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Tuesday, 14 August 2012
Page: 5181


Senator RHIANNON (New South Wales) (17:08): by leave—I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

I was interested to read the comments of Mr Jason Clare on the Bsafe program in his letter of 6 July. While it gave some information, it was certainly disappointing that, yet again, the federal government has knocked back the opportunity to look at ways to support this really excellent program.

First off, it is worth sharing with the Senate what Bsafe actually means. It is a very innovative program initiated by the Women's Health Goulburn North East. There was some very modest federal government funding that came to that program. This program provides personal safety alarms to women and children at risk of domestic violence. Interestingly, many of the women involved in it have said that they find this a much more successful and less intrusive way of managing their problems than calling the 000 emergency number. So it has been widely praised by users, by community workers, by the police and by many of the women's groups, as well as Women's Health Goulburn North East. It is designed to assist women and children to feel safe in their own homes.

The program did receive some funding. It was a modest $230,420 in 2007 under the National Community Crime Prevention Program. Then after a lot of lobbying and a lot of work by the community, which was supported by the Greens—it was pleasing that the motion went through the Senate, but disappointing that Labor did not support it at that stage—a further $55,000 was brought forward. We are now hearing the government say that it is not possible to provide recurrent funding because the second lot of money comes under the Proceeds of Crime Act—that is, the $55,000 that I mentioned. Yes, I understand what the rules are there, that it cannot be recurrent funding, but this is such a cost-effective program. The government time and time again tells us of its deep commitment to addressing domestic violence, and here we have a means to ensure women are safe in their homes. It has been identified time and time again that when we are dealing with domestic violence we need to find ways to assist the victims of domestic violence—by far the majority of them women and children—to stay in their own homes. And here we have this program that the government has put a little bit of money into but has now turned its back on.

It is very troubling when you look at the figures. These are just the figures from Victoria, which is where the Bsafe program had been funded. The Greens were hoping that Labor would have got behind it and it could have been rolled out across the country. But the figures show why that program is so very much needed. The research shows that intimate violence is a leading contributor to illness, disability and preventable death for Victorian women aged 15 to 44. My colleague Senator Richard Di Natale has spoken about this, detailing how this ranks higher than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure. Every way you look at it, this is a program that should have been funded.

Going back to the point that I made previously—that is, that I do understand that it does not fit within the rules—time and time again we see the government change the rules. Often we disagree with that, but they adapt to the situation. You have that ability, when you are in government, to identify what community needs are and how they can be funded.

I was concerned with one aspect of Mr Clare's letter, where he said Women's Health Goulburn North East did not apply for funding. I am in the process of checking up on that. I understand that is the case, that they did not apply for funding, because they were told they did not qualify. That shows the deceptive way that language can be used to misrepresent a situation. I am following that up at the moment because I think it would be very disappointing if those comments were made in that way, when in fact the organisation was given the money.

I want to commend Women's Health Goulburn North East and everybody else who has been involved in the Bsafe program. I know they are continuing to work on it to ensure that women and children can be safe in their own homes. The Greens will certainly continue to give their support so that it can be rolled out around the country. It has been shown to be successful and it is time the political will of the government of the day got behind it so that we could achieve that.

Question agreed to.