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Ahead of an emergency national cabinet meeting to address Australia’s unfolding domestic violence crisis, several leading legal organisations have called on the Federal Government to deliver an urgent funding injection.

To date this year, 27 Australian women have been killed in acts of violence, close to double the number from the same period last year.

Last weekend, thousands attended rallies in capital cities, calling for more action to stop gender-based violence.

Addressing violence against women will be the sole agenda item in an emergency cabinet meeting tomorrow [1st May]. Attorney General Mark Dreyfus and Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth have indicated they will not establish a federal royal commission into domestic violence but will instead “get on with the job” of implementing the 10-year National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children, which was published in October 2022. The National Plan has four areas of focus: prevention, early intervention, response, and recovery and healing.

Today, National Legal Aid, Community Legal Centres Australia and Women’s Legal Services Australia have all released statements calling on the Federal Government to include a large funding injection for crisis services when the Federal Budget is unveiled on 14 May.

Louise Glanville, the Chair of National Legal Aid, said $317 million is needed annually to meet the current demand for assistance.

“Legal assistance services, including Legal Aid Commissions, are critical to addressing the crisis by helping thousands of women and children experiencing domestic and family violence across Australia,” Glanville said.

“Access to legal aid can stop violence from continuing and keep women safe.”

“We have the infrastructure and ability to support victim-survivors of domestic and family violence to receive our legal and non-legal supports. However, National Legal Aid is concerned that the limited funding for family law services means we are unable to meet the current demand and we are concerned this could put women at risk.”

“We hope that the Independent Review of the National Legal Assistance Partnership and opportunities for funding in the Federal Budget take steps in the right direction to meet the needs of the most disadvantaged women and children in Australia.”

Arlia Fleming, Deputy Chairperson of Community Legal Centres Australia and CEO of Central Tablelands and Blue Mountains Legal Centre, says their services “consistently have a three-week waiting list.”

“Our ability to deliver essential services is severely compromised without sufficient funding. This is putting vulnerable individuals and families at risk,” Fleming said in a statement.

“The Attorney General has ruled out a federal royal commission into domestic violence because he believes the Government should focus on implementing policies it has already identified. That must include funding the services that provide legal support to women experiencing or at risk of violence.”

“We implore the Federal Government and all community stakeholders working to keep women safe to recognise the importance of adequate funding for frontline services in our national response. The time to act is now.”

“Together, we can ensure that no one in our community is left without the resources and support they need to escape violence and rebuild their lives.”

In a statement, Women’s Legal Services Australia said that “when national cabinet meets [tomorrow] they have the opportunity to commit to matching community concern with investment in frontline domestic, family and sexual violence services.”

“All across Australia, communities are telling governments they want action. They want women who seek help in relation to domestic, family, and sexual violence to be able to access the support they need,” the Chair of Women’s Legal Services Australia, Elena Rosenman, said.

“Over the weekend, we saw a community-led groundswell of voices calling for federal action to prevent the ongoing violence against Australian women in 2024.”

“This year, we estimate 52,000 women in crisis will be turned away from our doors, due to a lack of ongoing and sustainable funding from the Federal Government.”

The organisation has sought $25 million in additional funding in the upcoming Budget for women’s legal services across the country.

“Women affected by gender-based violence need to understand their legal options, have advice and representation through legal processes, and support to manage safety risks that often escalate during engagement with legal processes,” Rosenman said.

One of the topics expected to be discussed at tomorrow’s cabinet meeting is the issue of bail being granted to those charged with domestic violence offences. NSW Premier Chris Minns announced last week that the Attorney General will make an official referral to the Crown Advocate David Kell SC to determine if urgent law reform is needed to bail laws.

The decision followed the death of 28-year-old Molly Ticehurst at Forbes in the state’s Central West. Her former partner Daniel Billings is charged with murder as well as breaching an apprehended violence order. The NSW Government intends to examine the role of registrars in bail applications on weekends and in regional communities.