The Stepping Stones Project
We commenced the Stepping Stones project to assist women experiencing family violence and financial hardship.
Women in Australia are still at significantly higher risk of poverty than men. Research shows women who experience family violence are at even greater risk of financial hardship than women who have not experienced violence. The major cause of homelessness for women is family violence.
In addition to these alarming facts, we observed, through our direct legal services for women, the failure of the legal system, financial institutions and essential service providers to recognise the impact of family violence on financial stability.
We observed there was no recognition of the ability of the perpetrator to use poverty (or the threat of poverty) to control a victim. Neither is there recognition of why it would be difficult or even impossible for the victim, in that context, to regain economic security, or in some cases even flee family violence.
How we help
In 2014 we established a new holistic model of service, bringing together financial counselling with family law legal advice.
We developed new ways of advocating for our clients – pushing courts, government departments and creditors to take into account our client’s experience of family violence and financial hardship when making decisions that impact their economic well-being.
As at September 2015 we have assisted over 200 women through the Stepping Stones project, and amongst other achievements, we have succeeded in having their collective debt reduced by over $300,000. One quarter of these women had debt that was accrued by an abusive partner against their wishes, without their knowledge, without understanding or under duress.
See Our Services page to find out how to get help.
Changing the system
In addition to examining the issues experienced by our clients, we also conducted in-depth interviews with 30 women about their experiences and surveyed 40 community sector workers to identify what the major legal barriers women face in achieving economic equality are.
We used this data to inform our landmark research report – Stepping Stones: Legal barriers to economic equality after family violence. Read our research report here.
Stepping Stones makes 27 recommendations for robust reform to industry practice and the law, in order to end financial hardship following family violence. We are now meeting with government and industry to make these recommendations a reality.
The Stepping Stones project is a WLSV initiative funded by the Legal Services Board.
Royal Commission into Family Violence
12 April 2016
The Royal Commission into Family Violence handed over their 1900-page report to the Victorian Governor last week. The report highlighted a number of key systemic issues facing women experiencing family violence in Victoria. A significant number of recommendations made by the report reflect the submissions made by WSLV including financial abuse protections, restorative justice measures and increased safety in the courts system.
You can read some of the press coverage that featured WLSV below:
How to restore women's trust in justice
10 January 2016
Our CEO, Joanna Fletcher's piece in The Age today - click here to read.
Annual Impact Report 2014/2015
18 December 2015
We are pleased to bring you our first ever digital Annual Impact Report!
Click here to read the report.