The Women’s Economic Security Statement, announced today by Minister for Women Kelly O’Dwyer, will see $109 million dedicated to services financially assisting women leaving situations of abuse and/or working to improve the gender pay gap.
The strategy, which was announced as part of the 2018 budget, will extend early superannuation access and eligibility for no-interest loans to women fleeing abuse, and create a dispensation for victims of violence to avoid facing their alleged perpetrator in court.
It will also see millions of dollars spent on measures to “support more Australian women into work”. This includes offering financial support to regional employers to eliminate potential barriers preventing women from coming back to work after a break, as well as creating scholarship and internship opportunities for women in the financial and insurance services industry.
The strategy will make significant changes to paid parental leave, allowing new parents to take up to six weeks of their entitled leave at any time over the child’s first two years.
Up until now, parents were required to take their 18 weeks of parental leave in one stint during the first year. Under the changes, mums and dads will still need to take 12 weeks of that leave in one stretch but will be able to take the remaining six weeks at any time before the child turns two, providing better work flexibility.
The official breakdown of the $109 million will see $35.6 million given to services that support economic independence; $54.8 million delivered to improve women’s participation in the workforce; and $18.6 million spent on increasing the earning potential of women, with the funding delivered over a period of four years.
The strategy will see the government continue its funding for the Good Shepherd Microfinance no-interest loan scheme, which assists those fleeing violence purchase household items, rental bonds and, in appropriate situations, offers debt consolidation.
Alongside this, the family law courts will now have the opportunity to access to ATO information regarding superannuation assets to ensure relevant parties cannot conceal assets in separation proceedings. The courts will also have the power to halt cross-examination of victims when family or domestic violence has been alleged, and victims will be able to evade examination before the alleged perpetrator in “specific and serious circumstances”, such as where violence orders exist.
There will also be $8 million given to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, a group dedicated to measuring and promoting awareness of Australia’s gender pay gap. The funding will be spent on upgrading the agency’s reporting and data management systems.
“Even though we have come a long way, we still want Australian women to be able to do even better,” said Ms O’Dwyer in a statement.
“We want to ensure that women can build their financial security to help them choose their own path so they and their families can live their best lives.
“These new measures will help just give women and their families greater choice, and will also help grow the Australian economy.
“When women do well, their families do well, and our economy and nation prospers.”