The Centre for Women’s Safety and Wellbeing (CWSW) team have been reviewing the McGowan Government’s State Budget 2022-23 since it was released last Thursday. As with the recent Federal Budget, the State Budget Papers provide an insight into the McGowan Government’s priorities and commitment to women’s safety and wellbeing, and its vision for the path to gender equality. With Western Australia in the enviable position of a significant budget surplus, now is the time for significant strategic investment to prevent gender-based violence, promote health and advance gender equality.
As the peak body for women’s specialist domestic and family violence, community-based women’s health and sexual assault services in WA, our analysis of the State Budget aims to highlight the potential impact of funding allocation on the services we represent, and women and their children. Our small CWSW team have focused our analysis on key budget initiatives and new announcements. While our analysis does not cover every budget line related to women’s health, domestic, family and sexual violence and gender equality, we have detailed the underpinning principles and system-wide approaches needed to ensure women have the right to equal access and outcomes for safety, health and wellbeing.
We welcome the McGowan Government’s $34.4 million investment to tackle family and domestic violence and build safer communities for women and children and the record investment in the WA public health system, health and mental health. The Budget includes funding for promising new initiatives like the Armadale Family and Domestic Violence Hub and Aboriginal Midwifery Group Practice, and continuation of funding for initiatives including the Derby Family Violence Services, Change Em Ways Kimberley Project and Preventing FASD Project. However, there continues to be a lack of significant coordinated investment for prevention initiatives – preventive and public health and primary prevention of gender-based violence. Prevention must be a priority if substantial and sustainable improvements are to be made to women’s safety, health and wellbeing.
Specialist domestic and family violence, community-based women’s health and sexual assault services throughout the State have seen increased demand during the pandemic, with demand continuing to grow in the context of the current cost of living pressures. Increased demand, coupled with increasing service delivery costs, is leaving many services in precarious situations, where programs or services may struggle to continue. While we welcome newly-funded initiatives and the ongoing work around the Department of Communities Commissioning Plan, it is urgent that service funding is sufficient and reflects the true cost of service delivery to ensure services can continue to operate and provide vital community services in the current high demand, high-cost environment.
We are concerned to see many of the community-based COVID-19 funding initiatives ending. The pandemic continues to impact the lives of Western Australians, with women continuing to be disproportionately negatively impacted by COVID-19. Strategic and ongoing investment is needed to address the impacts of COVID-19 on health and wellbeing, safety and gender equality.
There is a disappointing and distinct lack of gender analysis within the 2022-23 State Budget. There is little to no detail on how much of the health funding will improve the health and wellbeing of West Australian women, or address gender and health inequity. CWSW call on the McGowan Government to release an accompanying Women’s Budget Statement, in line with that of the Federal Government. We also call for the State Government to implement gender responsive budgeting – an integral part in ensuring women have the right to equal access and outcomes for safety, health and wellbeing, addressing the gendered drivers of violence against women, and achieving gender equality.