Financial assistance for victims of family violence

1 April 2020

By Genevieve Smit

In 2011, the Federal Government released a national plan to reduce family violence against women and their children for 2010 to 2022. The announcement in relation to the 4th National Plan (2019 – 2022) can be found here.

The package includes funding to develop a range of prevention measures to stop domestic and family violence and sexual assault, and continue to change the attitudes and beliefs that can lead to violence. The package will also fund targeted prevention initiatives to reach Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, culturally and linguistically diverse communities and people with disability.

While some progress has been made as a result of that national plan, one of the less talked about aspects of family violence – unreasonably withholding financial support needed to meet the reasonable living expenses of a family member or a child of the family member at a time when the member is entirely or predominately dependent on the person for financial support – is harder to address.

Although there are applications which can be made in the Family Court to assist you in accessing finances, there may be other practical steps you can take to secure your financial position.

Bank assistance

Big banks such as Westpac and Commonwealth Bank are now coming alongside victims of family violence to assist them in managing their financial situations.

For example, Commonwealth Bank’s “Domestic & Family Violence Assistance Program” provides applicants with access to external specialist trauma counsellors. These counsellors can help assess their needs and ensure their safety. They also provide ongoing specialised financial assistance if the applicant is experiencing financial hardship as a result of their situation.  Successful applicants are able to access financial support that is designed to provide them with short term practical assistance.

Another family violence program administered by Westpac states that it can help applicants review their banking needs and

“…give you time and space, for example, varying loan repayments and/or extended terms for short term financial relief until you able to discuss your longer term plans”.

Westpac also specifically lists that it is able to help people remove or change online banking access in circumstances where access to bank accounts could cause a risk to someone’s personal safety.

We’re Here to Help

Family law matters can be difficult and complex. If you require any assistance with a family law dispute, always contact a legal practitioner who will be able to help.

If you are experiencing family violence in any form, including financial control, contact Genevieve Smit of O’Sullivan Davies for further advice as to additional options that may be available to you (including, where necessary, applications to be made to the Family Court).

Disclaimer

This article is not legal advice and the views and comments are of a general nature only. This article is not to be relied upon in substitution for detailed legal advice.

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