assault in Aboriginal communities; the preventi<strong>on</strong> of violence<br />

against gay, lesbian, bisexual <strong>and</strong> transgender people; <strong>and</strong> the provisi<strong>on</strong> of services for<br />

people with a disability. In Victoria in 2008 a ten-year plan was developed by The Indigenous<br />

Family Violence Partnership Forum established by the Victorian Government in 2004; Str<strong>on</strong>g<br />

Culture, Str<strong>on</strong>g Peoples, Str<strong>on</strong>g Families - Towards a safer future for Indigenous families<br />

<strong>and</strong> communities (Aboriginal Affairs Victoria 2008) includes a safety objective which has<br />

some focus <strong>on</strong> strategies for the l<strong>on</strong>ger-term wellbeing of people experiencing family<br />

violence.<br />


In additi<strong>on</strong> to family violence policies <strong>and</strong> programs most states have also developed<br />

policies to address elder abuse <strong>and</strong> have provided funding for dedicated services including,<br />

for example, the Elder <strong>Abuse</strong> Preventi<strong>on</strong> Unit in Queensl<strong>and</strong> <strong>and</strong> the Older Pers<strong>on</strong>s’ Rights<br />

Service in Western Australia. In Victoria, Seniors Rights receives funding <strong>and</strong> operates as a<br />

specialist community legal centre; this service was part of a broader Victorian Government<br />

Elder <strong>Abuse</strong> Preventi<strong>on</strong> Strategy implemented in 2005.<br />

Social security <strong>and</strong> crisis support<br />

Key government income support policies <strong>and</strong> practices relating to ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse <strong>and</strong><br />

women’s ec<strong>on</strong>omic security are those dealing with income support, family assistance<br />

payments, child support <strong>and</strong> income management. Other relevant income policies which are<br />

discussed elsewhere are superannuati<strong>on</strong>, <strong>and</strong> employment <strong>and</strong> wages policies.<br />

Income support, crisis payments <strong>and</strong> other assistance<br />

Relevant income support <strong>and</strong> other payments provided by the Australian Government<br />

through Centrelink include the following:<br />

Parenting Payment provides income support to the main carer of a child or children,<br />

who is single <strong>and</strong> has at least <strong>on</strong>e child aged less than eight or who has a partner<br />

<strong>and</strong> at least <strong>on</strong>e child aged less than six.<br />

Newstart provides income support to people while they are looking for work.<br />

The Family Tax Benefit offers financial assistance to couples or individuals with<br />

children. Part A provides assistance for dependent children under 21 years or fulltime<br />

students aged between 21 <strong>and</strong> 24 years. Part B provides assistance to sole<br />

parent families <strong>and</strong> to families with <strong>on</strong>e main income, where <strong>on</strong>e parent stays home<br />

or works <strong>on</strong>ly part-time in order to care for children.<br />

Jobs, Educati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> Training Child Care Fee Assistance provides financial<br />

assistance with the cost of child care to parents undertaking activities such as job<br />

<br />

search, work, study, or training.<br />

The Carer Allowance is a supplementary payment to parents or carers who provide<br />

daily care for a pers<strong>on</strong> aged sixteen years or over with a disability, medical c<strong>on</strong>diti<strong>on</strong><br />

or who is elderly.<br />

The Disability Support Pensi<strong>on</strong> provides income support to adults who have a<br />

physical, intellectual, or psychiatric c<strong>on</strong>diti<strong>on</strong> that prevents them from working for 15<br />

hours or more per week.<br />

<br />

Sickness Allowance is a short-term payment for people who are employed or selfemployed,<br />

but who temporarily cannot work or study because of a medical c<strong>on</strong>diti<strong>on</strong>.<br />

Special Benefit is a payment for people experiencing severe financial hardship for<br />

reas<strong>on</strong>s outside their c<strong>on</strong>trol who cannot receive any other social security pensi<strong>on</strong> or<br />

benefit.<br />

<br />

Healthcare Cards are available to people who receive other payments or allowances.<br />

(see DHS http://www.humanservices.gov.au/>)<br />

Government income support payments may be relied <strong>on</strong> as the <strong>on</strong>ly or main source of<br />

income <strong>on</strong> leaving a violent relati<strong>on</strong>ship <strong>and</strong>, for some women, they may be a significant<br />

source of income over a l<strong>on</strong>ger period. Low levels of income provided through the income<br />

support system to women (including those eligible for parenting payments) who leave violent<br />

relati<strong>on</strong>ships <strong>and</strong> for whom these payments may be a necessity—even if <strong>on</strong>ly in the short<br />

term—can be a barrier to women’s financial stability (Branigan 2007). Payments may be<br />


insufficient to meet costs for women who have to re-establish a home <strong>and</strong> who may have<br />

legal, medical <strong>and</strong> other costs as well as debts arising from ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse <strong>and</strong> other<br />

domestic violence (Braaf & Barrett Meyering 2011).<br />

In recent years welfare reforms in Australia have been aimed at reducing ‘welfare<br />

dependency’ through increased c<strong>on</strong>diti<strong>on</strong>ality of payments <strong>and</strong> increased requirements <strong>on</strong><br />

people—including women with young children—to look for <strong>and</strong> engage in paid work as a<br />

c<strong>on</strong>diti<strong>on</strong> of eligibility for payments. While women who have experienced domestic violence<br />

can apply for a temporary exempti<strong>on</strong> from job search <strong>and</strong> other activity requirements (DHS<br />

2011) the experiences of the women in Braaf <strong>and</strong> Barrett Meyering’s (2011) study indicate<br />

that this exempti<strong>on</strong> may not be secured by many women. They report that n<strong>on</strong>e of the<br />

women in their study raised the exempti<strong>on</strong> although the women were worried about their<br />

ability to comply with ‘welfare to work’ requirements due to lack of childcare, health issues,<br />

trauma <strong>and</strong> <strong>on</strong>going time commitments dealing with legal, medical <strong>and</strong> other matters. Some<br />

service workers in the study reported that the exempti<strong>on</strong> is extremely difficult to gain.<br />

Other researchers <strong>and</strong> policy analysts have expressed c<strong>on</strong>cerns that ‘welfare to work’<br />

initiatives are likely to increase marginalisati<strong>on</strong> of women who have experienced domestic<br />

<strong>and</strong> family violence (Murray & Powell 2008). These are c<strong>on</strong>cerns which echo those<br />

expressed by researchers in the United States where there has been a l<strong>on</strong>ger experience of<br />

welfare reform characterised by temporary assistance <strong>and</strong> a focus <strong>on</strong> workforce participati<strong>on</strong><br />

(Tolman 2011). In that country there remain c<strong>on</strong>cerns that women may become more<br />

dependent <strong>on</strong> abusive partners because of reduced opti<strong>on</strong>s for leaving relati<strong>on</strong>ships <strong>and</strong><br />

also that the impacts of violence might limit women’s ability to comply with the welfare<br />

system’s work requirements (Tolman 2011).<br />

In Australia the interacti<strong>on</strong> of the income support system <strong>and</strong> employment does not always<br />

support women’s l<strong>on</strong>g-term financial security as there can be few incentives to gain<br />

employment, including because increasing part-time work hours can result in a loss of<br />

overall income <strong>and</strong> in loss of access to benefits such as a Healthcare Card (ADFVC 2010).<br />

Further, recent changes restricting eligibility for parenting payment to parents with younger<br />

children are still to take full effect <strong>and</strong> this will see increasing numbers of sole parents with<br />

young children reliant <strong>on</strong> the lower levels of income support provided through Newstart<br />

payments made to job-seekers. Thus, while income support should be a positive sec<strong>on</strong>dary<br />

or tertiary interventi<strong>on</strong> for families by providing protecti<strong>on</strong> against poverty, low levels of<br />

payments <strong>and</strong> c<strong>on</strong>diti<strong>on</strong>ality may leave women ill-equipped to become ec<strong>on</strong>omically secure<br />

at a time when they may also face multiple barriers to gaining security through employment<br />

participati<strong>on</strong>.<br />

A recent initiative has extended the provisi<strong>on</strong>s for people receiving Centrelink payments to<br />

opt for payments to be made <strong>on</strong> a weekly rather than fortnightly basis (DHS 2012, accessed<br />

7 July 2012 at ). This kind of flexibility has been seen<br />

as important for women experiencing family violence who may be managing a range of<br />

financial dem<strong>and</strong>s—as has the opti<strong>on</strong> for advance payments—<strong>and</strong> <strong>and</strong> there have been<br />

calls for these to be made more widely available (Good Shepherd Youth & Family Service,<br />

McAuley Community Services for Women & Kild<strong>on</strong>an UnitingCare 2011).<br />

There is an identified gap in regard to income support for women exiting domestic or family<br />

violence who may be ineligible for income support payments, including for Special Benefit<br />

which is provided to people in severe hardship but which is means <strong>and</strong> asset-tested. It has<br />

been argued that domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence should be included am<strong>on</strong>g the eligibility<br />

criteria for this payment (Good Shepherd Youth & Family Service 2011). In additi<strong>on</strong>, women<br />

who are migrants <strong>and</strong> have arrived in Australia <strong>on</strong> a spouse visa may be ineligible to access<br />

income support payments <strong>on</strong> separating from a partner following domestic violence <strong>and</strong> they<br />

may also not be permitted to work. While a woman may be able to claim the Special Benefit,<br />


Centrelink may seek to recover payments from her sp<strong>on</strong>sor who may be her ex-partner, a<br />

situati<strong>on</strong> which has been seen as placing the woman at increased risk of being subjected to<br />

further violence (Braaf & Barrett Meyering 2011).<br />

A crisis payment provided through Centrelink is equal to <strong>on</strong>e week of a st<strong>and</strong>ard benefit, <strong>and</strong><br />

can be paid to people who experience severe financial hardship due to domestic violence<br />

<strong>and</strong> who are already receiving Centrelink income support payments. The payment can be<br />

made to people who have had to leave their home because of domestic or family violence or<br />

who remain in the home after a family member left or was removed due to domestic<br />

violence. However, women exiting violent relati<strong>on</strong>ships who are not eligible for Centrelink<br />

payments cannot access this payment.<br />

State governments also provide some crisis <strong>and</strong> hardship assistance <strong>and</strong> c<strong>on</strong>cessi<strong>on</strong>s for<br />

people <strong>on</strong> low incomes. For example, in Victoria there is an annual energy c<strong>on</strong>cessi<strong>on</strong> for<br />

low income households <strong>and</strong> a utility relief grant scheme to assist people in financial difficulty<br />

with gas, electricity or water bills. However, most of these types of assistance are <strong>on</strong>ly<br />

available to people who are eligible for a Health Care Card, thus excluding many women<br />

escaping domestic violence who may have assets ‘<strong>on</strong> paper’ but who actually have very<br />

limited immediate access to funds to pay for essential goods <strong>and</strong> services.<br />

Income management<br />

In 2007 the Howard Liberal-Nati<strong>on</strong>al Coaliti<strong>on</strong> Government introduced the income<br />

management scheme under which a proporti<strong>on</strong> of a pers<strong>on</strong>’s income support payments are<br />

‘quarantined’ or able <strong>on</strong>ly to be spent <strong>on</strong> certain goods <strong>and</strong> services (for example, health<br />

care, housing, food, clothing, educati<strong>on</strong>). While initially introduced as a compulsory scheme<br />

in some Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory <strong>and</strong> as part of a trial in Cape York,<br />

provisi<strong>on</strong>s were also made for voluntary income management. The Labor Government has<br />

maintained <strong>and</strong> extended the scheme <strong>and</strong> from July 2012 it will operate throughout the<br />

Northern Territory <strong>and</strong> in five new locati<strong>on</strong>s, which are the local government areas of<br />

Sheppart<strong>on</strong> (Victoria), Bankstown (New South Wales), Rockhampt<strong>on</strong> (Queensl<strong>and</strong>),<br />

Playford (South Australia) <strong>and</strong> Logan (Queensl<strong>and</strong>). The income management scheme<br />

utilises a ‘BasicsCard’ which a pers<strong>on</strong> can use to purchase goods <strong>and</strong> services from<br />

approved businesses while there are restricti<strong>on</strong>s <strong>on</strong> funds being spent <strong>on</strong> alcohol, tobacco,<br />

pornographic material <strong>and</strong> gambling products. Other features of the scheme include<br />

matched savings plans, m<strong>on</strong>ey management services <strong>and</strong> training, financial counselling <strong>and</strong>,<br />

in the case of voluntary participants, financial incentives for staying in the scheme<br />

(Buckmaster & Ey 2012).<br />

Income support payment recipients who may be put <strong>on</strong>to the income management scheme<br />

are people who are referred by state or territory child protecti<strong>on</strong> authorities where children<br />

are deemed to be neglected or at risk, people assessed by Centrelink social workers as<br />

being ‘vulnerable’ <strong>and</strong> people who volunteer for income management. Indicators of<br />

vulnerability are financial hardship, financial exploitati<strong>on</strong>, failure to undertake reas<strong>on</strong>able<br />

self-care <strong>and</strong> homelessness or risk of homelessness. Financial exploitati<strong>on</strong> is described as<br />

occurring “when a pers<strong>on</strong> is subject to undue pressure, harassment, violence, abuse,<br />

decepti<strong>on</strong> or exploitati<strong>on</strong> for resources by another pers<strong>on</strong> or people, including other family<br />

members <strong>and</strong> community members” (Department of Families, Housing, Community Services<br />

<strong>and</strong> Indigenous Affairs [FaHCSIA] 2012, secti<strong>on</strong> Thus, people who are subjected<br />

to ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse are specifically identified as targets for income management.<br />

The stated objectives of the income management scheme include to reduce hardship <strong>and</strong><br />

deprivati<strong>on</strong>, to help people to budget, to reduce discreti<strong>on</strong>ary spending <strong>on</strong> restricted items, to<br />

reduce the likelihood of people being subject to harassment <strong>and</strong> abuse in relati<strong>on</strong> to their<br />


welfare payment <strong>and</strong> to encourage socially resp<strong>on</strong>sible behaviour, particularly in the care<br />

<strong>and</strong> educati<strong>on</strong> of children (FaHCSIA 2012, secti<strong>on</strong> 11.1.30).<br />

Income management has been c<strong>on</strong>troversial, attracting widespread criticism from<br />

community <strong>and</strong> welfare bodies for being paternalist <strong>and</strong> stigmatising <strong>and</strong> as being poorly<br />

supported by any evidence of its effectiveness (Buckmaster & Ey 2012). The extensi<strong>on</strong> of<br />

the scheme to people experiencing ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse has been seen as blaming or targeting<br />

victims of abuse <strong>and</strong> as casting them as resp<strong>on</strong>sible for the circumstances created by the<br />

abuse, including by implying that lack of financial knowledge <strong>and</strong> financial management<br />

skills are the causes of poverty <strong>and</strong> low income (ADFVC 2010).<br />

Centrelink practices<br />

Recent qualitative research exploring the experiences of women affected by domestic <strong>and</strong><br />

family violence reported that most women experienced Centrelink as helpful in providing<br />

quick access to income support (Braaf & Barrett Meyering 2011). It also identified that the<br />

following barriers experienced by women to accessing Centrelink services:<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

lack of readily available informati<strong>on</strong> about eligibility for different types of payments,<br />

particularly the Crisis Payment <strong>and</strong> c<strong>on</strong>flicting informati<strong>on</strong> about payments <strong>and</strong><br />

requirements from staff<br />

lack of assistance in filling in Centrelink forms<br />

having to frequently retell domestic violence experiences to different Centrelink staff<br />

<strong>and</strong>/or having to do so in areas with no privacy <strong>and</strong> despite this informati<strong>on</strong> already<br />

being <strong>on</strong> file;<br />

lengthy waiting times for payments, gaps in payments <strong>and</strong> payments being cut off<br />

due to administrative errors without compensati<strong>on</strong><br />

negative encounters with Centrelink staff (Braaf & Barrett Meyering 2011, pp. 96-98)<br />

In additi<strong>on</strong> to experiencing a lack of easy access to informati<strong>on</strong> about Centrelink payments<br />

<strong>and</strong> assistance women were not readily provided with informati<strong>on</strong> about legal entitlements,<br />

such as Victims’ Compensati<strong>on</strong>, a c<strong>on</strong>cern which applies not just to Centrelink but to service<br />

providers in the community sector (Braaf & Barrett Meyering 2011).<br />

Notably, a recent review of legal frameworks relating to family violence by the ALRC<br />

produced the following recommendati<strong>on</strong>s:<br />

Recommendati<strong>on</strong> 4-2: The Department of Human Services should provide<br />

informati<strong>on</strong> to customers about how family violence may be relevant to their<br />

child support, family assistance <strong>and</strong> social security matters. This should be<br />

provided in a variety of formats <strong>and</strong> should include relevant informati<strong>on</strong> about:<br />

(a) exempti<strong>on</strong>s;<br />

(b) entitlements;<br />

(c) privacy <strong>and</strong> informati<strong>on</strong> protecti<strong>on</strong>;<br />

(d) support <strong>and</strong> services provided by the Child Support Agency, the<br />

Family Assistance Office <strong>and</strong> Centrelink;<br />

(e) referrals to Centrelink social workers <strong>and</strong> expert service providers;<br />

<strong>and</strong><br />

(f) income management.<br />

Recommendati<strong>on</strong> 4-3: The Child Support Guide, the Family Assistance Guide,<br />

<strong>and</strong> the Guide to Social Security Law should provide that, when family<br />

violence-related safety c<strong>on</strong>cerns are identified, the Department of Human<br />


Services staff providing customer services must refer the customer to a<br />

Centrelink social worker or other expert service providers (ALRC 2011c, p. 12)<br />

Child support <strong>and</strong> family assistance<br />

The child support scheme was established in the late 1980s to enforce children’s rights to be<br />

supported by both their parents following separati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> it is administered through the<br />

Comm<strong>on</strong>wealth Department of Human Services (ALRC 2011a). Both parents of a child may<br />

apply for child support <strong>and</strong> a formula is used to assess how much child support a parent<br />

should pay. The formula c<strong>on</strong>siders both parents’ taxable income, the percentage of care<br />

time each has for the child <strong>and</strong> the costs of all children. The assessment takes into account<br />

both parents’ income, the care arrangements, <strong>and</strong> the number of dependent children.<br />

Payees can choose to collect child support privately or payments can be collected <strong>and</strong><br />

transferred by the Department of Human Services <strong>on</strong> their behalf (ALRC 2011a; DHS 2012,<br />

accessed 27 June 2012, ).<br />

Research that has c<strong>on</strong>sidered women’s experience relating to child support following<br />

domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence has identified the following as problems: adequacy of the level<br />

of child support payments; avoidance of child support payments by ex-partners—including<br />

through gaining orders for parenting arrangements that they do not comply with; loss of<br />

welfare payments or Family Tax Benefit based <strong>on</strong> assessments of child support payments<br />

that are not actually received; lack of enforcement of child support agreements by the<br />

Department of Human Services; <strong>and</strong> increased risk/threats of further violence in resp<strong>on</strong>se to<br />

women’s attempts to pursue child support payments (Braaf & Barrett Meyering 2011; Evans<br />

2007; McKenzie & Cook 2007; Patrick, Cook & McKenzie 2008; Patrick, Cook & Taket 2007;<br />

see also ALRC 2011c).<br />

For women who have experienced ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse in their relati<strong>on</strong>ships, payment<br />

avoidance by ex-partners is a c<strong>on</strong>tinuati<strong>on</strong> of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse, a fact that was recognised by<br />

the ALRC (2011c, p. 290) in its recent inquiry into legal frameworks relating to domestic <strong>and</strong><br />

family violence. Avoidance by the paying parent can be achieved by minimising income, by<br />

paying child support late or irregularly, paying less than the assessment, or not paying at all.<br />

While the Department of Human Services is empowered to c<strong>on</strong>duct investigati<strong>on</strong>s it is not<br />

required to c<strong>on</strong>duct investigati<strong>on</strong>s in making administrative assessments <strong>and</strong>, in practice, it<br />

does not usually actively investigate cases. In some cases this means that women must<br />

collect evidence or investigate their ex-partner’s circumstances themselves or remain<br />

financially disadvantaged (ALRC 2011c). The ALRC c<strong>on</strong>sidered these issues, for the most<br />

part, to be outside its scope as the terms of reference limited its inquiry to matters affecting<br />

the safety of victims of family violence (ALRC 2011a, p. 4).<br />

An alternative to a child support assessment is a private arrangement between parents that<br />

does not involve the Department of Human Services. These arrangements were examined<br />

as part of the ALRC (2011d) review. The ALRC c<strong>on</strong>cluded that there were adequate<br />

safeguards in place to protect family violence victims against financial exploitati<strong>on</strong> but that<br />

‘private arrangements are likely to be unsuitable in many cases where family violence is<br />

present as victims may collect less child support than they are entitled to, or no child support<br />

at all, due to fear, pressure or coerci<strong>on</strong>’ <strong>and</strong> also noted that ‘private arrangements may<br />

provide a platform for c<strong>on</strong>tinuing c<strong>on</strong>trol or abuse’ (ALRC 2011c, p. 289). The ALRC (2011c)<br />

also acknowledged that the experience of violence may lead to a decisi<strong>on</strong> not to seek child<br />

support, to end child support or to accept insufficient child support <strong>and</strong> that acti<strong>on</strong>s initiated<br />

by the Department of Human Services can endanger victims <strong>and</strong> open up possibilities for<br />

pressure <strong>and</strong> coerci<strong>on</strong>.<br />


The ALRC recommended a host of changes to Department of Human Services practices to<br />

address c<strong>on</strong>cerns for improving the agency identificati<strong>on</strong> of <strong>and</strong> resp<strong>on</strong>se to family violence<br />

<strong>and</strong> safety <strong>and</strong> decreasing opportunities for <strong>on</strong>going abuse <strong>and</strong> these are listed in full in<br />

Appendix A of this report. Notably, in its c<strong>on</strong>siderati<strong>on</strong>s the ALRC (2011c, p. 131) included<br />

financial security as an aspect of safety.<br />

The child support system also interacts with the system of family assistance payments to<br />

parents such that parents are obliged to seek child support payments to be eligible to<br />

receive Family Tax Benefit. This means that a woman who does not seek child support from<br />

an ex-partner due to fear of violence could be doubly disadvantaged by being denied Family<br />

Tax Benefit. There is a family violence exempti<strong>on</strong> enabling victims of family violence to opt<br />

out of obtaining child support payments where this would place them at risk without a<br />

c<strong>on</strong>sequent reducti<strong>on</strong> to their Family Tax Benefit Part A payments <strong>and</strong> the recent ALRC<br />

review recommended that this protective measure be strengthened through a number of<br />

changes to the administrative Family Assistance Guide (ALRC 2011c). At the time of writing<br />

it is not known what acti<strong>on</strong>s have been taken in resp<strong>on</strong>se to these recommendati<strong>on</strong>s by the<br />

Comm<strong>on</strong>wealth Department of Human Services which has resp<strong>on</strong>sibility for this area.<br />

Homelessness<br />

Access to safe <strong>and</strong> affordable housing is a crucial issue for women escaping domestic <strong>and</strong><br />

family violence <strong>and</strong> while homelessness c<strong>on</strong>tinues have major negative impacts there have<br />

been some recent policy developments which have the objective of addressing these issues.<br />

At the same time the broader c<strong>on</strong>text is <strong>on</strong>e of chr<strong>on</strong>ic shortage of both emergency<br />

accommodati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> affordable housing in Australia.<br />

Policies for addressing homelessness due to domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence are mostly<br />

reactive or tertiary interventi<strong>on</strong>s as there is usually no awareness of the problem until a<br />

woman leaves her home <strong>and</strong> seeks assistance (MacKenzie & Chamberlain 2003; Tually<br />

2008). So, other than broad strategies for preventing domestic violence it has been<br />

c<strong>on</strong>sidered difficult to identify measures to prevent homelessness. However, in recent years<br />

there have been some new initiatives which suggest better sec<strong>on</strong>dary interventi<strong>on</strong>s that may<br />

increase the possibility for more women to remain in their homes safely after the perpetrator<br />

of violence has left.<br />

The Comm<strong>on</strong>wealth’s White Paper <strong>on</strong> Homelessness, The Road Home (Australia 2008),<br />

identified a need for exp<strong>and</strong>ed models of integrated support to enable women <strong>and</strong> children<br />

experiencing domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence to remain safely in their own homes. New targets<br />

for the Comm<strong>on</strong>wealth <strong>and</strong> states in regard to reducing homelessness of women <strong>and</strong><br />

children were also set under the Nati<strong>on</strong>al Affordable Housing Agreement which is<br />

underpinned by the Nati<strong>on</strong>al Partnership Agreement <strong>on</strong> Homelessness between the<br />

Comm<strong>on</strong>wealth, states <strong>and</strong> territories, which has recently been reviewed (COAG 2012,<br />

accessed 19 July 2012 at ).<br />

Prior to the 2008 nati<strong>on</strong>al agreement, some states <strong>and</strong> territories had introduced ‘safe at<br />

home’ models of resp<strong>on</strong>ses to homelessness precipitated by domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence<br />

<strong>and</strong> the White Paper identified this type of strategy as an area for development (Australia<br />

2008, p. 330). This model relies <strong>on</strong> an integrated resp<strong>on</strong>se to family violence by the criminal<br />

justice <strong>and</strong> health <strong>and</strong> community services sectors. The model allows women <strong>and</strong> their<br />

children to stay in the home by removing the perpetrator <strong>and</strong> in this it is a resp<strong>on</strong>se which<br />

assumes perpetrators should be held accountable for their acti<strong>on</strong>s (Tually et al 2008). This<br />

model can provide women <strong>and</strong> children with stability <strong>and</strong> enable them to maintain social<br />

support <strong>and</strong> to experience less disrupti<strong>on</strong> to their participati<strong>on</strong> in employment <strong>and</strong> educati<strong>on</strong>.<br />

It is supported by legal arrangements in all Australian states <strong>and</strong> territories which provide for<br />


perpetrators to be excluded from the home as a c<strong>on</strong>diti<strong>on</strong> of domestic violence orders<br />

(Bartels 2010). Service models also include: specialist workers to assess safety <strong>and</strong> support<br />

needs, <strong>and</strong> brokerage funds to stabilise housing, increase home security <strong>and</strong> provide shortterm<br />

rental subsidies or mortgage top ups (Australia 2008). However this approach is not<br />

likely to be suitable for all women, especially where there is a high level of risk of <strong>on</strong>going<br />

violence <strong>and</strong> the White Paper identifies a c<strong>on</strong>tinued reliance <strong>on</strong> crisis accommodati<strong>on</strong>, which<br />

has been unable to meet dem<strong>and</strong> over a c<strong>on</strong>siderable period (Australia 2008). There is also<br />

some evidence that exclusi<strong>on</strong> orders are rarely used (Bartels 2010), including because there<br />

is some reluctance <strong>on</strong> the part of courts to use them (Wilcox & McFerran 2009; McFerran<br />

2007).<br />

Financial capability <strong>and</strong> other financial services <strong>and</strong> programs<br />

While the term ‘financial capability’ may be used interchangeably with the term ‘financial<br />

literacy’, here the former term is taken to be a broader c<strong>on</strong>cept than literacy <strong>and</strong> to include<br />

the opportunity to develop financial stability through asset-building as well as through gaining<br />

knowledge <strong>and</strong> skills (L<strong>and</strong>vogt 2006). Financial capability initiatives can be primary,<br />

sec<strong>on</strong>dary <strong>and</strong> tertiary interventi<strong>on</strong>s, including, for example: primary interventi<strong>on</strong>s which aim<br />

to provide financial educati<strong>on</strong>—including <strong>on</strong> gender issues—for young people through<br />

school-based programs; primary or sec<strong>on</strong>dary interventi<strong>on</strong>s such as financial educati<strong>on</strong> for<br />

women (for example, providing informati<strong>on</strong> <strong>on</strong> how superannuati<strong>on</strong> works) <strong>and</strong> for<br />

community sector workers (for example, training to increase underst<strong>and</strong>ing of key financial<br />

issues for women <strong>and</strong> possible avenues of referral for assistance) <strong>and</strong> educati<strong>on</strong> for women<br />

who have been subjected to violence (for example, microfinance to assist women to build<br />

assets).<br />

Australian Government policy <strong>and</strong> programs in this area includes the Nati<strong>on</strong>al Financial<br />

Literacy Strategy which includes educati<strong>on</strong> as a primary interventi<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> an assortment of<br />

mainly sec<strong>on</strong>dary <strong>and</strong> tertiary interventi<strong>on</strong>s that come under the banner of the Financial<br />

Management Program, which includes emergency relief, microfinance, a retirement savings<br />

informati<strong>on</strong> service, financial counselling, the Community Development Financial Instituti<strong>on</strong>s<br />

pilot project providing low cost lending <strong>and</strong> the home energy saver scheme assisting low<br />

income households. These programs are mostly provided in c<strong>on</strong>juncti<strong>on</strong> with the states <strong>and</strong><br />

territories, community sector agencies <strong>and</strong> corporate bodies such as lending instituti<strong>on</strong>s.<br />

Financial literacy<br />

In 2011, the Australian Securities <strong>and</strong> Investments Commissi<strong>on</strong> (ASIC), the nati<strong>on</strong>al financial<br />

services regulati<strong>on</strong> body, established the Nati<strong>on</strong>al Financial Literacy Strategy (the Nati<strong>on</strong>al<br />

Strategy), building <strong>on</strong> existing initiatives in this area (ASIC 2011). The Nati<strong>on</strong>al Strategy<br />

defines financial literacy as “the ability to make informed judgements <strong>and</strong> to take effective<br />

decisi<strong>on</strong>s regarding the use <strong>and</strong> management of m<strong>on</strong>ey” (ASIC 2011, p. 12). 6<br />

The need for the strategy is identified as arising from “the growing range of financial<br />

products available, changes in demography <strong>and</strong> increases in c<strong>on</strong>sumer resp<strong>on</strong>sibility for<br />

superannuati<strong>on</strong> decisi<strong>on</strong>s <strong>and</strong> retirement incomes” (ASIC 2011, p. 4). It is also noted that<br />

there are significant disparities in knowledge <strong>and</strong> underst<strong>and</strong>ing of financial matters across<br />

different groups in the community <strong>and</strong> that, while there can be significant benefits for<br />

every<strong>on</strong>e, improving financial literacy will assist some to overcome or avoid financial<br />

6 ASIC (2011, p. 12) notes that the term ‘financial capability’ ‘perhaps better expresses the c<strong>on</strong>cept of<br />

acting <strong>on</strong> knowledge gained’ but that the term ‘financial literacy’ is ‘well embedded in Australia‘.<br />


exclusi<strong>on</strong>. In additi<strong>on</strong> to increasing ec<strong>on</strong>omic participati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> social inclusi<strong>on</strong> ASIC states<br />

that increased financial literacy can “drive competiti<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> market efficiency in the financial<br />

services sector, <strong>and</strong> potentially reduce regulatory interventi<strong>on</strong>” (ASIC 2011, p. 5).<br />

ASIC identifies the groups as being most in need of financial literacy assistance as retirees<br />

<strong>and</strong> pre-retirees, young people, Indigenous Australians, women <strong>and</strong> other groups with low<br />

financial literacy or who are excluded from traditi<strong>on</strong>al avenues for financial informati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong><br />

advice. However, it is not clearly articulated how the Nati<strong>on</strong>al Strategy will target these<br />

groups. Partners in the development <strong>and</strong> implementati<strong>on</strong> of the Nati<strong>on</strong>al Strategy are<br />

identified as government bodies, educati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> financial instituti<strong>on</strong>s, businesses, uni<strong>on</strong>s <strong>and</strong><br />

n<strong>on</strong>-government organisati<strong>on</strong>s including community groups <strong>and</strong> charities. The Nati<strong>on</strong>al<br />

Strategy identifies existing educati<strong>on</strong> pathways (schools, vocati<strong>on</strong>al <strong>and</strong> adult educati<strong>on</strong>,<br />

universities, workplaces) as priority avenues for extending financial literacy skills <strong>and</strong><br />

knowledge <strong>and</strong> places emphasis <strong>on</strong> “broad generati<strong>on</strong>al change” with its “key initiative” a<br />

being a new c<strong>on</strong>sumer website, ‘M<strong>on</strong>eySmart’, providing “independent, free, reliable <strong>and</strong><br />

accessible pers<strong>on</strong>alised m<strong>on</strong>ey guidance tools, designed to engage people <strong>and</strong> lead to<br />

positive acti<strong>on</strong> motivati<strong>on</strong>” (ASIC 2011, p. 7). An evaluati<strong>on</strong> of M<strong>on</strong>eySmart am<strong>on</strong>g internet<br />

users (Sweeney Research 2012) provides limited insight into how effective this type of<br />

service might be for women who have low levels of financial literacy.<br />

Various state <strong>and</strong> territory governments have at times specifically identified the improvement<br />

of women’s financial literacy as a priority for women’s ec<strong>on</strong>omic security including, for<br />

example, the Northern Territory’s current women’s strategy (Northern Territory Government<br />

2008). Ec<strong>on</strong>omic security through educati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> employment is identified as <strong>on</strong>e of five<br />

priority areas <strong>and</strong> the strategy includes acti<strong>on</strong>s to increase women’s access to financial<br />

planning. Individual state <strong>and</strong> territory agencies with resp<strong>on</strong>sibility for c<strong>on</strong>sumer affairs may<br />

also provide <strong>and</strong>/or fund financial educati<strong>on</strong> initiatives.<br />

Microfinance <strong>and</strong> low-cost lending<br />

Microfinance incorporates a number of asset-building strategies for people <strong>on</strong> low incomes<br />

<strong>and</strong> the microfinance strategies supported by government in Australia are matched savings<br />

schemes <strong>and</strong> no or low interest loans schemes.<br />

As noted in the discussi<strong>on</strong> of income support payments above, matched savings programs<br />

are available through Centrelink to some people receiving income support payments who<br />

are being income managed. The Australian Government also funds microfinance programs<br />

which are provided through community organisati<strong>on</strong>s, with largest of these being the Good<br />

Shepherd Youth & Family Service no interest loans program which also receives significant<br />

support from the Nati<strong>on</strong>al Australia Bank. 7 In the 2011-2012 federal budget the government<br />

committed funding for this program of $24 milli<strong>on</strong> over four years (Macklin 2011) <strong>and</strong> the<br />

program is now provided in over 400 locati<strong>on</strong>s around Australia (Good Shepherd Youth &<br />

Family Service Microfinance 2012, accessed 24 June 2012 at ). As discussed in the secti<strong>on</strong> <strong>on</strong><br />

community services below the no interest loans scheme has been adapted to be used by<br />

women leaving domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence to build household assets (Good Shepherd<br />

Youth & Family Service 2012, accessed 24 June 2012 at < http://www.goodshepvic.org.au/<br />

stepup<strong>and</strong>nils/>).<br />

The Community Development Financial Instituti<strong>on</strong>s pilot project has provided funding to five<br />

community finance organisati<strong>on</strong>s for business development <strong>and</strong> infrastructure costs. Its<br />

7 This is now coordinated by Good Shepherd Microfinance (see<br />

).<br />


purpose is to “build the capacity <strong>and</strong> resilience of disadvantaged <strong>and</strong> financially excluded<br />

individuals by attracting investment <strong>and</strong> injecting funds into community finance organisati<strong>on</strong>s<br />

that offer them financial services <strong>and</strong> products that they would otherwise not be able to<br />

access from mainstream sources” (Treasury 2012, p. 20). 8 The pilot is promoted by the<br />

government as filling a gap between welfare <strong>and</strong> mainstream financial instituti<strong>on</strong>s <strong>and</strong> as<br />

targeting individual who could afford financial products but cannot gain access to them<br />

including because of discriminati<strong>on</strong> in the lending market (Treasury 2012). The pilot is due to<br />

be evaluated in 2012.<br />

Financial counselling<br />

The Australian Government funds community service organisati<strong>on</strong>s <strong>and</strong> local government<br />

bodies to provide financial counselling services to assist people experiencing financial<br />

difficulty through the Comm<strong>on</strong>wealth Financial Counselling services program administered<br />

by FaHCSIA. Funded services include casework, individual advocacy, referral <strong>and</strong><br />

community educati<strong>on</strong>. While the range of organisati<strong>on</strong>s funded to provide financial<br />

counselling services is diverse some organisati<strong>on</strong>s are providers of services to groups likely<br />

to include people affected by family violence, including some domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence<br />

services <strong>and</strong> family mediati<strong>on</strong> services. 9<br />

The Comm<strong>on</strong>wealth Rural Financial Counselling Service funds state <strong>and</strong> regi<strong>on</strong>al bodies to<br />

provide free financial counselling to “primary producers, fishers <strong>and</strong> small rural businesses<br />

… who are suffering financial hardship <strong>and</strong> who have no alternative sources of impartial<br />

support” (Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry 2012, accessed 21 July 2012 at<br />

http://www.daff.gov.au/agriculture-food/drought/rfcs/). Providers of these services may be<br />

well placed to support women in rural communities experiencing ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse although<br />

no research or data <strong>on</strong> the Australian experience was identified in literature <strong>and</strong> web<br />

searches.<br />

Legal assistance <strong>and</strong> legal costs<br />

One final key public policy issue c<strong>on</strong>cerns the support available to women for representati<strong>on</strong><br />

<strong>and</strong> advice in dealing with the myriad of legal issues that can result from domestic <strong>and</strong> family<br />

violence <strong>and</strong> which can entail very significant costs.<br />

Nati<strong>on</strong>ally, legal aid services are funded under a partnership agreement between the<br />

Comm<strong>on</strong>wealth Attorney General <strong>and</strong> legal aid commissi<strong>on</strong>s in each of the states <strong>and</strong><br />

territories. Family violence is am<strong>on</strong>g the priorities set out in the nati<strong>on</strong>al agreement. In<br />

Victoria this means duty lawyers are provided for family violence case lists in magistrates’<br />

courts <strong>and</strong> Victoria Legal Aid also funds private lawyers to represent people in interventi<strong>on</strong><br />

order cases. Funding is also provided for lawyers to represent resp<strong>on</strong>dents in these cases to<br />

prevent women’s cross-examinati<strong>on</strong> by alleged perpetrators. Client means tests are also<br />

reduced or absent in family violence cases. Family violence lawyers in community legal<br />

centres are funded by the Victorian Government. So, while women generally have access to<br />

representati<strong>on</strong> in family violence matters they may have to pay for legal assistance in<br />

dealing with property <strong>and</strong> other matters.<br />

8 See .<br />

9 A complete list of financial counselling services funded under the CFC is at<br />

<br />

(accessed 21 July 2012).<br />


C<strong>on</strong>clusi<strong>on</strong>: public policies <strong>and</strong> ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse<br />

At the societal level the issue of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse is directly tackled by policies that focus <strong>on</strong><br />

equality for women <strong>and</strong> ec<strong>on</strong>omic equality has been a str<strong>on</strong>g theme in recent public policy in<br />

Australia. While preventi<strong>on</strong> has been a key focus of recent policies to address violence<br />

against women there is little evidence of any specific attenti<strong>on</strong> to raising community<br />

awareness of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse as an aspect of domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence. At the other<br />

end of the spectrum public policies framing resp<strong>on</strong>ses to domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence<br />

through tertiary interventi<strong>on</strong>s targeted at the individual level have a str<strong>on</strong>g safety focus which<br />

is largely a focus <strong>on</strong> physical safety at the point of crisis <strong>and</strong> <strong>on</strong> stopping further violence.<br />

There is a stated objective to look to more holistic resp<strong>on</strong>ses to violence <strong>and</strong> to involve<br />

mainstream services in addressing women’s needs following violence. This is a trend which<br />

may see a greater focus <strong>on</strong> women’s l<strong>on</strong>ger-term wellbeing including their financial<br />

wellbeing. At present such a focus is evident in some areas including in homelessness<br />

policies although in this area shortages of both crisis accommodati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> affordable housing<br />

c<strong>on</strong>tinue to be chr<strong>on</strong>ic problems.<br />

While there are a range of c<strong>on</strong>cerns with income support policies as they meet the needs of<br />

women generally—especially women with children—the evidence suggests that there are<br />

also shortcomings in the ways in which the system is able to resp<strong>on</strong>d to the immediate<br />

needs of women exiting domestic violence. There are two separate aspects to this: the first<br />

c<strong>on</strong>cerns the administrati<strong>on</strong> of the current system whereby women experience problems<br />

accessing the supports that are available, <strong>and</strong> the sec<strong>on</strong>d is that the system is not designed<br />

to meet the needs of this group of women–rather a series of excepti<strong>on</strong>s <strong>and</strong> add-<strong>on</strong><br />

arrangements have been made. The first issue is <strong>on</strong>e which received c<strong>on</strong>siderable attenti<strong>on</strong><br />

in the recent review of legal frameworks relating to family violence c<strong>on</strong>ducted by the ALRC<br />

(2011c) <strong>and</strong> <strong>on</strong>e outcome of that review was a large number of recommendati<strong>on</strong>s to improve<br />

resp<strong>on</strong>ses for people experiencing violence. Addressing the sec<strong>on</strong>d issue is probably more<br />

difficult, including because there is a very poor evidence-base relating to the nature of the<br />

problems women face <strong>and</strong> how they fare over time, including how immediate hardship <strong>on</strong><br />

escaping violence might impact <strong>on</strong> women’s ability to gain financial security in the l<strong>on</strong>ger<br />

term. In relati<strong>on</strong> to the income management scheme it is difficult to see how this will assist<br />

people experiencing domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence while it may lead to stigmatisati<strong>on</strong>.<br />

As with income support the interacti<strong>on</strong> of the child support <strong>and</strong> family assistance<br />

arrangements with ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse are issues that have been taken up in the recent ALRC<br />

review <strong>and</strong> are the subject of recommendati<strong>on</strong>s for change. If the recommendati<strong>on</strong>s are<br />

acted <strong>on</strong> they may go some way to addressing present problems associated with these<br />

arrangements that include the c<strong>on</strong>tinuati<strong>on</strong> of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse after women have left<br />

relati<strong>on</strong>ships. However, problems which may require additi<strong>on</strong>al resp<strong>on</strong>ses c<strong>on</strong>cern the<br />

adequacy of payments, <strong>and</strong> avoidance of child support payments including through<br />

manipulati<strong>on</strong> of care arrangements.<br />

Key issues relating to the ways in which public policies impact <strong>on</strong> women’s access to<br />

affordable legal assistance following ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse are difficult to identify due to the<br />

diversity of legal matters women may be dealing with. Other complicating factors are<br />

differences in laws <strong>and</strong> systems of legal assistance across states <strong>and</strong> territories. In additi<strong>on</strong>,<br />

there is limited research about the pathways through legal systems that women might take to<br />

regain ec<strong>on</strong>omic security following domestic violence <strong>and</strong> any problems they may face. This<br />

is an area which requires further research.<br />

The need to build women’s financial capability has been identified in public policies directed<br />

to equality for women, in policies to address violence against women <strong>and</strong> in the nati<strong>on</strong>al<br />


financial literacy strategy. However, there may be potential to develop new resp<strong>on</strong>ses in this<br />

area.<br />


Legal <strong>and</strong> Regulatory Frameworks<br />

Australia’s legal framework for dealing with family violence <strong>and</strong> safety is complex <strong>and</strong><br />

includes state <strong>and</strong> territory <strong>and</strong> Comm<strong>on</strong>wealth laws. In additi<strong>on</strong> there are a large number of<br />

other legal frameworks which have some bearing <strong>on</strong> domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence. Rather<br />

than trying to capture the full breadth of frameworks the discussi<strong>on</strong> in this secti<strong>on</strong> focuses <strong>on</strong><br />

some key areas of law <strong>and</strong> regulati<strong>on</strong> which have significance for underst<strong>and</strong>ings of <strong>and</strong><br />

resp<strong>on</strong>ses to ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse. These are:<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

family violence<br />

family law<br />

victims’ compensati<strong>on</strong><br />

superannuati<strong>on</strong><br />

migrati<strong>on</strong> law<br />

c<strong>on</strong>sumer protecti<strong>on</strong> laws <strong>and</strong> regulati<strong>on</strong>s.<br />

This list by no means covers all areas of regulati<strong>on</strong> that may be relevant. However, these<br />

areas have particular importance to ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse. The foregoing discussi<strong>on</strong> of public<br />

policies captured issues in some other key areas of law, for example, child support <strong>and</strong><br />

social security.<br />

Ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse in domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence laws<br />

Regulatory changes in some Australian states since the mid-2000s have seen the formal<br />

acknowledgement of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse as a form of domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence in law <strong>and</strong><br />

there is evidence of general support for this. For example, submissi<strong>on</strong>s in resp<strong>on</strong>se to a<br />

recent proposal that all state <strong>and</strong> territory family violence legislati<strong>on</strong> should expressly<br />

recognise ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse were reported as being “overwhelming (in) support” of the<br />

proposal (ALRC/NSWLRC 2010, p. 176). 10 However, ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse is not yet included in<br />

all state <strong>and</strong> territory legislati<strong>on</strong>. In additi<strong>on</strong>, there is no clear evidence that where there is<br />

legal recogniti<strong>on</strong> that this is reflected widely in legal acti<strong>on</strong>s <strong>and</strong> processes resp<strong>on</strong>ding to<br />

domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence (ALRC/NSWLRC 2010). While the recency of some legislative<br />

changes makes it difficult to assess how they might impact <strong>on</strong> outcomes for women it is also<br />

the case that there are few readily identifiable sources of collated informati<strong>on</strong> c<strong>on</strong>cerning the<br />

outcomes of these provisi<strong>on</strong>s in legal processes <strong>and</strong> decisi<strong>on</strong>s.<br />

In the Victorian Government’s Family Violence Protecti<strong>on</strong> Act 2008 family violence has been<br />

defined as:<br />

(a) behaviour by a pers<strong>on</strong> towards a family member of that pers<strong>on</strong> if that<br />

behaviour<br />

is physically or sexually abusive; or<br />

is emoti<strong>on</strong>ally or psychologically abusive; or<br />

is ec<strong>on</strong>omically abusive; or<br />

is threatening; or<br />

is coercive; or<br />

10 Notably the Law Society of New South Wales opposed the inclusi<strong>on</strong> of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse <strong>on</strong> the<br />

grounds that it would be difficult to prove (ALRC/NSWLRC 2010, p. 216)<br />


or<br />

in any other way c<strong>on</strong>trols or dominates the family member <strong>and</strong> causes<br />

that family member to feel fear for the safety or wellbeing of that family<br />

member or another pers<strong>on</strong>;<br />

(b) behaviour by a pers<strong>on</strong> that causes a child to hear or witness, or otherwise<br />

be exposed to the effects of, behaviour referred to in paragraph (a).<br />

Other states <strong>and</strong> territories that have explicitly included ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse in the definiti<strong>on</strong> of<br />

family violence are Tasmania, South Australia, the Northern Territory <strong>and</strong>, in a very recent<br />

development, Queensl<strong>and</strong> where the Domestic <strong>and</strong> Family Violence Protecti<strong>on</strong> Act 2012—<br />

which commences in September 2012—provides an exp<strong>and</strong>ed definiti<strong>on</strong> of domestic <strong>and</strong><br />

family violence which includes emoti<strong>on</strong>al <strong>and</strong> ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse <strong>and</strong> exposure of children<br />

(ALRC/NSWLRC 2010; Queensl<strong>and</strong> 2012, accessed 12 June 2012, at ). The l<strong>on</strong>gest st<strong>and</strong>ing Australian legislati<strong>on</strong><br />

to include ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse is the state Family Violence Act 2004 in Tasmania where, unlike<br />

most other jurisdicti<strong>on</strong>s, it is a criminal offence. However, the ALRC <strong>and</strong> NSWLRC (2010, p.<br />

1987, fn 40) have noted that commissi<strong>on</strong>ers are not aware of any prosecuti<strong>on</strong> in Tasmania<br />

for ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse.<br />

Recognising ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse in other legislati<strong>on</strong><br />

At the nati<strong>on</strong>al level, a range of differing definiti<strong>on</strong>s of domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence are in<br />

place. A recent ALRC (2011c) review of legal frameworks relating to family violence<br />

recommended that legislati<strong>on</strong> be amended to include a c<strong>on</strong>sistent definiti<strong>on</strong> of family<br />

violence, requiring amendments to: the Social Security Act 1991 (Cth); Social Security<br />

(Administrati<strong>on</strong> Act) 1999 (Cth); Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 (Cth); Child Support<br />

(Registrati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> Collecti<strong>on</strong>) Act 1988 (Cth); A New Tax System (Family Assistance) Act<br />

1999 (Cth); A New Tax System (Family Assistance) (Administrati<strong>on</strong>) Act 1999 (Cth); <strong>and</strong><br />

Migrati<strong>on</strong> Regulati<strong>on</strong>s 1994 (Cth). The ALRC recommended that ‘family violence’ should be<br />

defined by reference to:<br />

a. a core definiti<strong>on</strong> of c<strong>on</strong>duct that is violent, threatening, coercive or c<strong>on</strong>trolling, or<br />

intended to cause the family member to be fearful; <strong>and</strong><br />

b. a n<strong>on</strong>-exhaustive list of examples of physical <strong>and</strong> n<strong>on</strong>-physical c<strong>on</strong>duct.<br />

The examples provided by the ALRC are:<br />

a. physical violence<br />

b. sexual assault <strong>and</strong> other sexually abusive behaviour;<br />

c. ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse<br />

d. emoti<strong>on</strong>al or psychological abuse<br />

e. stalking<br />

f. kidnapping or deprivati<strong>on</strong> of liberty<br />

g. damage to property, irrespective of whether the victim owns the property<br />

h. causing injury or death to an animal irrespective of whether the victim owns the<br />

animal; <strong>and</strong><br />

i. behaviour by the pers<strong>on</strong> using violence that causes a child to be exposed to the<br />

effects of behaviour referred to in (a)–(h) above. (ALRC 2011, p. 12)<br />

The ALRC also recommended that a comm<strong>on</strong> interpretative framework for domestic <strong>and</strong><br />

family violence be adopted in Australian Government guidelines <strong>and</strong> materials to provide for<br />

a c<strong>on</strong>sistent definiti<strong>on</strong> of family violence, including in the following:<br />


a. DEEWR <strong>and</strong> Job Services Australia Guidelines, Advices <strong>and</strong> Job Aids;<br />

b. Fair Work Australia material;<br />

c. Fair Work Ombudsman material;<br />

d. Safe Work Australia Codes of Practice <strong>and</strong> other material; <strong>and</strong><br />

e. other similar material. (ALRC 2011c, p. 11)<br />

The ALRC has also recommended that where relevant <strong>and</strong> appropriate, all Australian<br />

Prudential Regulati<strong>on</strong> Authority, Department of Human Services, Australian Taxati<strong>on</strong> Office<br />

<strong>and</strong> superannuati<strong>on</strong> fund material, should provide for a c<strong>on</strong>sistent definiti<strong>on</strong> of family<br />

violence in line with its guideline (ALRC 2011c, p. 11). At the time of writing it was not known<br />

whether any of these changes had been made.<br />

Family law<br />

Very recent changes to the Comm<strong>on</strong>wealth Family Law Act 1975 have seen a broadening of<br />

the definiti<strong>on</strong> of family violence in family law including the incorporati<strong>on</strong> of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse.<br />

Family violence is now defined as “violent, threatening or other behaviour by a pers<strong>on</strong> that<br />

coerces or c<strong>on</strong>trols a member of the pers<strong>on</strong>’s family (the family member), or causes the<br />

family member to be fearful” (Family Law Act 1975 s4AB). Examples of behaviour which<br />

may c<strong>on</strong>stitute family violence include the following:<br />

(g) unreas<strong>on</strong>ably denying the family member the financial aut<strong>on</strong>omy that he or<br />

she would otherwise have had; or<br />

h) unreas<strong>on</strong>ably withholding financial support needed to meet the reas<strong>on</strong>able<br />

living expenses of the family member, or his or her child, at a time when the<br />

family member is entirely or predominantly dependent <strong>on</strong> the pers<strong>on</strong> for<br />

financial support. (Family Law Act 1975 s4AB)<br />

Family law matters include separati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> divorce, relati<strong>on</strong>ships with children <strong>and</strong> property<br />

matters. While the ways in which family law systems <strong>and</strong> processes operate in all of these<br />

matters can have significance for women’s ec<strong>on</strong>omic outcomes, in relati<strong>on</strong> to ec<strong>on</strong>omic<br />

abuse the settlement of property is significant. Child support arrangements are also<br />

significant <strong>and</strong> some of the key issues with these were discussed in the previous secti<strong>on</strong><br />

c<strong>on</strong>cerned with policy issues. In relati<strong>on</strong> to property settlements two recent law reform<br />

reviews have recommended that the Australian Government “should initiate an inquiry into<br />

how family violence should be dealt with in respect of property proceedings under the Family<br />

Law Act 1975 (Cth)” (ALRC 2011c, p. 630). Some of the issues relevant to ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse<br />

<strong>and</strong> property settlements are highlighted in the discussi<strong>on</strong> of superannuati<strong>on</strong> below.<br />

Superannuati<strong>on</strong><br />

Unequal participati<strong>on</strong> in employment—including the problem of gender pay inequity—places<br />

women at a disadvantage compared to men in regard to their financial wellbeing in<br />

retirement. For example, the Australian Institute of Superannuati<strong>on</strong> Trustees has estimated<br />

that the “median superannuati<strong>on</strong> balance for women aged between 55 <strong>and</strong> 64 years is<br />

$53,000, compared to $90,000 for men in the same age group” (de Silva & Harnath 2011, p.<br />

11).<br />

However, there are also some particular aspects of superannuati<strong>on</strong> arrangements <strong>and</strong> its<br />

regulati<strong>on</strong> that are specifically relevant to ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse. The first of these c<strong>on</strong>cerns the<br />

possibility of loss of pers<strong>on</strong>al superannuati<strong>on</strong> through ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse <strong>and</strong> the sec<strong>on</strong>d<br />

c<strong>on</strong>cerns the opti<strong>on</strong> for women to access their superannuati<strong>on</strong> early (that is, prior to<br />

retirement) when they may need m<strong>on</strong>ey <strong>on</strong> leaving an abusive relati<strong>on</strong>ship.<br />


In its recent review the ALRC identified three ways in which women could lose their own<br />

superannuati<strong>on</strong> through ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse, each of which involves coerci<strong>on</strong>. The first is<br />

through a superannuati<strong>on</strong> agreement made under the Comm<strong>on</strong>wealth Family Law Act<br />

(1975) which is a form of financial agreement made by a couple which is a binding c<strong>on</strong>tract<br />

describing how their property or finances (in this case <strong>on</strong>e or both parties’ superannuati<strong>on</strong>)<br />

are to be dealt with (ALRC 2011b, p. 37). The sec<strong>on</strong>d possible means of loss of<br />

superannuati<strong>on</strong> through ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse is where a partner has been coerced to ‘split’ her<br />

superannuati<strong>on</strong> c<strong>on</strong>tributi<strong>on</strong>s so a proporti<strong>on</strong> is paid into her partner’s fund (ALRC 2011b).<br />

The ALRC (2011b) c<strong>on</strong>cluded that while there were some protecti<strong>on</strong>s in the Family Law Act<br />

1975 to address the possibility of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse through these two means further<br />

investigati<strong>on</strong> is needed to c<strong>on</strong>sider the ways in which federal family courts c<strong>on</strong>sider family<br />

violence in property proceedings. The ALRC (2011d, p. 467) reiterated an earlier<br />

ALRC/NSWLRC (2010) recommendati<strong>on</strong> that “the Australian Government should initiate an<br />

inquiry into how family violence should be dealt with in respect of property proceedings<br />

under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) (<strong>and</strong>) (a)ny such inquiry should include c<strong>on</strong>siderati<strong>on</strong><br />

of the treatment of superannuati<strong>on</strong> in proceedings involving family violence”. This<br />

recommendati<strong>on</strong> captures the ALRC’s broader c<strong>on</strong>cern that family violence should be<br />

c<strong>on</strong>sidered by the family court both in assessing c<strong>on</strong>tributi<strong>on</strong>s <strong>and</strong> in c<strong>on</strong>sidering the<br />

distributi<strong>on</strong> of assets following separati<strong>on</strong>. In their report the ALRC (2011d, p. 466) cite a<br />

case in which the adverse impacts of family violence <strong>on</strong> a pers<strong>on</strong>’s c<strong>on</strong>tributi<strong>on</strong> were taken<br />

into account by a court.<br />

The third possible means of loss of superannuati<strong>on</strong> through ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse is where<br />

superannuati<strong>on</strong> is in a self-managed superannuati<strong>on</strong> fund. These are funds where the<br />

trustees are the <strong>on</strong>ly members of the fund <strong>and</strong> over 90 per cent of such funds have two<br />

members, mostly spouses (ALRC 2011c, p. 467, fns 32-36). The ALRC (2011c) c<strong>on</strong>cluded<br />

that victims of family violence who are also trustees of self-managed superannuati<strong>on</strong> funds<br />

require additi<strong>on</strong>al protecti<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> made a number of recommendati<strong>on</strong>s for changes to the<br />

guidelines provided to self-managed superannuati<strong>on</strong> fund trustees by the regulator—the<br />

ATO—including the provisi<strong>on</strong> of specific informati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> examples c<strong>on</strong>cerning family<br />

violence. The ALRC (2011d, p. 471) also pointed to the need for the ATO to avoid<br />

compliance acti<strong>on</strong>s that exacerbate or harm the disadvantage suffered by a fund trustee<br />

experiencing family violence but did not go as far as recommending that the ATO should be<br />

required to c<strong>on</strong>sider family violence when determining appropriate compliance acti<strong>on</strong>,<br />

apparently in resp<strong>on</strong>se to stakeholder submissi<strong>on</strong>s from the Australian Institute of<br />

Superannuati<strong>on</strong> Trustees. The other possible areas for reform were identified as c<strong>on</strong>cerning<br />

professi<strong>on</strong>al st<strong>and</strong>ards, training <strong>and</strong> licensing exempti<strong>on</strong>s for self-managed superannuati<strong>on</strong><br />

fund advisers <strong>and</strong> the ALRC directed these to the nati<strong>on</strong>al government bodies (ATO, ASIC<br />

<strong>and</strong> Treasury) that are involved in reform of regulatory arrangements for financial advice.<br />

A final issue with superannuati<strong>on</strong> c<strong>on</strong>cerns whether a woman leaving abuse can access part<br />

of her superannuati<strong>on</strong> funds early. Normally, funds are preserved until retirement age<br />

although there is provisi<strong>on</strong> for early release of some funds <strong>on</strong> the grounds of financial<br />

hardship or <strong>on</strong> compassi<strong>on</strong>ate grounds. The ALRC (2011c) has proposed a range of<br />

changes to administrative guidelines to enable better decisi<strong>on</strong>-making with proper<br />

c<strong>on</strong>siderati<strong>on</strong> of family violence, while also accepting arguments that the financial hardship<br />

faced by women <strong>on</strong> leaving abuse should be properly addressed through the income support<br />

system. At least <strong>on</strong>e submissi<strong>on</strong> to the ALRC <strong>on</strong> this issue pointed to the fact of women’s<br />

existing disadvantage in accumulati<strong>on</strong> of superannuati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> argued that early access<br />

compounds this disadvantage (Women’ Legal Service NSW 2011). A further issue identified<br />

by the ALRC was the potential for any loosening of early release provisi<strong>on</strong>s to make it easier<br />

for an abusive pers<strong>on</strong> to coerce a woman to seek release of her superannuati<strong>on</strong> savings.<br />

Proposals made by the ALRC include some minor loosening of qualifying periods <strong>on</strong> income<br />

support payments for eligibility <strong>and</strong> for the Australian Prudential Regulati<strong>on</strong> Authority to<br />


provide guidance materials for superannuati<strong>on</strong> fund trustees—who make the decisi<strong>on</strong><br />

whether to release funds or not—which include reference to family violence <strong>and</strong> informati<strong>on</strong><br />

about family violence dynamics <strong>and</strong> impacts (ALRC 2011c, p. 630).<br />

Victims’ compensati<strong>on</strong><br />

The recent ALRC/NSWLRC report into a nati<strong>on</strong>al legal resp<strong>on</strong>se to family violence argued<br />

that “victims’ compensati<strong>on</strong> is inextricably c<strong>on</strong>nected with an assessment of how legal<br />

frameworks can be improved to assist victims of family violence to navigate various<br />

jurisdicti<strong>on</strong>s” (2010, p. 156). Victims’ compensati<strong>on</strong> schemes, which are available in all<br />

states <strong>and</strong> territories, appear to be under-utilised by women as a source of financial support<br />

following domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence. It has been suggested by researchers <strong>and</strong> legal<br />

bodies that this may be due in part to a lack of knowledge of the schemes while there are<br />

also particular barriers related to the nature of victims’ compensati<strong>on</strong> legislati<strong>on</strong> including<br />

that there is inadequate recogniti<strong>on</strong> of the nature <strong>and</strong> dynamics of family violence<br />

(ALRC/NSWLRC 2010; Barrett Meyering 2010). Limitati<strong>on</strong>s relate to the linking of<br />

compensati<strong>on</strong> to specific criminal acts of violence <strong>and</strong> to criminal injuries, meaning that acts<br />

of family violence may not be recognised as criminal. Further each discrete ‘incident’ <strong>and</strong><br />

‘injury’ must be proved which does not recognise the patterns of abuse that typically<br />

c<strong>on</strong>stitute family violence; generally, definiti<strong>on</strong>s of ‘injury’ also emphasise physical injury<br />

(ALRC/NSWLRC 2010). These limitati<strong>on</strong>s have been addressed in some jurisdicti<strong>on</strong>s (New<br />

South Wales <strong>and</strong> Northern Territory) where victims’ compensati<strong>on</strong> legislati<strong>on</strong> defines<br />

domestic violence as a specific injury <strong>and</strong> in Victoria where awards can be granted in<br />

respect of “significant adverse impacts”. The ALRC/NSWLRC report recommended that<br />

victims’ compensati<strong>on</strong> legislati<strong>on</strong> should: (a) provide that evidence of a pattern of<br />

family violence may be c<strong>on</strong>sidered in assessing whether an act of violence or injury<br />

occurred; (b) define family violence as a specific act of violence or injury … or (c)<br />

extend the definiti<strong>on</strong> of injury to include other significant adverse impacts<br />

(ALRC/NSWLRC 2010, p. 1393).<br />

Migrati<strong>on</strong> Law<br />

The ALRC (2011c) has recently made some recommendati<strong>on</strong>s for law reform which go<br />

some way to addressing c<strong>on</strong>cerns about the particular vulnerability to coerci<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> c<strong>on</strong>trol of<br />

women experiencing family violence whose migrati<strong>on</strong> status is uncertain.<br />

As the law st<strong>and</strong>s there is a family violence excepti<strong>on</strong> whereby permanent residence can be<br />

granted—despite relati<strong>on</strong>ship breakdown—to people <strong>on</strong> spousal or partner visas who are in<br />

Australia <strong>on</strong> the basis of their spouse or defacto relati<strong>on</strong>ship with an Australian citizen or<br />

permanent resident <strong>and</strong> who experience family violence. The ALRC (2011c) recommended<br />

changes to the Comm<strong>on</strong>wealth Migrati<strong>on</strong> Regulati<strong>on</strong>s 1994 to make the assessment of<br />

family violence under migrati<strong>on</strong> law simpler by allowing family violence victims to draw <strong>on</strong> a<br />

wider range of evidence <strong>and</strong> the Minister for Immigrati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> Citizenship has very recently<br />

announced these changes will be made (Bowen 2012, media release 17 June, viewed 25<br />

July at ).<br />

The Australian Government has not yet resp<strong>on</strong>ded to other ALRC recommendati<strong>on</strong>s<br />

although the Minister’s announcement did include that the proposed change is a “preliminary<br />

resp<strong>on</strong>se” to the issues raised by the ALRC. Other ALRC recommendati<strong>on</strong>s for changes to<br />

migrati<strong>on</strong> law were for: the family violence excepti<strong>on</strong> to be extended to people who have<br />

entered Australia for the purpose of marrying an Australian sp<strong>on</strong>sor <strong>and</strong> are <strong>on</strong> a<br />

Prospective Marriage visa but who experience family violence <strong>and</strong> do not marry the sp<strong>on</strong>sor;<br />


<strong>and</strong> for the creati<strong>on</strong> of a new temporary visa for partners of temporary visa holders or<br />

‘sec<strong>on</strong>dary’ visa holders who experience violence to enable them to access services <strong>and</strong><br />

make arrangements to return to their country of origin or to apply for another visa (ALRC<br />

2011c, p. 46).<br />

The ALRC (2011c) report also recommended that the Minister issue a directi<strong>on</strong> to strengthen<br />

Australia’s resp<strong>on</strong>se to people seeking protecti<strong>on</strong> in Australia as refugees <strong>on</strong> the basis of<br />

their experience of family violence. Other recommendati<strong>on</strong> were: for a review of Migrati<strong>on</strong><br />

<strong>Review</strong> Tribunal applicati<strong>on</strong> fees—including <strong>on</strong> their impact <strong>on</strong> victims of family violence; for<br />

improved educati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> training <strong>on</strong> family violence issues for migrati<strong>on</strong> services providers;<br />

<strong>and</strong> for the provisi<strong>on</strong> of family violence informati<strong>on</strong> to visa applicants (ALRC 2011c).<br />

Anti-discriminati<strong>on</strong> law<br />

While there is currently no protecti<strong>on</strong> for victims of family <strong>and</strong> domestic violence under<br />

Australian anti-discriminati<strong>on</strong> laws community views <strong>on</strong> this have recently been sought in a<br />

public discussi<strong>on</strong> paper <strong>on</strong> the c<strong>on</strong>solidati<strong>on</strong> of the various Comm<strong>on</strong>wealth antidiscriminati<strong>on</strong><br />

laws (Attorney-General’s Department, 2011). The particular areas of c<strong>on</strong>cern<br />

identified in the discussi<strong>on</strong> paper are in relati<strong>on</strong> to discriminati<strong>on</strong> in housing <strong>and</strong><br />

employment. Submissi<strong>on</strong>s to the process closed in February 2012 <strong>and</strong> draft legislati<strong>on</strong> is<br />

expected to be released for comment some time in 2012. 11<br />

C<strong>on</strong>sumer protecti<strong>on</strong> regulati<strong>on</strong><br />

Following ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse women may have to manage banking, loans, c<strong>on</strong>sumer credit,<br />

bills <strong>and</strong> debts to stop the c<strong>on</strong>tinuati<strong>on</strong> of abuse, to disentangle their finances <strong>and</strong> to<br />

establish manageable <strong>on</strong>going financial arrangements. They may be dealing with these<br />

issues while also in circumstances of hardship <strong>and</strong> in some cases having had little<br />

experience of managing finances. Immediate issues may be to do with being left with debts,<br />

being <strong>on</strong> a low income, needing to separate finances, having poor access to credit, <strong>and</strong><br />

having extra costs due to relocati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> re-establishment of a household.<br />

Women may have to deal with banks <strong>and</strong> credit providers to sort out joint accounts, apply for<br />

loans, re-negotiate repayments <strong>and</strong> attempt to separate out liabilities. Women may have<br />

liability for bills <strong>and</strong> debts that have been run up by ex-partners but are in their names. For<br />

those <strong>on</strong> low incomes comm<strong>on</strong> problems may be with bills <strong>and</strong> debts for essential services<br />

<strong>and</strong> products such as utilities <strong>and</strong> telecommunicati<strong>on</strong>s, while there are potentially a much<br />

broader range of bills <strong>and</strong> debts that women can face as a result of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse.<br />

Examples identified in the research literature include ‘acquired debts’, for example, fines due<br />

to ex-partners’ traffic or other infringements relating to their use of cars registered in<br />

women’s names (for example, speeding <strong>and</strong> parking fines <strong>and</strong> road tolls), <strong>and</strong> bills for<br />

household <strong>and</strong> other items bought through hire purchase or deferred payment arrangements<br />

(Braaf & Barrett Meyering 2011; Branigan 2004; Evans 2007; Fraser, Hunter & Borrell 2011).<br />

In additi<strong>on</strong> there may be bills or debts relating to purchases or to <strong>on</strong>going commitments<br />

which are in both names or in the woman’s name <strong>on</strong>ly.<br />

There is a range of regulatory arrangements for c<strong>on</strong>sumer protecti<strong>on</strong> that are relevant to the<br />

managements of pers<strong>on</strong>al debt, credit, banking <strong>and</strong> bills. These include broad c<strong>on</strong>sumer<br />

11 The discussi<strong>on</strong> paper <strong>and</strong> informati<strong>on</strong> <strong>on</strong> the c<strong>on</strong>sultati<strong>on</strong> can be found at<br />

.<br />


laws <strong>and</strong> a variety of other ‘soft’ regulati<strong>on</strong> such as industry codes <strong>and</strong> individual company<br />

policies. Shortcomings in the effectiveness of these arrangements for protecting vulnerable<br />

c<strong>on</strong>sumers—especially people <strong>on</strong> low incomes—have been highlighted in various c<strong>on</strong>sumer<br />

<strong>and</strong> community sector submissi<strong>on</strong>s made during recent reform processes, as outlined below.<br />

In relati<strong>on</strong> to women experiencing domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence identified issues in the<br />

research literature include: lack of access to affordable credit; bank fees <strong>and</strong> charges; lack of<br />

readily accessible informati<strong>on</strong> about hardship policies; having to explain the experience of<br />

domestic violence to financial instituti<strong>on</strong>s <strong>and</strong> service providers; providers’ resistance to<br />

splitting bills; requirements to pay rec<strong>on</strong>necti<strong>on</strong> fees; <strong>and</strong> providers making adverse credit<br />

reports while the woman is repaying part of a debt but her ex-partner is not (Arashiro 2011;<br />

Braaf & Barrett Meyering 2011).<br />

A single nati<strong>on</strong>al c<strong>on</strong>sumer credit regulatory regime came into existence <strong>on</strong>ly recently with<br />

the introducti<strong>on</strong> of the Nati<strong>on</strong>al C<strong>on</strong>sumer Credit Protecti<strong>on</strong> Act 2009. The Act includes a<br />

Nati<strong>on</strong>al Credit Code that replaced previous state-based c<strong>on</strong>sumer credit codes (ASIC 2012,<br />

viewed 18 July 2012, ). Subsequently two legislative amendments have been introduced with the purposes<br />

of strengthening c<strong>on</strong>sumer protecti<strong>on</strong>s. The first, which took effect in July 2012, is the<br />

Nati<strong>on</strong>al C<strong>on</strong>sumer Credit Protecti<strong>on</strong> Amendment (Home Loans <strong>and</strong> Credit Cards) Act 2011<br />

which increases requirements <strong>on</strong> lenders to give prospective borrowers informati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong><br />

places some limits <strong>on</strong> fees <strong>and</strong> <strong>on</strong> lenders’ invitati<strong>on</strong>s to borrowers to increase their credit<br />

limits (Parliamentary Joint Committee <strong>on</strong> Corporati<strong>on</strong>s <strong>and</strong> Financial Services [PJCCFS]<br />

2011). The sec<strong>on</strong>d is the C<strong>on</strong>sumer Credit <strong>and</strong> Corporati<strong>on</strong>s Legislati<strong>on</strong> Amendment<br />

(Enhancements) Bill 2011 (the Credit Enhancements Bill) which at time of writing had yet to<br />

be passed by the Senate. The Bill c<strong>on</strong>tains: provisi<strong>on</strong>s to introduce caps <strong>on</strong> interest charged<br />

<strong>on</strong> short-term ‘payday’ loans, provisi<strong>on</strong>s to make it easier to vary loans in resp<strong>on</strong>se to<br />

hardship; new requirements <strong>on</strong> reverse mortgages; <strong>and</strong> increased regulati<strong>on</strong> of c<strong>on</strong>sumer<br />

leases (PJCCFS 2011).<br />

Payday loans or same day cash advances may be attractive or seen as the <strong>on</strong>ly opti<strong>on</strong> for<br />

people faced with immediate financial problems <strong>and</strong> who may be unable to access other<br />

credit opti<strong>on</strong>s; approval is granted quickly <strong>and</strong> sometimes without credit checks. However,<br />

loans generally have high fees <strong>and</strong> much higher interest than ‘mainstream’ bank <strong>and</strong> credit<br />

uni<strong>on</strong> loans making them difficult to repay. In general these sorts of loans have been seen<br />

as very harmful with few if any benefits for people <strong>on</strong> low incomes (Banks 2011). While<br />

c<strong>on</strong>sumer <strong>and</strong> community services groups welcomed proposals to address c<strong>on</strong>cerns with<br />

credit practices, particularly in regard to ‘fringe’ lenders <strong>and</strong> payday loans (C<strong>on</strong>sumer Acti<strong>on</strong><br />

Law Centre 2011), they have viewed the final reform proposals as inadequate, with <strong>on</strong>e<br />

c<strong>on</strong>sumer advocate describing them as allowing annual interest rates <strong>on</strong> credit of up to 240<br />

per cent <strong>and</strong> as ‘fall(ing) far short of effective protecti<strong>on</strong>’ (Lowe 2012, viewed 25 July 2012,<br />

at ).<br />

Other regulati<strong>on</strong>s providing protecti<strong>on</strong>s for c<strong>on</strong>sumers in their dealings with financial<br />

instituti<strong>on</strong>s include industry codes of practice such as the Code of Banking Practice, the<br />

Credit Uni<strong>on</strong> Code of Practice <strong>and</strong> the Building Society Code of Practice (ASIC 2012). These<br />

are voluntary codes, developed by industry <strong>and</strong> which individual organisati<strong>on</strong>s sign up to<br />

(ASIC 2012). While ASIC has oversight industry bodies m<strong>on</strong>itor their members’ compliance<br />

with codes. 12 The codes set out broad obligati<strong>on</strong>s while individual organisati<strong>on</strong>s have their<br />

own policies, including in resp<strong>on</strong>se to customer hardship. Some of these company policies<br />

specifically identify relati<strong>on</strong>ship or family breakdown as possible reas<strong>on</strong>s for a customer<br />

12 See for example the Australian Bankers’ Associati<strong>on</strong> (ABA) Code of Banking Practice (ABA 2004)<br />

<strong>and</strong> the industry’s Code Compliance M<strong>on</strong>itoring Committee, accessed 21 July 2012 at<br />

).<br />


equiring assistance or c<strong>on</strong>siderati<strong>on</strong> due to hardship, 13 although it is not readily apparent<br />

from banks’ public customer informati<strong>on</strong> that there is any awareness of the circumstances of<br />

some<strong>on</strong>e who has been subject to ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse.<br />

C<strong>on</strong>sumer protecti<strong>on</strong> regulati<strong>on</strong>s—including arrangements for people experiencing<br />

hardship—exist for many commercial <strong>and</strong> other products <strong>and</strong> services <strong>and</strong> may be important<br />

for both protecting women from ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse <strong>and</strong> for people escaping from violence <strong>and</strong><br />

re-building their lives. However, as illustrated in the quote below from recent research, even<br />

where such arrangements are in place, there is often no guarantee that assistance can be<br />

easily accessed:<br />

What I’ve noticed recently is bills are coming in now <strong>and</strong> I’m ‘Gee, I’ve never<br />

had to deal with bills <strong>on</strong> my own before’ <strong>and</strong> <strong>on</strong> the bills it doesn’t say<br />

anywhere, there’s no informati<strong>on</strong> about if you’re <strong>on</strong> the Health Care Card you<br />

<strong>on</strong>ly have to pay this amount — so I d<strong>on</strong>’t know. Is there a $20 saving or is it<br />

$100? I d<strong>on</strong>’t know. So recently I’ve had to transfer my car into my name with<br />

registrati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> I thought, oh no, here comes a $600 bill next m<strong>on</strong>th for<br />

registrati<strong>on</strong>. I ph<strong>on</strong>ed them <strong>and</strong> said, ‘I’m <strong>on</strong> a healthcare card, what’s the<br />

thing with that?’. ‘Oh yes, well you can pay it in two halves <strong>and</strong> also there’s a<br />

$90 difference’. And I thought, ‘Well, why d<strong>on</strong>’t you say that <strong>on</strong> the bill?<br />

There’s no informati<strong>on</strong>! Mary (quoted in Arashiro 2011, p. 29)<br />

As with the regulati<strong>on</strong> of c<strong>on</strong>sumer credit, c<strong>on</strong>sumer protecti<strong>on</strong> in other areas comprises a<br />

complex mix with c<strong>on</strong>siderable reliance <strong>on</strong> soft regulati<strong>on</strong> in the form of industry selfregulati<strong>on</strong><br />

via voluntary codes. For example, in relati<strong>on</strong> to telecommunicati<strong>on</strong>s (including<br />

mobile ph<strong>on</strong>es, residential ph<strong>on</strong>es <strong>and</strong> internet), some c<strong>on</strong>sumer protecti<strong>on</strong>s are set out in<br />

general c<strong>on</strong>sumer law through the Competiti<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> C<strong>on</strong>sumer Act 2010 <strong>and</strong><br />

Telecommunicati<strong>on</strong>s (C<strong>on</strong>sumer Protecti<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> Service St<strong>and</strong>ards) Act 1999, with the latter<br />

including access to an external dispute resoluti<strong>on</strong> service through the Telecommunicati<strong>on</strong>s<br />

Industry Ombudsman. However, most c<strong>on</strong>sumer protecti<strong>on</strong> in regard to telecommunicati<strong>on</strong>s<br />

is through industry codes, industry st<strong>and</strong>ards <strong>and</strong> service provider rules. While these are<br />

overseen by the Australian Communicati<strong>on</strong>s <strong>and</strong> Media Authority (Australian<br />

Communicati<strong>on</strong>s <strong>and</strong> Media Authority [ACMA] 2011, pp. 19-20), c<strong>on</strong>sumer groups have<br />

been critical of ACMA’s weak powers of enforcement of the main regulatory mechanism,<br />

which is the Telecommunicati<strong>on</strong>s C<strong>on</strong>sumer Protecti<strong>on</strong> Code which has been developed by<br />

the industry body, Communicati<strong>on</strong>s Alliance. C<strong>on</strong>sumer advocates have argued that some<br />

c<strong>on</strong>sumer protecti<strong>on</strong>s—including hardship protecti<strong>on</strong>—should be c<strong>on</strong>tained in a m<strong>and</strong>atory<br />

industry st<strong>and</strong>ard rather than in the industry-developed code (Australian Communicati<strong>on</strong>s<br />

C<strong>on</strong>sumer Acti<strong>on</strong> Network [ACCAN] 2011). However, this change has not occurred in recent<br />

reforms which followed a public inquiry (ACMA 2011); rather there has been some<br />

strengthening of protecti<strong>on</strong>s c<strong>on</strong>tained in a revised Telecommunicati<strong>on</strong>s C<strong>on</strong>sumer<br />

Protecti<strong>on</strong> Code (Communicati<strong>on</strong>s Alliance 2012), which comes into force in September<br />

2012.<br />

The Telecommunicati<strong>on</strong>s C<strong>on</strong>sumer Protecti<strong>on</strong> Code sets out some new protective<br />

requirements relating to c<strong>on</strong>tracts <strong>and</strong> to credit <strong>and</strong> debt management, including financial<br />

hardship policies. There has been limited resp<strong>on</strong>se by welfare <strong>and</strong> c<strong>on</strong>sumer groups<br />

c<strong>on</strong>cerning the likely effectiveness of the increased protecti<strong>on</strong>s for vulnerable <strong>and</strong> low<br />

income customers. It remains the case that telecommunicati<strong>on</strong>s providers each have their<br />

own financial hardship policy which will no doubt be updated to reflect recent changes to the<br />

code. Existing codes vary in that some specifically identify ‘family breakdown’ as a reas<strong>on</strong><br />

13<br />

See for example ANZ bank at http://www.anz.com/about-us/corporateresp<strong>on</strong>sibility/customers/financial-hardship/).<br />


for hardship, although as with the bank policies discussed above, there is no explicit<br />

acknowledgement of domestic or family violence as a possible cause of customer problems.<br />

C<strong>on</strong>sumer protecti<strong>on</strong> relating to utilities including water, gas <strong>and</strong> electricity are similarly<br />

made up of a mix of broad industry oversight, voluntary codes <strong>and</strong> individual company<br />

policies which may or may not recognise domestic or family violence <strong>and</strong> provide for<br />

appropriate resp<strong>on</strong>ses to ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse. Within regulatory frameworks individual company<br />

practices in relati<strong>on</strong> to joint billing, payment methods, billing cycles, late payments,<br />

disc<strong>on</strong>necti<strong>on</strong>s <strong>and</strong> rec<strong>on</strong>necti<strong>on</strong>s as well as company customer services practices can vary<br />

c<strong>on</strong>siderably (Victorian Council of Social Service 2009). These can all impact <strong>on</strong> the ability of<br />

women to stop abuse, to manage bills <strong>and</strong> debts, to access services <strong>and</strong> to retain access to<br />

finance.<br />

Provisi<strong>on</strong> of financial advice<br />

An additi<strong>on</strong>al area of regulati<strong>on</strong> which provides some c<strong>on</strong>sumer protecti<strong>on</strong> c<strong>on</strong>cerns the<br />

provisi<strong>on</strong> of financial advice. The extent to which financial advisors might be relied <strong>on</strong> as a<br />

source of advice from women experiencing ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse is not known. This is an area<br />

which might benefit from further research. There has been c<strong>on</strong>siderable reform in regulati<strong>on</strong><br />

of financial advice over recent years which has included new requirements <strong>on</strong> financial<br />

advisers to act in the best interests of their clients <strong>and</strong> also some measures to exp<strong>and</strong> the<br />

availability of low cost advice (Treasury 2012, viewed 13 July 2012,<br />

http://futureofadvice.treasury.gov.au/ c<strong>on</strong>tent/C<strong>on</strong>tent.aspx?doc=reforms.htm>).<br />

C<strong>on</strong>clusi<strong>on</strong>: legal <strong>and</strong> regulatory frameworks <strong>and</strong> ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse<br />

The inclusi<strong>on</strong> of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse in most state <strong>and</strong> territory family violence laws <strong>and</strong>, in<br />

particular, in the Comm<strong>on</strong>wealth Family Law Act 1975 paves the way for a comm<strong>on</strong><br />

framework for domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence in a wide range of legal <strong>and</strong> regulatory<br />

instruments which impact <strong>on</strong> protecti<strong>on</strong>s for women <strong>and</strong> resp<strong>on</strong>ses to ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse (for<br />

example social security, child support, migrati<strong>on</strong>). In additi<strong>on</strong> these changes to laws may be<br />

important for generating greater awareness of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse as a form of family <strong>and</strong><br />

domestic violence. This also applies to the take-up of the ALRC’s (2011c) recommendati<strong>on</strong>s<br />

for changes to relevant laws <strong>and</strong> guidelines of Fair Work Australia, Safe Work Australia,<br />

DEEWR <strong>and</strong> Job Services Australia the Australian Prudential Regulati<strong>on</strong> Authority,<br />

Department of Human Services, Australian Taxati<strong>on</strong> Office <strong>and</strong> superannuati<strong>on</strong> fund<br />

materials. The Australian Government has announced <strong>on</strong>e positive change which<br />

acknowledges <strong>and</strong> resp<strong>on</strong>ds to the situati<strong>on</strong> of some women who do not have residency or<br />

Citizenship. However, there remain a number of gaps in protecti<strong>on</strong> in the case of temporary<br />

visa holders who experience abuse as well as possible changes which could be made,<br />

including in relati<strong>on</strong> to Migrati<strong>on</strong> <strong>Review</strong> Tribunal fees.<br />

Victims’ compensati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> property settlements may be crucial to fair outcomes for women<br />

who have experienced ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse <strong>and</strong> the discussi<strong>on</strong> in this secti<strong>on</strong> has <strong>on</strong>ly touched<br />

<strong>on</strong> some of the key issues. Again there is a dearth of informati<strong>on</strong> in regard to outcomes for<br />

women <strong>and</strong> about how processes operate to support effective resp<strong>on</strong>ses to abuse. The<br />

ALRC (2011c) has recommended changes to victims’ compensati<strong>on</strong> legislati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> also<br />

investigati<strong>on</strong> to c<strong>on</strong>sider the ways in which federal family courts c<strong>on</strong>sider family violence in<br />

property proceedings <strong>and</strong> the latter would be a positive step towards clearly identifying how<br />

to develop appropriate interventi<strong>on</strong>s. Property settlements may also be a key mechanism for<br />

addressing ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse involving a woman’s superannuati<strong>on</strong>. The extent of abuse in<br />

relati<strong>on</strong> to self-managed superannuati<strong>on</strong> funds is an issue that could be m<strong>on</strong>itored to<br />


establish if there is a need for resp<strong>on</strong>ses in additi<strong>on</strong> to the changes to ATO guidelines for<br />

self-managed superannuati<strong>on</strong> fund trustees recommended by the ALRC (2011c).<br />

The ALRC (2011c) has recommended some provisi<strong>on</strong>s to make it easier for a woman to<br />

access some of her superannuati<strong>on</strong> funds prior to retirement. While this access may be<br />

extremely helpful to women who need funds at a time of crisis there is a very str<strong>on</strong>g<br />

argument for the development of alternative opti<strong>on</strong>s through the income support system or<br />

some other arrangement. The depleting of women’s superannuati<strong>on</strong> savings may create<br />

disadvantage in the l<strong>on</strong>g term <strong>and</strong> it can be seen as a c<strong>on</strong>tinuati<strong>on</strong> of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse.<br />

C<strong>on</strong>sumer protecti<strong>on</strong> is a crucial area of regulati<strong>on</strong> for women experiencing ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse<br />

because it affects the forms ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse take, women’s ability to stop abuse, their ability<br />

to manage financially <strong>on</strong> leaving a relati<strong>on</strong>ship <strong>and</strong> their opti<strong>on</strong>s for re-establishing financial<br />

security <strong>and</strong> wellbeing. Recent regulatory reform in relati<strong>on</strong> to c<strong>on</strong>sumer credit has not<br />

resulted in effective tightening of regulati<strong>on</strong> making it imperative that women have access to<br />

appropriate financial products so they are not forced to rely <strong>on</strong> high interest products<br />

provided by fringe lenders. C<strong>on</strong>sumer protecti<strong>on</strong> in relati<strong>on</strong> to other products <strong>and</strong> essential<br />

services relies heavily <strong>on</strong> voluntary codes <strong>and</strong> company policies <strong>and</strong> this means there may<br />

be a need for educati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> informati<strong>on</strong> for individual providers to raise awareness <strong>and</strong><br />

underst<strong>and</strong>ing of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse <strong>and</strong> to identify appropriate resp<strong>on</strong>ses.<br />

Recent regulatory reform of the financial advice industry has included measures to increase<br />

the availability of low cost advice. The use of financial advisers by women experiencing<br />

abuse <strong>and</strong> any underst<strong>and</strong>ing within the professi<strong>on</strong> of domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence are<br />

areas about which little is known.<br />


Employment Frameworks, Policies <strong>and</strong> Practices<br />

In c<strong>on</strong>temporary public policy, participati<strong>on</strong> in employment is generally regarded as the<br />

primary means for women to gain ec<strong>on</strong>omic wellbeing while it has also been identified as a<br />

key pathway from domestic violence to ec<strong>on</strong>omic independence <strong>and</strong> self-sufficiency (Barrett<br />

Meyering 2010). Significant gender inequities exist for women when it comes to gaining<br />

ec<strong>on</strong>omic security through employment participati<strong>on</strong>. These include gender pay inequities<br />

<strong>and</strong> women’s over-representati<strong>on</strong> in low-paid <strong>and</strong> insecure employment, both of which are<br />

linked to broader social inequities. Gender segregati<strong>on</strong> in employment also services to<br />

reinforce traditi<strong>on</strong>al gender stereotypes. Reduced lifetime employment including because of<br />

pregnancy, childbirth <strong>and</strong> caring for children or other family members can also have negative<br />

impacts <strong>on</strong> overall financial security through employment <strong>and</strong> result in less accumulated<br />

superannuati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> fewer other savings for retirement (Cassells et al. 2009).<br />

Recent policy developments have seen some positive developments to address some of<br />

these broader gender inequities, including the introducti<strong>on</strong> of paid maternity leave <strong>and</strong> the<br />

success of a nati<strong>on</strong>al gender pay equity case for social <strong>and</strong> community services workers<br />

(Baird, Williams<strong>on</strong> & Her<strong>on</strong> 2012; McCrystal & Smith 2011). However, significant gender pay<br />

inequities c<strong>on</strong>tinue to exist—supported by women’s c<strong>on</strong>centrati<strong>on</strong> in particular occupati<strong>on</strong>s<br />

<strong>and</strong> industries—while problems associated with increased insecurity in employment c<strong>on</strong>tinue<br />

to disproporti<strong>on</strong>ately affect women, including because much part-time employment is casual<br />

employment. Casual employment, which is without paid leave entitlements, makes up a<br />

quarter of all women’s employment (ABS 2011).<br />

In Australia <strong>and</strong> elsewhere there has been some attenti<strong>on</strong> to workplaces as sites for<br />

addressing domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence through primary, sec<strong>on</strong>dary <strong>and</strong> tertiary<br />

interventi<strong>on</strong>s <strong>and</strong> all of these are also direct means of preventing or resp<strong>on</strong>ding to ec<strong>on</strong>omic<br />

abuse. In relati<strong>on</strong> to primary interventi<strong>on</strong>s, as outlined above, c<strong>on</strong>temporary domestic <strong>and</strong><br />

family violence policies specifically identify employment participati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> equality in<br />

employment as preventative measures supporting women’s ec<strong>on</strong>omic independence. Other<br />

areas of public policy which impact <strong>on</strong> women’s workforce participati<strong>on</strong> are childcare,<br />

educati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> training, employment assistance <strong>and</strong> income support, <strong>and</strong> these are also<br />

important tertiary interventi<strong>on</strong>s for women who have experienced domestic <strong>and</strong> family<br />

violence.<br />

Sec<strong>on</strong>dary interventi<strong>on</strong>s prevent discriminati<strong>on</strong> against women who have been subjected to<br />

violence, use the workplace as a site for women to gain access to support <strong>and</strong> informati<strong>on</strong><br />

<strong>and</strong> make workplaces safe <strong>and</strong> supportive for women who have been subjected to domestic<br />

<strong>and</strong> family violence. Relevant regulati<strong>on</strong> in additi<strong>on</strong> to employment regulati<strong>on</strong> includes antidiscriminati<strong>on</strong><br />

<strong>and</strong> workplace health <strong>and</strong> safety, <strong>and</strong> strategies include educati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong><br />

training for employers <strong>and</strong> employees about domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence.<br />

Tertiary interventi<strong>on</strong>s resp<strong>on</strong>d to violence through provisi<strong>on</strong> of assistance <strong>and</strong> employee<br />

entitlements such as paid leave for women who have been subjected to domestic <strong>and</strong> family<br />

violence. In additi<strong>on</strong> to workplace relati<strong>on</strong>s legislati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> industrial instruments (for<br />

example, collective enterprise agreements <strong>and</strong> awards) anti-discriminati<strong>on</strong> legislati<strong>on</strong> is<br />

relevant here. The other significant area of tertiary interventi<strong>on</strong> is the facilitati<strong>on</strong> of<br />

participati<strong>on</strong> in employment by women who have been subjected to domestic <strong>and</strong> family<br />

violence including through individual job search, training <strong>and</strong> other employment assistance.<br />

There is little published research relating to effective resp<strong>on</strong>ses in this area <strong>and</strong> it could be<br />

the focus of further investigati<strong>on</strong>. Past Comm<strong>on</strong>wealth employment programs specifically<br />

targeted to assist sole parents including the Jobs Educati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> Training program are<br />


c<strong>on</strong>sidered by community sector groups to have been positive initiatives for women who are<br />

parents <strong>and</strong> carers (ACOSS 2012).<br />

The discussi<strong>on</strong> that follows c<strong>on</strong>siders some key areas of policy, practice <strong>and</strong> regulati<strong>on</strong><br />

relating to these issues. First it examines areas for regulatory interventi<strong>on</strong> which are<br />

primarily directed to preventing violence through protective workplace measures. It then<br />

goes <strong>on</strong> to examine policies <strong>and</strong> practices relating to employment assistance <strong>and</strong> support,<br />

including for women who have experienced violence. The final secti<strong>on</strong> is a brief<br />

c<strong>on</strong>siderati<strong>on</strong> of some preventative educati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> awareness raising strategies which have<br />

been targeted to workplaces <strong>and</strong> this discussi<strong>on</strong> points to some issues <strong>and</strong> gaps around the<br />

engagement of key stakeholders.<br />

Resp<strong>on</strong>ding to violence <strong>and</strong> regulating for security <strong>and</strong> safety at work<br />

Protective <strong>and</strong> tertiary interventi<strong>on</strong>s for women who have experienced family or domestic<br />

violence include the provisi<strong>on</strong> of paid leave clauses in enterprise agreements which set out<br />

employment c<strong>on</strong>diti<strong>on</strong>s. Over the last couple of years family violence clauses providing leave<br />

provisi<strong>on</strong>s have been included in a number of enterprise agreements, including for public<br />

sectors workers in various states (Domestic Violence Workplace Rights & Entitlements<br />

Project 2011). These arrangements may well be picked up in other industries. A more<br />

comprehensive employment resp<strong>on</strong>se to family violence would be for the inclusi<strong>on</strong> of family<br />

violence in modern awards, which set out the minimum c<strong>on</strong>diti<strong>on</strong>s for most employees in<br />

Australia. However, these awards are currently being reviewed <strong>and</strong> they may not be due for<br />

further systematic review for another four years. The other regulatory frameworks governing<br />

employment are the Fair Work Act <strong>and</strong> the Nati<strong>on</strong>al Employment St<strong>and</strong>ards. Family violence<br />

leave provisi<strong>on</strong>s could be included in the latter while the Fair Work Act could provide for<br />

flexible work arrangements to meet the needs of some<strong>on</strong>e experiencing domestic or family<br />

violence. These types of arrangements have been suggested by the ALRC (2011c) in its<br />

recent review.<br />

Workplace health <strong>and</strong> safety legislati<strong>on</strong> in each state <strong>and</strong> territory set out employers’<br />

obligati<strong>on</strong>s to provide safe <strong>and</strong> healthy workplaces. Recent initiatives promoting workplace<br />

resp<strong>on</strong>ses to violence against women have included guides for the development of<br />

workplace safety plans for individual workers at risk of domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence. These<br />

projects also provide training materials, policy templates, model clauses, <strong>and</strong> guides for<br />

managers <strong>and</strong> supervisors <strong>and</strong> co-workers for resp<strong>on</strong>ding to domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence<br />

VicHealth 2012; ADFVC Safe at Home, Safe at Work, ).<br />

Who’s leading change in workplaces?<br />

There have been a range of resp<strong>on</strong>ses to domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence led by employers<br />

<strong>and</strong> corporate sp<strong>on</strong>sors in Australia. One initiative specifically targeting workplace as sites<br />

for sec<strong>on</strong>dary <strong>and</strong> tertiary interventi<strong>on</strong>s is Australia’s CEO Challenge, a not-for-profit body<br />

which works with the corporate sector <strong>and</strong> domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence services in<br />

Queensl<strong>and</strong> “to create <strong>and</strong> sustain a world free from family violence—where homes <strong>and</strong><br />

workplaces are places of safety <strong>and</strong> care”. This organisati<strong>on</strong> facilitates partnerships between<br />

corporate bodies <strong>and</strong> domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence services to sp<strong>on</strong>sor services <strong>and</strong><br />

programs <strong>and</strong> it also provides workplace educati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> training “to educate employers <strong>and</strong><br />

their staff to recognise <strong>and</strong> deal with violence … <strong>and</strong> (to) educat(e) employers <strong>on</strong> how to<br />

best resp<strong>on</strong>d to an employee who may need help”. (,<br />

viewed 24 June 2012).<br />


Other initiatives that rely <strong>on</strong> engaging employers have been led by federal <strong>and</strong> state<br />

governments with the c<strong>on</strong>sequences that they involve large organisati<strong>on</strong>s <strong>and</strong> the public<br />

sector <strong>and</strong> that small businesses are ‘largely absent’ (Chung, Zufferey & Powell 2012, p. 39;<br />

see also Murray & Powell 2008). Other initiatives with government funding include the White<br />

Ribb<strong>on</strong>’ campaign which targets men’s awareness <strong>and</strong> underst<strong>and</strong>ing of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse<br />

including through working with large corporati<strong>on</strong>s. Other bodies have also targeted<br />

workplaces as sites for acti<strong>on</strong> including for example Women’s Health Victoria which has<br />

developed a guide for community organisati<strong>on</strong>s to provide professi<strong>on</strong>al development<br />

programs to prevent violence against women to businesses (Women’s Health Victoria 2012).<br />

These types of initiatives may have some success targeting smaller employers <strong>and</strong><br />

employer bodies although it is not known if they have d<strong>on</strong>e so.<br />

C<strong>on</strong>clusi<strong>on</strong>: participati<strong>on</strong>, supportive workplaces <strong>and</strong> safety at work<br />

While employment participati<strong>on</strong> is increasingly essential for lifetime ec<strong>on</strong>omic wellbeing<br />

there remain significant gender inequities in opportunities for equitable participati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong><br />

reward from work. These c<strong>on</strong>cerns have been at the centre of some recent policy<br />

developments in Australia <strong>and</strong> are key issues for all women as well as preventative<br />

measures at the societal level in relati<strong>on</strong> to ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse. There are a range of sec<strong>on</strong>dary<br />

<strong>and</strong> tertiary resp<strong>on</strong>ses which can be implemented at the workplace level to ensure women<br />

are safe at work <strong>and</strong> also to support those who experience violence. With federal funding of<br />

the ADFVC Safe at Home, Safe at Work project <strong>and</strong> commitment from the trade uni<strong>on</strong>s<br />

representing large public <strong>and</strong> community sector workforces (often female-dominated) there<br />

appears to be c<strong>on</strong>siderable momentum to implement these types of interventi<strong>on</strong>s. However,<br />

for the achievement of change which includes protecti<strong>on</strong> for women employed in smaller<br />

enterprises there would need to be broader regulatory change through changes to the<br />

Nati<strong>on</strong>al Employment St<strong>and</strong>ards, the Fair Work Act <strong>and</strong>/or to anti-discriminati<strong>on</strong> laws. There<br />

may also be opportunities for educati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> awareness raising targeted to small businesses.<br />

Strategies to assist women gain employment are likely to be critical for those women who<br />

have been outside of the paid workforce for any period of time, including as a result of<br />

ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse.<br />


Community Services Policies <strong>and</strong> Practices<br />

This secti<strong>on</strong> describes some of the key c<strong>on</strong>necti<strong>on</strong>s between the community services sector<br />

<strong>and</strong> ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse. Key services <strong>and</strong> programs relating to ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse are mainly<br />

tertiary interventi<strong>on</strong>s, including some services that are specifically designed to assist<br />

individual women experiencing domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence as well as more general<br />

services such as financial counselling, legal assistance, accommodati<strong>on</strong> assistance, material<br />

aid <strong>and</strong> financial educati<strong>on</strong> programs. Service providers in these areas are also active in<br />

developing <strong>and</strong> providing sec<strong>on</strong>dary interventi<strong>on</strong>s, for example educati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> training for<br />

workers <strong>and</strong> systemic advocacy.<br />

This secti<strong>on</strong> is primarily organised around different sectors of community services providers<br />

<strong>and</strong> c<strong>on</strong>siders the ways in which they relate to ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse. First, however, it draws<br />

attenti<strong>on</strong> to some recent research findings <strong>and</strong> to development work by community sector<br />

organisati<strong>on</strong>s c<strong>on</strong>cerning some possible gaps <strong>and</strong>/or priorities for service resp<strong>on</strong>ses that are<br />

not sector specific or that may require collaborative resp<strong>on</strong>ses.<br />

Recent findings relating to service <strong>and</strong> program gaps<br />

In Braaf <strong>and</strong> Barrett Meyering’s (2011) recent study, workers in a variety of community<br />

services (for example, domestic violence, health service, legal service) identified financial<br />

issues as being raised regularly in their discussi<strong>on</strong>s with clients affected by domestic<br />

violence <strong>and</strong> they observed that financial abuse was very comm<strong>on</strong> am<strong>on</strong>g such clients. This<br />

<strong>and</strong> other studies have also identified the following issues for services:<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

A need for greater acknowledgement of the l<strong>on</strong>g-term impacts of violence <strong>and</strong> the<br />

need for post-crisis support aimed at preventing women returning to violent<br />

relati<strong>on</strong>ships <strong>and</strong> supporting women’s wellbeing in the l<strong>on</strong>ger-term (Desm<strong>on</strong>d 2011;<br />

Evans 2007).<br />

A need for workers supporting women <strong>on</strong> exit from domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence to<br />

provide individual ‘ec<strong>on</strong>omic advocacy’ around women’s debts, savings, assets <strong>and</strong><br />

income as a key strategy to assist women increase their financial security following<br />

domestic violence (Barrett Meyering 2012).<br />

A need for ec<strong>on</strong>omic advocacy at a systemic level, for financial literacy educati<strong>on</strong> as<br />

preventative measures <strong>and</strong> for specialised financial literacy programs from women<br />

affected by violence (Braaf & Barrett Meyering 2011).<br />

A need for training around domestic violence <strong>and</strong> linkages with domestic violence<br />

<strong>and</strong> other services including to raise awareness of the ec<strong>on</strong>omic impacts of domestic<br />

violence <strong>on</strong> women <strong>and</strong> to recognise that abuse may c<strong>on</strong>tinue after separati<strong>on</strong> (Braaf<br />

& Barrett Meyering 2011).<br />

Domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence services<br />

In the United States c<strong>on</strong>text, Christy-McMullin (2011) maintains that domestic violence<br />

services generally focus <strong>on</strong> mental health, parenting skills <strong>and</strong> domestic skills <strong>and</strong> that this<br />

reflects patriarchal society <strong>and</strong> traditi<strong>on</strong>al gender assignments. She argues that emoti<strong>on</strong>al<br />

abuse, ec<strong>on</strong>omic literacy, <strong>and</strong> wealth <strong>and</strong> asset building need to be brought to the fore of<br />

service, policy <strong>and</strong> research practice agendas. This critique does not readily apply to the<br />


Australian c<strong>on</strong>text where a str<strong>on</strong>g feminist philosophical underpinning <strong>and</strong> feminist activism<br />

has driven the establishment of domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence services (Bullen 2009). There<br />

are also c<strong>on</strong>temporary examples of initiatives directed to building ec<strong>on</strong>omic capacity<br />

involving the collaborati<strong>on</strong> of domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence services with other community<br />

services. Further, there is c<strong>on</strong>siderable evidence of assistance <strong>and</strong> individual advocacy<br />

around immediate financial issues provided by domestic violence service workers for their<br />

clients in relati<strong>on</strong> to housing, legal <strong>and</strong> financial issues. For example, all of the small group of<br />

domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence service providers in a recent ADFVC study (Braaf & Barrett<br />

Meyering 2011) reported they provided some form of in-house financial counselling,<br />

although <strong>on</strong>ly <strong>on</strong>e employed a professi<strong>on</strong>al financial counsellor. Notwithst<strong>and</strong>ing this, the<br />

argument has been made by Evans (2007) that there is a need for a greater focus <strong>on</strong> l<strong>on</strong>gterm<br />

security through interventi<strong>on</strong>s that address the impacts of domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence<br />

bey<strong>on</strong>d those relating to immediate crisis <strong>and</strong> recovery.<br />

Barrett Meyering (2012, p. 1) has argued for ‘ec<strong>on</strong>omic advocacy’ for women <strong>and</strong> children<br />

experiencing domestic violence <strong>and</strong> suggested that the domestic violence sector’s capacity<br />

in this area can be further strengthened by “incorporating ec<strong>on</strong>omic advocacy into the ‘core<br />

business’ of services; pursuing greater collaborati<strong>on</strong> with the financial counselling sector;<br />

<strong>and</strong> by better resourcing by funding bodies for this work”.<br />

Housing <strong>and</strong> accommodati<strong>on</strong> sector<br />

There is a diverse range of community sector providers of crisis <strong>and</strong> refuge accommodati<strong>on</strong><br />

although there is also a severe shortage of crisis accommodati<strong>on</strong> (AIHW 2011). There are<br />

also a variety of accommodati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> other services that work to assist women with l<strong>on</strong>gerterm<br />

accommodati<strong>on</strong> including private rental housing. A scan of published research<br />

suggests there has been a lot of activity around the development of models of housing<br />

assistance for women escaping domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence in recent years, including a<br />

focus <strong>on</strong> l<strong>on</strong>ger-term housing opti<strong>on</strong>s, possibly following directi<strong>on</strong>s identified in the Nati<strong>on</strong>al<br />

Partnership Agreement. Two examples are outlined here to indicate the diversity of initiatives<br />

<strong>and</strong> of partnerships.<br />

Harris, Johns<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> Bailey (2008) have documented some ‘best practice’ models including a<br />

Family Violence Private Rental Access Program run by the Salvati<strong>on</strong> Army <strong>and</strong><br />

HomeGround Services in Victoria. The program assists women who have experienced<br />

family violence to access <strong>and</strong>/or retain private rental. The service model includes assistance<br />

to secure rental housing, brokerage funds to provide a time limited rental subsidy, housing<br />

related practical informati<strong>on</strong>, referral <strong>and</strong> establishment assistance <strong>and</strong> regular <strong>on</strong>-going<br />

c<strong>on</strong>tact <strong>and</strong> housing related assistance for the durati<strong>on</strong> of the brokerage period <strong>and</strong> liais<strong>on</strong><br />

<strong>and</strong>/or partnerships with l<strong>and</strong>lords, family violence support services, <strong>and</strong> other community<br />

based resources <strong>and</strong> organisati<strong>on</strong>s including police <strong>and</strong> courts.<br />

Another program, the BSafe pilot program was a partnership between Victoria Police <strong>and</strong> the<br />

Women’s Health Goulburn North East which assisted women to stay in their homes by<br />

providing them with pers<strong>on</strong>al alarm systems (Taylor & Mackay 2011).<br />

Financial counselling sector<br />

Financial counselling services can assist women to sort out immediate financial problems<br />

resulting from ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse <strong>and</strong> other domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence while they potentially<br />

also have an important role in addressing women’s disempowerment through supporting<br />

their attainment of financial stability in the l<strong>on</strong>ger term.<br />


Financial counselling services are located in a diverse range of community services<br />

organisati<strong>on</strong>s. Given this it is likely that c<strong>on</strong>siderable diversity exists in relati<strong>on</strong> to financial<br />

counsellors’ awareness <strong>and</strong> underst<strong>and</strong>ing of domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence issues. While the<br />

sector is moving toward formal professi<strong>on</strong>alisati<strong>on</strong> with the introducti<strong>on</strong> of certificati<strong>on</strong> for<br />

financial counsellors, historically this has not been the case <strong>and</strong> there is no doubt<br />

c<strong>on</strong>siderable diversity in areas of expertise reflecting organisati<strong>on</strong>al locati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> other<br />

factors. There is little published research literature c<strong>on</strong>cerning financial counselling services<br />

<strong>and</strong> practices in relati<strong>on</strong> to people experiencing domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence including<br />

ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse. The recent qualitative study by Braaf <strong>and</strong> Barrett Meyering (2011) cited<br />

some dissatisfacti<strong>on</strong> <strong>on</strong> the part of specialist domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence service workers<br />

<strong>and</strong> women with approaches taken by financial counsellors but it is not apparent from this<br />

study that these are systemic issues or reflect a good underst<strong>and</strong>ing of service provisi<strong>on</strong> by<br />

financial counsellors. However Braaf <strong>and</strong> Barrett Meyering’s findings do suggest there may<br />

be a need for better linkages <strong>and</strong> exchange between domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence services<br />

<strong>and</strong> financial counselling sectors.<br />

Community service provisi<strong>on</strong> of finance programs<br />

In Australia a diverse range of community services organisati<strong>on</strong>s provide multiple services<br />

including material aid <strong>and</strong> financial assistance while they may also employ financial<br />

counsellors. Some providers of varied services to people <strong>on</strong> low incomes have expertise <strong>and</strong><br />

experience in providing financial educati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> may also provide a range of financial<br />

products <strong>and</strong> services.<br />

A scan of web-based references to ec<strong>on</strong>omic <strong>and</strong> financial abuse identified a number of<br />

recent community sector initiatives in Australia which specifically resp<strong>on</strong>d to ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse<br />

issues. Most of these are small or time-limited pilot programs. An excepti<strong>on</strong> is the provisi<strong>on</strong><br />

of microfinance targeted specifically to women who have experienced domestic or family<br />

violence. However there are a broader range of general services <strong>and</strong> programs designed to<br />

build financial capacity for people <strong>on</strong> low incomes provided by community services<br />

organisati<strong>on</strong>s, including microfinance <strong>and</strong> financial literacy programs.<br />

Microfinance initiatives<br />

Microfinance initiatives, al<strong>on</strong>g with financial educati<strong>on</strong>, are program resp<strong>on</strong>ses which directly<br />

address issues of women’s financial stability <strong>and</strong> subjective financial wellbeing. Programs<br />

<strong>and</strong> services such as no interest <strong>and</strong> low interest loans can meet immediate needs to<br />

replace household items while giving women some c<strong>on</strong>trol over their finances <strong>and</strong> increasing<br />

ability to gain ec<strong>on</strong>omic independence (Correia 2000; Corrie 2011; L<strong>and</strong>vogt 2011). Other<br />

microfinance programs are matched savings accounts through which women can build<br />

assets. In Australia there are a small number of such programs operating within the<br />

community sector specifically targeted to women who have experienced domestic <strong>and</strong> family<br />

violence supported by banks including the Nati<strong>on</strong>al Australia Bank <strong>and</strong> ANZ Bank <strong>and</strong> the<br />

Australian Government. Good Shepherd Youth & Family Service, Kild<strong>on</strong>an UnitingCare <strong>and</strong><br />

other agencies provide these services. 14<br />

14 The Good Shepherd Youth & Family Service microfinance program is now provided through Good<br />

Shepherd Microfinance, see ). For Kild<strong>on</strong>an<br />

UnitingCare see .<br />


Financial educati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> asset building<br />

The range of community services organisati<strong>on</strong>s that have offered financial educati<strong>on</strong><br />

programs is much broader <strong>and</strong> includes organisati<strong>on</strong>s such as neighbourhood houses <strong>and</strong><br />

learning centres, CALD community organisati<strong>on</strong>s <strong>and</strong> women’s health services. There are a<br />

variety of mainstream programs for people <strong>on</strong> low incomes, with the largest of these the<br />

‘M<strong>on</strong>eyMinded’ program supported by the ANZ Bank <strong>and</strong> provided by a large number of<br />

community organisati<strong>on</strong>s across Australia (Russell, Bailey & Wall 2010). Recent initiatives<br />

targeted to women include Good Shepherd Youth & Family Services’ acti<strong>on</strong> research project<br />

<strong>on</strong> women <strong>and</strong> financial capability (L<strong>and</strong>vogt 2008) which produced a DVD <strong>and</strong> guide for a<br />

community educati<strong>on</strong> model for financial educati<strong>on</strong> (Good Shepherd Youth & Family Service<br />

2008).<br />

There have been a number of programs specifically targeting women who have experienced<br />

domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence. In 2012 in Victoria the Women’s Informati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> Referral<br />

Exchange (WIRE) is running workshops for women <strong>and</strong> training for domestic <strong>and</strong> family<br />

violence workers <strong>and</strong> the ‘Tools for Change: Women <strong>and</strong> financial capability project’<br />

developed by Women’s Health Goulburn North East (WHGNE) is providing training for<br />

mentors to support women who have experienced violence (WHGNE 2012, viewed 19<br />

August, http://www.whealth.com.au/work_tools_for_change.html; WIRE 2012, viewed 13<br />

June 2012, http://www.wire.org.au/). Similar initiatives are apparent in other states; for<br />

example, in South Australia financial literacy training for women who have experienced<br />

violence is currently being provided through Uniting Communities Adelaide East <strong>and</strong> in New<br />

South Wales the Domestic Violence Support, Western Sydney Service began providing<br />

these types of programs in 2011 (for the Uniting Communities Adelaide East program see<br />

, for Domestic Violence<br />

Support, Western Sydney Service, see , viewed 19 August 2012).<br />

While the immediate requirements of women leaving ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse may be quite different<br />

from other women—as they include the separati<strong>on</strong> of finances from ex-partners <strong>and</strong> the<br />

establishment of independent finances—there is a need for research to identify whether<br />

there are benefits in specifically targeted programs for women leaving domestic violence.<br />

While there is clearly a need for informati<strong>on</strong> there are examples of booklets that have been<br />

developed which include lists of documents women should take <strong>and</strong> the range of possible<br />

matters they need to deal with. For example, WIRE has an informati<strong>on</strong> sheet <strong>on</strong> legal,<br />

financial <strong>and</strong> housing issues <strong>and</strong> another <strong>on</strong> property issues for women leaving relati<strong>on</strong>ships<br />

(see WIRE at , viewed 19 June 2012).<br />

Community legal services<br />

There are a number of specialised, mainly government-funded, legal centres based in major<br />

cities that focus <strong>on</strong> c<strong>on</strong>sumer issues <strong>and</strong> also provide financial counselling. They may also<br />

offer teleph<strong>on</strong>e advice services. For example, in New South Wales there is the C<strong>on</strong>sumer<br />

Credit Legal Centre NSW (see ) <strong>and</strong>, in Victoria, the C<strong>on</strong>sumer<br />

Acti<strong>on</strong> Law Centre (). The C<strong>on</strong>sumer Acti<strong>on</strong> Law Centre<br />

runs the M<strong>on</strong>eyHelp service which offers an internet-based financial informati<strong>on</strong> service <strong>and</strong><br />

a teleph<strong>on</strong>e advice line targeted to people experiencing financial difficulty.<br />

Generalist community legal centres deal with both family violence <strong>and</strong> c<strong>on</strong>sumer debt <strong>and</strong><br />

other financial issues so it is possible that there is a str<strong>on</strong>g awareness of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse in<br />

this sector as these services may be a first port of call for women leaving domestic violence.<br />

Notably, an early Australian research report <strong>on</strong> ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse (Branigan 2004) was<br />

undertaken by a community legal <strong>and</strong> financial counselling service.<br />


C<strong>on</strong>clusi<strong>on</strong>: Community services resp<strong>on</strong>ses to ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse<br />

Key services <strong>and</strong> programs relating to ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse include domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence<br />

<strong>and</strong> general services such as financial counselling, legal assistance, accommodati<strong>on</strong><br />

assistance, material aid <strong>and</strong> financial educati<strong>on</strong> programs. Identified gaps in community<br />

sector resp<strong>on</strong>ses to ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse <strong>and</strong> assistance for women to gain ec<strong>on</strong>omic security<br />

following abuse include post-crisis services <strong>and</strong> services which address issues relating to<br />

the l<strong>on</strong>g-term impacts of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse <strong>and</strong> domestic violence. Some recent initiatives in<br />

the housing <strong>and</strong> accommodati<strong>on</strong> sector do address l<strong>on</strong>ger term issues by supporting women<br />

to gain <strong>and</strong> remain in rental housing <strong>and</strong> to remain safely in their homes following violence.<br />

Research has also identified a need for greater support <strong>and</strong> individual advocacy for women<br />

around financial issues following domestic violence <strong>and</strong>, in relati<strong>on</strong> to this, there appears to<br />

be a need for training, informati<strong>on</strong> exchange <strong>and</strong> collaborati<strong>on</strong> between different services—<br />

including between financial counselling <strong>and</strong> domestic violence services. At the same time<br />

there is a c<strong>on</strong>siderable lack of knowledge about levels of underst<strong>and</strong>ing of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse<br />

<strong>and</strong> resp<strong>on</strong>ses to it in different community service sectors. This is also the case in regard to<br />

how collaborati<strong>on</strong>s may be occurring between individual workers or services in different<br />

sectors <strong>and</strong> about models of co-locati<strong>on</strong> of services or of holistic case management which<br />

might be providing effective resp<strong>on</strong>ses.<br />

There have been a variety of community sector resp<strong>on</strong>ses which have provided financial<br />

literacy educati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> financial capability building as both preventative measures <strong>and</strong> for<br />

women who have experienced violence. While microfinance initiatives are now offered <strong>on</strong> an<br />

extensive basis with some programs specifically designed for women who have experienced<br />

domestic violence, other initiatives in this area have been <strong>on</strong> a small scale. There is a need<br />

for a better underst<strong>and</strong>ing of the appropriate c<strong>on</strong>texts for providing financial literacy<br />

educati<strong>on</strong> to women experiencing ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse including the potential for ‘mainstream’<br />

community-based educati<strong>on</strong> programs to fill this role.<br />


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Appendices<br />

APPENDIX A: Key policy details<br />

Excerpts from: The nati<strong>on</strong>al plan to reduce violence against women <strong>and</strong> their<br />

children, 2010-2022 (COAG, 2010)<br />

The visi<strong>on</strong> of the Nati<strong>on</strong>al Plan is that ’Australian women <strong>and</strong> their children live free from<br />

violence in safe communities.’<br />

To measure the success of this visi<strong>on</strong>, governments have set a target for 'a significant <strong>and</strong><br />

sustained reducti<strong>on</strong> in violence against women <strong>and</strong> their children,' during the 12 years from<br />

2010 to 2022.<br />

To know whether this target is being achieved, the following four high‐level indicators of<br />

change will be used to show progress:<br />

Reduced prevalence of domestic violence <strong>and</strong> sexual assault.<br />

Increased proporti<strong>on</strong> of women who feel safe in their communities.<br />

Reduced deaths related to domestic violence <strong>and</strong> sexual assault.<br />

Reduced proporti<strong>on</strong> of children exposed to their mother’s or carer’s experience of<br />

domestic violence.<br />

The Nati<strong>on</strong>al Plan includes six nati<strong>on</strong>al outcomes (measures of success in brackets):<br />

Communities are safe <strong>and</strong> free from violence* (success will be measured by an<br />

increase in the community’s intolerance of violence against women) [*includes<br />

strategy ‘Advance gender equality’].<br />

Relati<strong>on</strong>ships are respectful (success will be measured by improved knowledge of,<br />

<br />

<strong>and</strong> the skills <strong>and</strong> behaviour for, respectful relati<strong>on</strong>ships by young people).<br />

Indigenous communities are strengthened (success will be measured by reducti<strong>on</strong> in<br />

the proporti<strong>on</strong> of Indigenous women who c<strong>on</strong>sider that family violence, assault <strong>and</strong><br />

sexual assault are problems for their communities <strong>and</strong> neighbourhoods; <strong>and</strong> increase<br />

in the proporti<strong>on</strong> of Indigenous women who are able to have their say within their<br />

communities <strong>on</strong> important issues, including violence).<br />

Services meet the needs of women <strong>and</strong> their children experiencing violence<br />

(Success will be measured by an increase in the access to, <strong>and</strong> resp<strong>on</strong>siveness of,<br />

services for victims of domestic <strong>and</strong> family violence <strong>and</strong> sexual assault)<br />

<br />

<br />

Justice resp<strong>on</strong>ses are effective. (Success will be measured by an increase in the rate<br />

of women reporting domestic violence <strong>and</strong> sexual assault)<br />

Perpetrators stop their violence <strong>and</strong> are held to account (Success will be measured<br />

by a decrease in repeated partner victimisati<strong>on</strong>).<br />


ALRC (2011c) recommendati<strong>on</strong>s for changes to Child Support Agency practices to<br />

address family violence<br />

12—1 The Child Support Guide should provide that the Child Support Agency should identify<br />

family violence-related safety c<strong>on</strong>cerns through screening, ‘risk identificati<strong>on</strong>’ or other<br />

methods, when a payee:<br />

(a) requests or elects to end a child support assessment; or<br />

(b) elects to end Child Support Agency collecti<strong>on</strong> of child support <strong>and</strong>/or arrears.<br />

12—2 The Child Support Guide should provide that the Child Support Agency should refer a<br />

payee who has disclosed family violence, including a payee who receives no, or no more<br />

than, the base rate of Family Tax Benefit Part A, to a Centrelink social worker or expert<br />

service provider when he or she:<br />

(a) requests or elects to end a child support assessment;<br />

(b) elects to end Child Support Agency collecti<strong>on</strong> of child support; or<br />

(c) requests that the Child Support Agency terminate, or not commence, enforcement<br />

acti<strong>on</strong> or departure prohibiti<strong>on</strong> orders.<br />

12—3 The Child Support Guide should provide that the Child Support Agency should c<strong>on</strong>tact<br />

a customer to identify family violence-related safety c<strong>on</strong>cerns through screening, ‘risk<br />

identificati<strong>on</strong>’ or other methods, prior to initiating significant acti<strong>on</strong> against the other party,<br />

including:<br />

(a) change of assessments (‘departure determinati<strong>on</strong>s’ under the Child Support<br />

(Assessment) Act 1989 (Cth));<br />

(b) court acti<strong>on</strong>s to recover child support debt; <strong>and</strong><br />

(c) departure prohibiti<strong>on</strong> orders.<br />

12—4 The Child Support Guide should provide that, where a customer has disclosed family<br />

violence, the Child Support Agency should c<strong>on</strong>sult with the customer regarding his or her<br />

safety c<strong>on</strong>cerns, prior to initiating significant acti<strong>on</strong> against the other party, including:<br />

(a) change of assessments (‘departure determinati<strong>on</strong>s’ under the Child Support<br />

(Assessment) Act 1989 (Cth));<br />

(b) court acti<strong>on</strong>s to recover child support debt; <strong>and</strong> 20 Family Violence <strong>and</strong><br />

Comm<strong>on</strong>wealth Laws—Improving Legal Frameworks<br />

(c) departure prohibiti<strong>on</strong> orders.<br />

12—5 The Child Support Guide should provide that the Child Support Agency should identify<br />

family violence-related safety c<strong>on</strong>cerns through screening, ‘risk identificati<strong>on</strong>’ or other<br />

methods, prior to requiring a payee to collect privately pursuant to s 38B of the Child Support<br />

(Registrati<strong>on</strong> <strong>and</strong> Collecti<strong>on</strong>) Act 1988 (Cth).<br />


APPENDIX B: Ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse in the Victorian Family Violence Protecti<strong>on</strong> Act 2008<br />

Secti<strong>on</strong> 6 of the Family Violence Protecti<strong>on</strong> Act 2008 (Vic) provides the following meaning of<br />

ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse<br />

6. Meaning of ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse<br />

For the purposes of this Act, ec<strong>on</strong>omic abuse is behaviour by a pers<strong>on</strong> (the first pers<strong>on</strong>)<br />

that is coercive, deceptive or unreas<strong>on</strong>ably c<strong>on</strong>trols another pers<strong>on</strong> (the sec<strong>on</strong>d pers<strong>on</strong>),<br />

without the sec<strong>on</strong>d pers<strong>on</strong>'s c<strong>on</strong>sent—<br />

(a) in a way that denies the sec<strong>on</strong>d pers<strong>on</strong> the ec<strong>on</strong>omic or financial aut<strong>on</strong>omy the<br />

sec<strong>on</strong>d pers<strong>on</strong> would have had but for that behaviour; or<br />

(b) by withholding or threatening to withhold the financial support necessary for<br />

meeting the reas<strong>on</strong>able living expenses of the sec<strong>on</strong>d pers<strong>on</strong> or the sec<strong>on</strong>d pers<strong>on</strong>'s<br />

child, if the sec<strong>on</strong>d pers<strong>on</strong> is entirely or predominantly dependent <strong>on</strong> the first pers<strong>on</strong><br />

for financial support to meet those living expenses.<br />

Examples—<br />

coercing a pers<strong>on</strong> to relinquish c<strong>on</strong>trol over assets <strong>and</strong> income;<br />

removing or keeping a family member's property without permissi<strong>on</strong>, or<br />

threatening to do so;<br />

disposing of property owned by a pers<strong>on</strong>, or owned jointly with a pers<strong>on</strong>, against<br />

the pers<strong>on</strong>'s wishes <strong>and</strong> without lawful excuse;<br />

without lawful excuse, preventing a pers<strong>on</strong> from having access to joint financial<br />

assets for the purposes of meeting normal household expenses;<br />

preventing a pers<strong>on</strong> from seeking or keeping employment;<br />

coercing a pers<strong>on</strong> to claim social security payments;<br />

coercing a pers<strong>on</strong> to sign a power of attorney that would enable the pers<strong>on</strong>'s<br />

finances to be managed by another pers<strong>on</strong>;<br />

coercing a pers<strong>on</strong> to sign a c<strong>on</strong>tract for the purchase of goods or services;<br />

coercing a pers<strong>on</strong> to sign a c<strong>on</strong>tract for the provisi<strong>on</strong> of finance, a loan or credit;<br />

coercing a pers<strong>on</strong> to sign a c<strong>on</strong>tract of guarantee;<br />

coercing a pers<strong>on</strong> to sign any legal document for the establishment or operati<strong>on</strong><br />

of a business.<br />


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