New South Wales budget to include $100m investment in women’s safety measures

The NSW Government has announced an investment of $100 million for women’s safety in public places, at home and at work as part of next week’s Budget.

The multi-faceted package is the latest in a series of budget announcements that focus on social issues across the state.

It also follows calls from domestic violence service providers for more support in the next state budget.

Here is what was promised.

stop street harassment

To keep women safe in public spaces after dark, the government will spend $30 million over two years to provide more street lighting and video surveillance in public parks, as well as improve pedestrian circulation.

The program will initially focus on Parramatta Park and The Rocks neighborhood in Sydney before expanding across the city and into regional areas, with further locations to be announced in the coming months.

It will also include a campaign against street harassment to change community attitudes.

“We are focused on listening to women and girls and delivering safer cities,” said Minister for Women’s Safety and Prevention of Domestic and Sexual Violence, Natalie Ward.

The security overhaul will include up to 10 pilot projects across the state.(ABC News: Lincoln Rothall)

Treasurer Matt Kean said too many women were afraid to walk around Sydney at night.

“I’ve heard too many stories of women taking the long way to avoid dark streets, or calling a friend while walking in case something goes wrong,” he said.

“When women walk home from work, they shouldn’t have to fear what lurks in the shadows.”

Make work safer

To tackle sexual harassment in the workplace, $4.8 million will be spent on a new task force administered by Safe Work NSW to ensure employers take action to stamp out employee harassment.

The working group will place particular emphasis on training and orientation in certain male-dominated industries.

“Safe work will focus on these high-risk workplaces,” Fair Trade Minister Eleni Petinos said.

“We know that sexual harassment is a problem in our workplaces…one in four women reported being sexually harassed in the past five years.”

a woman standing behind microphones
Fair Trade Minister Eleni Petinos said the task force will provide employers with advice on best practices.(ABC News)

The program will aim to hold more employers accountable if they fail to comply with their responsibilities to keep employees safe.

Ms Petinos said she would follow up on Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins’ 2019 Respect in the Workplace report, which found workplace harassment was both widespread and pervasive.

Support victims of domestic violence

The government has also allocated $69 million to a project called Safer Pathways which will provide more integrated support systems for victims of domestic violence.

“We continue to make our justice fairer, less traumatic, faster and less costly for all participants, especially victim-survivors of D and sexual violence,” Attorney General Mark Speakman said.

The investment will provide more case management services to victim survivors and improve the database used by police to refer people to support services.

Audio-visual link facilities in around 50 NSW courts and tribunals will also be extended to allow victim-survivors to testify remotely, minimizing trauma.

Court-appointed officers will also be trained to cross-examine survivors, after laws passed last year that prevent unrepresented defendants from interviewing domestic violence complainants.

“It is an absolute travesty that one in six people in our great country suffer sexual harassment or violence from a current or former partner,” Mr Perrottet said.

“We have made great inroads over a period of time, but it is still a blight on our state and our nation. As a government and as a people, we must do better.”

Sexual violence survivor and anti-violence advocate Amanda Morgan, who is the founder of Make a Seat Australia, said these changes were not only needed, but long overdue.

“I think this injection of cash is so important…it’s going to change lives,” she said.

“Having an integration like this means we have education, support and communication across different departments.”

Mara R. Wilmoth