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Senator Waters asks about DV funding

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Larissa Waters 4 Jun 2015

Senator WATERS: When the government announced on 17 May that there would be $4 million in extra funding for the 1800RESPECT phone line, was that new money or does that comeout of the existing $100 million that had been allocated under the national action plan?

Ms McKenzie: That was in addition to the money normally provided for the plan.

Senator WATERS: We know that 18,000-odd calls went unanswered to the 1800RESPECT line in 2014. Was there a calculation done in setting that $4 million additional funding injection that related to how many phone calls could then be answered?

Ms McKenzie: It is not quite as simple as that, as a simple calculation. One of the things we noticed right from the beginning with 1800RESPECT was that a lot of women—assume they are women—ring and then do not go through with the call. So the number of calls that commence, where somebody makes the call but then hangs up, has been very large right from the very beginning. It takes a lot of guts for women to ring up. They can quite often be about to make a phone call and they can be interrupted by either their children or perhaps their violent partner. So there are a lot of reasons why the calls may not carry through. We have been keeping an eye on that. What we have also been keeping an eye on is the number of calls that are taken by 1800RESPECT. They have been going up. Right the way through, we have been watching this. In 2013 we provided an additional $800,000 to 1800RESPECT to answer some more calls.

Senator WATERS: Ms McKenzie, I am sorry to interrupt, but my time is really tight. My question was about unanswered calls, not about incomplete calls or the increase in demand. With the extra funding, have you projected whether 1800RESPECT will now be able to answer all calls made or not?

Ms McKenzie: We project that it will be able to answer a certain number of calls, but we cannot guarantee that the number of unanswered calls, if women hang up, are going to be answered. There will always be a number of calls which will not be responded to.

Senator WATERS: With the number of calls that you have projected with the additional funds that you will now be able to answer, how many is that?

Ms McKenzie: 55,000.

Senator WATERS: How many of the 18,000 unanswered calls does that reduce by?

Ms McKenzie: As I said, we do not know how many of that 18,000 are women who have called and then decided to hang up themselves or women who have called and have not been able to get a response within a period of time—

Senator WATERS: Do you not distinguish between calls that are not picked up and calls that are incomplete?

Ms McKenzie: When a woman rings 1800RESPECT the first thing that she gets is a privacy call that says that this call could be monitored. Then there is an opportunity for her to be able to leave a message after two minutes for somebody to ring her back. Many women take that opportunity.

Senator WATERS: Do you categorise that as an unanswered call?

Ms McKenzie: If the woman breaks off at that time, yes.

Senator WATERS: So the 18,000 includes calls that are not able to be returned?

Ms McKenzie: Yes, that is my understanding.

Senator WATERS: Given that I am running out of time, could you please take on notice giving me as much information about the estimates of calls that, with the additional funding, you will now be able to attend to as opposed to the ones that you have not been able to attend to without the extra funds? Can you answer whether you have built in an expected increase in demand, given the increasing levels of awareness about domestic and family violence in the community? Perhaps take that on notice for me. Also I would like a full breakdown of all of the spending allocated so far of that $100 million over the four years.

Ms McKenzie: Yes.

Senator WATERS: Thank you. I now have some questions that I am not sure will belong with you about respectful relationships funding in schools. There was a discretionary DSS grants program that, unfortunately, was discontinued in the budget. I am interested in whether that was the only one or whether there are other respectful relationships programs that have also been defunded.

Ms McKenzie: This has been raised and discussed a number of times at estimates. The respectful relationships project that we funded out of the $100 million was projects that were funded as one-off projects for up to three years. They were the ones that were part of the evaluation of the Respectful Relationships program.

Senator WATERS: I think that is different to the discretionary grants program that DSS have cut. It is the REALskills program. Ms Bennett, that might be a question more for you. Thank you, though, Ms McKenzie.

Ms Bennett: There are others that are coming to the table to answer this question.

Senator WATERS: Thank you. I am aware there was that one respectful relationships program that has lost its funding. Are there others as well?

Ms Creech: I understand the service that you are speaking about was formally funded under the Communities for Children Direct program. It would have applied, I suspect, under the new Children and Parenting Support program. It is a broadbanded activity that would have a full range of different children around parenting services under there. We would need to have a look at the services applied to deliver similar kinds of activities.

Senator WATERS: Do I understand that to mean you cannot tell me now what other programs have been defunded? Is that what you are saying?

Ms Creech: This is an activity that brought together a number of former programs. There would have been Communities for Children Direct, MyTime for carers and grandparents, Specialised Family Violence, Kids in Focus—and they all had a broad-ranged focus of their activities.

Senator WATERS: You are not sure which of those have remained funded and which have not remained funded?

Ms Creech: We can give you some—

Senator WATERS: Thank you for the broader context. I am interested in respectful relationships programs that were funded under your department. Which of those have now lost their funding?

Ms Creech: Respectful relationships may not have been a program in its own right. It may have been a particular service delivering a particular program, its respectful relationships program. We would need to go back and have a look at whether there were other providers who were delivering a similar program prior to this broadbanding activity.

Senator WATERS: All I am trying to get at is which ones have lost funding. If something has replaced it, great; I would love to hear about that too.

Ms Creech: Sure.

Senator WATERS: Thank you. One final question: I am interested in the engagement that your department has, if any, with the department of education and the national curriculum authority about embedding respectful relationships in schools.

Ms Bennett: We are working across government on where different portfolios make a contribution to this. You would have to put that question to the department of education about where it is sitting at the moment in current discussions about curriculum and those issues.

Senator WATERS: I am asking you about your engagement with that department.

Ms Bennett: We said we do talk to them.

Senator WATERS: You talk to them. Is there any formalised process or is it ad hoc?

Ms Bennett: I think it comes up when issues are raised.

Senator WATERS: So it is ad hoc in response to a request from them?

Ms Bennett: Yes.

Senator WATERS: Thanks very much.

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