Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has indicated the federal government is open to providing significantly more money to women’s safety groups.
The groups are seeking an extra $150 million to help deal with an increase in demand from women fleeing violence.
They were given a boost of that amount during the coronavirus pandemic last year and say demand has not gone away.
“I can absolutely understand why demand has not gone away because one in four Australian women have experienced physical violence at the hands of an existing partner or a former partner,” Mr Frydenberg told ABC radio on Wednesday.
“That’s why we’re investing $1 billion in the fourth national action plan as well as our other initiatives.
“We will continue to make more money available for this obvious area of need.”
Mr Frydenberg said the applications would go through the usual processes ahead of the budget in May.
“But I can be unequivocal in saying we are putting a record amount of money into ensuring women’s safety and trying to reduce the incidence of domestic violence, which is at an unacceptably high level.”
Specialist women’s safety services and women’s refuges will have to cut staff and support without another $150 million in special funding, peak bodies in NSW and Queensland warn.
More than 15 organisations have called on the federal, state and territory governments to repeat the cash injection that addressed the spike in domestic violence during the pandemic.
“We cannot wait for the commencement of the next national plan to provide critical safety and support to those Australian women (cis and trans), children and families who need our help now,” the NSW Women’s Alliance says.
Ending Violence Against Women Queensland President Emma Iwinska said: “All service sectors across Queensland have been inundated, with women seeking support and are struggling to keep up with demand even with COVID funding.”
Federal, state and territory ministers responsible for women’s safety will meet on Wednesday to discuss the replacement of the nation’s first domestic violence national plan, which is due to expire in 2022.
The meeting will be co-chaired by federal Minister for Women Marise Payne and federal Women’s Safety Minister Anne Ruston.
A federal parliamentary committee’s bipartisan report last week said the economic cost of violence against women and their children in Australia is estimated at $26 billion each year.
“Billions of dollars in pandemic support was given to corporations who reported huge profits. Surely the safety of women and children should not be allowed to be reduced, at a fraction of that cost,” White Ribbon Australia executive director Brad Chilcott said.
Queensland service providers said last year’s funding injection had helped address chronic and historical underfunding of the sector.
But demand was already rising before the pandemic and the complexities associated with supporting women, children and families had only amplified since it began.
NSW frontline organisations reported their busiest year on record, with no signs of the need slowing.
Demand for a court advocacy service for NSW domestic violence victims rose 35 per cent last year, or an extra 73,000 calls for help.
“We don’t have time to waste or wait. This remains a national emergency,” Domestic Violence NSW chief executive Delia Donovan said.
“Solutions have been provided for years. They are simply not committed to or invested in. Less talk, more action please.”