Why is the government lying to Rosie Batty?

by Jenna Price - 26/03/15, 1:17 AM
Rosie Batty.

Rosie Batty.

Rosie Batty now knows first hand that the federal government is deceiving Australians about domestic violence.

The Australian Of the Year says she has been told repeatedly by both the Prime Minister and the Minister assisting him, Michaelia Cash, that there are no front line domestic violence services being cut.

But she has just returned from Mildura and seen with her own eyes that the one full-time lawyer specialising in intervention orders and family violence will finish work on June 30.

PM Tony Abbott with Rosie Batty.
PM Tony Abbott with Rosie Batty.

"I've been told repeatedly there are no front line services being cut. This is my first journey into the country and that tells me different."

She has a list of many more.

In Victoria alone, 13 community legal centres will have to cut legal services. Just one, Yarra Ranges CLC, was saved from the deep cuts – the result of the local MP Tony Smith personally advocating to the Attorney-General George Brandis.

"I stood next to the federal member who represents Mildura [Andrew Broad] and I wonder what he has done to advocate for his town," she said.

These cuts are being played out all over Australia. If only Rosie Batty could take the Prime Minister with her to see what's happening in these centres.

Those working in community legal centres and on the front line of domestic violence work in NSW were forced to hold a crisis meeting in Sydney on Tuesday. Liana Buchanan, executive office of the Federation of Community Legal Centres Victoria, who ran the meeting, said she heard first hand of the huge cuts to domestic violence legal work and the impact it will have on regional communities.

"Women will not be able to get help to escape domestic violence because centres won't be able to provide intervention order support.

"Women will have to face court and their abusers on their own," she said.

Tracey Willow, the CEO of Far West Community Legal Centre (FWCLC), flew to and from Broken Hill in one day to get to the meeting. She says it's a last ditch effort to save the jobs of those who save lives. She too could show the Prime Minister front line workers losing their jobs – half of those who work in FWCLC will go.

On Monday alone, her centre dealt with the terrifying case of a woman whose mentally ill husband had abducted their daughter. There are no family violence orders in place and the mother is completely distraught, begging for help.

Michelle Kable, the program coordinator of Forbes Family Violence Prevention Legal Service, says her team regularly works a 10 to 12 hour day dealing with the chaos of domestic violence. Her service's funding has only been renewed for 12 months – just long enough to get to next year. Very few of the Family Violence Prevention Legal Services across Australia have been funded for anything longer than 12 months.

Only the very sceptical would imagine that the federal government thinks we might stop worrying about domestic violence after Batty's term as Australian of the Year expires.

Angela Pollard, the manager of Northern Rivers Community Legal Centre, said: "The cuts will see hundreds of people miss out on free legal advice. These people have already reached crisis point, many of them are Aboriginal, have disabilities and are women and children escaping domestic violence."

This year in Australia, 24 women have died in violent circumstances. Just going through the list of those names is chilling. In so many cases, those charged were known to the victim. Now, the only protection offered to the lives of women all over Australia is being shattered.

And it's being broken by the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General. The cuts to community legal centres and family violence prevention legal services will cut deep and cut soon. From July 1, terrified women all over Australia will be turned back from legal centres, no lawyers to help.

Here's what the Federal Attorney-General's spokesperson said when asked about the cuts. It's the same response trotted out by the members of this government when asked to explain the slashed funding: "The Australian Government is committed to protecting the most vulnerable members of our community, including victims of domestic violence.

"Over the next four years, the Australian Government will provide $1.3 billion to support front‑line legal services to vulnerable people. "

But here's the truth. This government has spent millions of dollars on the Trade Union Royal Commission; on the pink batts Royal Commission. It spent $688 million on its own legal services in 2013 to 2014.

In two years time, community legal centres will receive funding of just $32 million, only three quarters of the money they receive now, just over $44 million.

And this government can't find just $10 million to fight the terror that victims of domestic violence experience every single day.

Follow me on Twitter @jennaprice or email me at

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