The Choice: Violence or Poverty

11 Jul 2022

Domestic Violence is a key driver of homelessness for women, with many women forced to live in poverty when they leave a violent relationship. A new report by Anne Summers AO PhD, A report into domestic violence and its consequences in Australia today, provides disturbing information about the untenable choices women face in a violent relationship: Stay in a violent relationship or leave and live in poverty.

In 2016,

  • 275,000 Australian women had suffered physical and/or sexual violence from a current partner.  90,000 women wanted to leave, however they felt unable to do so, with a quarter of them saying the main reason was lack of money or financial support.
  • A further 82,000 temporarily separated but returned again. Fifteen per cent of them said that  they had no money or nowhere to go.
  • An estimated 185,700 women who had experienced violence by a previous partner were living as single mothers with children under 18 years of age.
    • 75% left behind property or assets
    • 60% were working, however their earnings were insufficient to support themselves and their children and they experienced considerable financial stress
    • 50% relied on government benefits as their main source of income
  • Single mothers relying on the Parenting Payment are forced to go onto JobSeeker when their youngest child turns 8. JobSeeker is the second lowest unemployment benefit in the OECD, after Greece.

In the recommendations, Anne argues that

  • the Parenting Payment must be available to all single parents until their child is 16 years or leaves high school
  • the Parenting Payment must be raised to match the age pension rate (currently 66% of the pension)

“Government policy, through the current National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children 2010–2022,8 is ostensibly to encourage and support women to leave violent relationships. But government policy, through payments policy and other welfare measures, ensures that as many as half the women who choose to leave will end up in poverty. These two arms of government policy are in direct conflict with each other when it comes to tackling domestic violence. The government may not be able to immediately stop domestic violence, but it could stop poverty. It chooses not to.”

The full report can be accessed here.

This report was produced during a Paul Ramsay Foundation Fellowship undertaken while Dr Anne Summers was in residence as Professor at UTS TD School.

Summers, A. (2022). The Choice: Violence or Poverty. University of Technology Sydney.