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.
Cash, Shorten and Di Natale receive petition from Rosie Batty on family law system reform
20 June 2016
This morning all political leaders from all major parties joined Rosie Batty and Women's Legal Services Australia to raise concerns about safety in family law.
The federal minister for women, Senator Michaelia Cash, shadow minister for women, Senator Clare Moore and the leader of the Australian Greens, Senator Richard Di Natale, were delivered a petition by Rosie Batty calling for reform the family law system with over 21,000 signatures from across Australia.
Women's Legal Service Victoria along with Women's Legal Services around the country have developed this practical five step plan to improve the system.You can read about Women's Legal Services Australia's media release here.
Greens adopt WLSA's 5-step Safety First in Family Law Campaign
2 June 2016
The plan is supported by over 90 organisations who have signed the open letter to all major political parties as well as former Australian of the Year Rosie Batty, who is campaigning in support of the plan.
The announcement from the Greens increases pressure on the Prime Minister as well as the Opposition leader to step up and commit to the plan to make women and children safe in the family law system.
Read our media release here.