Westpac and Comm Bank can financially assist victims of family violence – by Genevieve Smit

In 2010, the Federal Government developed a national plan to reduce family violence against women and their children for 2010 to 2022. 

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, are there any practical steps you can take to secure your financial position?

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 who can help assess their needs and ensure their safety, as well as 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.

Links to the Westpac and Commonwealth Bank programs are provided below.

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).

Established in 2000, O’Sullivan Davies Lawyers is a specialist family law practice and every year since 2012 has been named as a First Tier Family Law Firm by Doyle’s Guide.

Domestic & Family Violence Assistance Program – Commonwealth Bank
Domestic and family violence support – Westpac