Right now in Australia, approximately 800,000 predominately women workers are living with the trauma of sexual or family violence. One in three Australian women has experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.[1] Family and domestic violence results in the deaths or injury of thousands of women every year. Given that such large numbers of Australians are affected, family violence must be considered to have reached epidemic proportions in Australia and deserving of only the most serious and dedicated efforts from government and society as a whole. A key element of any strategy to address violence against women must be access to expert advice from well-trained, well-paid expert staff whose primary purpose is to provide the best assistance possible. The union movement is committed to the workers of Australia, and their families, having access to a world class sexual assault and family violence telephone and on-line counselling service. The changes being made to the 1800RESPECT line, which the ACTU and broader union movement have supported for years, will fundamentally undermine this requirement. It will result in the loss of an expert, well-paid and effective workforce providing advice to vulnerable women all around Australia. There is the additional reality that this move will further damage to pay equity in this sector and in the wider economy as a predominantly female workforce is forced onto lower paid, less secure positions. All of this is compounded by the fact that these negative outcomes will arise from nothing less than corporate greed, profit-seeking behaviour and the desire of the government to save a few dollars. The ACTU calls on the government stop this needless damage to this vital service by reinstating The Rape and Domestic Violence Service Australia’s (RDVSA) funding to supply their services – ensuring that 1800RESPECT will be there for the next woman, man or child to pick up the phone.

[1] ABS, Personal Safety: Australia, 2012 cat no. 4906.0