Australian Law Reform Commission – Family violence and Commonwealth laws. Social security. Issues paper 39 (IP 39) Alternative formats available on request to PIAC - Contact PIAC
Studies in Australia and internationally have consistently documented that people experiencing homelessness report a horrendous and disproportionate level of victimisation, including repeated experiences of childhood abuse, domestic and family violence.
In this submission, the HPLS submits that there needs to be a consistent definitional approach across Commonwealth legislation, to ensure that victims of family violence have certainty that their experiences will be treated consistently across all Commonwealth laws. Given the strong nexus between experiences of family violence and homelessness, and the need for people at risk of homelessness to be able to access income support, social security and child support, it is important that such people have certainty that their experiences of family violence are treated in the same way under different Commonwealth legislative frameworks.
The submission also refers to the evidence that victims of violence often remain silent about violent victimisation. Through this silencing, victims often have negative interactions with service providers, which reinforce the sense of being misunderstood, being ‘beyond’ help, and being left on their own with a heavy burden of overwhelming issues to carry around. In addition, as victims of family violence are often reluctant to disclose their experiences of family violence, their eligibility for Centrelink payments may be affected. Accordingly, in this submission HPLS recommends that Centrelink staff should employ a principle of trauma-informed care, which takes as its starting point the likely presence and long-term effects of family violence.