Women and children who escape tumultuous homes in a part of Australia with the highest rate of domestic violence may not get the help they need after this month’s ruling to raise the minimum wage by at least $ 40 a week.
- The number of domestic violence in the NT is growing, according to NTCOSS
- DV services are already stretched and struggling to deliver critical services
- The current financing agreements expire next year and need to be revised
The Fair Work Commission decision sets the salary at at least 2.7 million Australians to keep pace with the recent inflation rises, but in the DV sector this means that already tight budgets will be further stretched.
Susan Crane, CEO of Dawn House, a women’s shelter in Darwin, said that while her organization sighed in relief after having already raised wages to above the premium rate, she was concerned that the increase could deepen the DV crisis further.
“We’re working really hard in this sector and we deserve a pay rise, but the real difficulty is that we have five-year financing agreements and that’s a flat line,” she said.
“We get exactly the same [amount] money every single year. And that means that if there is a wage increase, or there is inflation or higher cost of living, we have to absorb it within a budget that does not grow from one year to the next. “
She said essential services such as crisis accommodation, counseling and food aid for women and children fleeing violence were at risk.
The changes take effect on July 1 and will raise the minimum wage by $ 1.05 per hour, but in the DV sector, where employees are awarded prizes, wages increase by 4.6 per cent but result in a reduction in real wages when inflation is taken into account.
More than 1,000 kilometers south, Larissa Ellis, Executive Director of the Women’s Safety Service of Central Australia (WoSSCA), said there had been a sharp increase in the demand for crisis accommodation.
But after looking in the books, Mrs. Ellis had resigned herself to the fact that planned measures to deal with the crisis were to be scrapped.
She estimated that the pay rise would cost an additional $ 150,000 to $ 200,000 a year.
“In the Northern Territory, we have the highest rates of DV in all of Australia, we have not seen a reduction at all. And with COVID-19, we have actually seen an increase and an increase in demand for our services,” Ms Ellis said.
Ms Ellis said it was particularly worrying that children – who made up almost 50 per cent of the people who had access to the service – would not have access to a specialized therapeutic service.
“That was one of the things we were looking at trying to implement for next fiscal year,” she said.
Current funding agreements for Dawn House, WoSSCA and many other DV services in the Northern Territory expire in approximately 12 months.
“We are a team. We work closely with domestic violence and support each other,” Crane said.
“And I think we’ll have to go to the government as a sector and say across the board that there needs to be an increase in the amount of funding that we get year after year.”
The Northern Territory’s top body for the social and community sector also calls on the government to support the funding.
NTCOSS senior politician Tess Snowdon said that even if the Fair Work Commission ruling was a fantastic result in the midst of a deeper cost-of-living crisis, the ruling would have “significant” consequences for the community sector, the largest employer in the NT.
“We know that services for domestic, family or sexual assault are already widespread,” she said.
“We have the highest rates of DFSV [domestic, family, and sexual violence] in the nation here and it is growing.
Kate Worden is Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, Family and Sexual Relations.
She said reducing domestic, family and sexual violence in the Northern Territory had never been a major priority for the government.
She said the government had set aside $ 54 million to reduce rates for DV in the 2022 budget and had set up the Office for the Coordination and Reform of Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence, which aimed to facilitate co-ordination across agencies.
“Key tasks for the office will be to map existing governance and investment efforts, develop a consistent approach to monitoring and evaluating programs, and develop a government-wide budget for 2022-2023,” Worden said.
Ms. Worden did not respond to questions from ABC about whether the government would commit to increasing funding for DV services in the NT.
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