Call for super access for family violence victims

Calls for access to super to be approved for victims of family violence.

Christine Nixon

There is a growing call for victims of family violence to be granted early access to super. Industry super fund HESTA, supported by community groups, is seeking from the Federal Government a change to superannuation rules.

HESTA CEO Debby Blakey wants to remove the financial barrier for women who need to leave a violent relationship.

“Finances are too often a barrier for women trying to leave a violent relationship and, unfortunately, financial support for survivors of family violence is grossly inadequate,” Ms Blakey said.

“While early access to super is currently possible to stop the bank selling your home, pay for a dependant’s funeral or get medical treatment under compassionate grounds, this is denied in instances of family violence. We think it’s entirely appropriate that super regulations extend compassion to victims and survivors of family violence to empower women with the financial means to escape abusive relationships.”

In order to maintain a level of funding for retirement, HESTA is proposing a new ruling for victims and survivors of family violence be granted access up to $10,000 under a new ruling. This should be an interim ‘band aid’ measure until such time as improved funding for financial and other victim support services is secured from all levels of government.

“We urgently need a nationally coordinated response to family violence. While it’s encouraging that the Victorian State Government now provides financial support of around $7000, having the financial capacity to leave a violent relationship shouldn’t depend on where you live in Australia,” Ms Blakey said.

The proposal is supported by Good Shepherd Microfinance Chair, Christine Nixon, who noted that financial constraints are often what stops women from leaving abusive relationships. “Their issues are complex but the common bind is always a real need for financial support to move forward,” Ms Nixon said. 

“We endorse all efforts to shine a light on the inadequate assistance currently available to women and any attempts by the superannuation industry to make changes to early release conditions. Women facing financial exclusion are susceptible to predatory behaviour from money lenders, this only continues the spiral of financial abuse and exclusion.”

Financial counsellors also see firsthand that family violence and financial hardship are intertwined. Financial Counselling Australia CEO Fiona Guthrie noted that, “One of the many reasons women may stay trapped in a situation of family violence is to do with money – lack of access to crisis support and payments, or ongoing control by the other partner of money and economic opportunities (economic abuse). In the right circumstances, superannuation has an important role to play in helping women affected by family violence get back on their feet.  We support this very sensible proposed policy response.”

Under the proposed rule change, anyone seeking early release of super would need to provide certification from a recognised family violence social worker or organisation that they do indeed need urgent access to money.


Opinion: Super not the answer to every financial problem

Family violence is possibly one of the most abhorrent crimes there is – how can someone abuse the very people they are supposed to love most in the world. And yet, it happens, more often than we know. Women are often the victims, however, we know that men are also victims of abuse and violence at home, although they are less likely to seek assistance.

There is a definite need for more support services and increased funding to help men, women and of course, their children, escape the insidious social issue that is family violence. However, using super as a means to fund such an escape is a perilous and short-term solution. Indeed, as Ms Blakey points out, governments need to step up with assistance – and quickly.

Thanks to the largely-held viewpoint that super just ‘sits there’ for a long time, it’s easy to see why it has become the panacea for all financial hurdles. Whether it’s being suggested for funding first-home deposits or a financial vehicle to park proceeds from the sale of a family home, super is often seen as an easy option.

However, the fact that there are tight controls as to when and how early access to super can be granted, something which is refused more often than approved when applied for, is testament to the need to hold money in super for its intended purpose – to fund retirement.

While no one wants to see anyone trapped in an abusive relationship due to not having enough money to make the break, there is no promise that accessing super would indeed solve the problem. Perpetrators of family violence and abuse are cold and calculating, whittling away the self-worth of their victims. Often, men and women return to abusive relationships as it's the only place they believe they have any value and that their abuser is the only person who will ever have them. Imagine then the ‘value’ that person will suddenly have if they have $10,000 in the bank?

Until such time that there are enough effective support services in place to help victims make the break emotionally, giving them access to money is unlikely to be enough to break the link with their abuser.

What do you think? Should access to super be granted as a short-term aid to help family violence victims?

If you or someone you know is affected by sexual assault or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit – in an emergency, call 000.



    To make a comment, please register or login
    20th Jun 2017
    Except for the class of profiteers and middlemen who depend on capturing the savings of people who work for a living.

    They all eye our measly super with avarice, and the pressure on politicians to solve every problem our tax-avoiding upper class refuses to acknowledge, by giving them our super, is endless.

    When will we get a government with the guts to tax the rich and the corporate, so the public sector, everything from the ATO and ASIO to hospitals, schools and public transport, is properly supported and maintained?

    Instead, the Turnbull government sticks IPA members into critical positions to run down our public sector and flog it off to their rich mates.

    Enough is enough!
    20th Jun 2017
    I agree with the Opinion piece. This is a very sad situation but people fleeing domestic violence can now access Centrelink Benefits. If you can demonstrate hardship after 26 weeks on Centrelink you can access up to $10,000 of your super. I dont see why these rules should change. What about people with no super who have not worked. What can they access. I think Governments should stop tinkering with Super. It is meant for your retirement. Instead, adopt the Victorian model on a national level.

    20th Jun 2017
    With all due respect - and they wonder why some of us still query these CEO's in modern society. What a stupid, short-sighted, fatuous statement of a policy idea, and WTF does she use for advice?

    Of course government should look for real answers, not just another band-aid, and before we go any further, let me remind you that many men are also left destitute after 'fleeing' a relationship which is toxic.

    Only those who've been there have the right to a voice.

    Now - what is government going to do about this? Apart from throw money at the situation?

    For one thing, I think there needs to be an exception made for those who are forced to sell up home, when it comes to getting another one.. those should be able to access first home owners again, rather than be disadvantaged in the housing stakes (again).

    Providing enough jobs for all would make things a hell of a lot easier for the majority, as well... and that currently includes chopping off the current 'global ec0onomy' nonsense at the knees, and looking after THIS nation as a whole first, and not just the 'capitalists' in it who happen to have their fingers in the global pie.

    Sinn Fein! We Stand Together Alone!
    20th Jun 2017
    Next you'll have somebody spruiking that superannuation should be available to help with the shopping bill because food is to expensive.
    Writers of this sort of nonsense need to look at the reason superannuation was put in place as well as the concessional treatment of superannuation which greatly reduces the tax of people in a higher tax bracket. All that seems to have been forgotten in this fairyland article.
    20th Jun 2017
    That's the whole idea - to obscure the reality, which is that now there is a push from governments and their (over)paid mouth-pieces for ever peasant to sell up all assets before retirement so that Colonel C'Link can sit there and tell them that ' so solly, no pension - you waste your life and money'.

    Never seen such total insanity or totally self-serving psychopathy as forcing people to sell/spend down all their assets at the same time as punishing the pension applicant to the max, and all just to 'keep the economy moving' when it is as dead in the water as an Allied cruiser off Guadalcanal on 9th august, 1942.
    20th Jun 2017
    Again we agree MICK. Superannuation, thanks to Paul Keating, is not a savings bank, not a loan provider and is not money owned by the nominee until a certain age is achieved. What will be next? Will these people be asking for release of super that will be paid in the future?

    NOTE: To administrators. MICK and I also agree that the provision to insert a smilie should be made available.
    20th Jun 2017
    Don't hold your breath OM. I have asked before and you'd think this would be a simple task. No response to date. Maybe the blogs are not read.
    20th Jun 2017
    I agree Mick. Also I think it will be another reason for women to claim family violence. On top of all the other advantages ,now they will also get early access to their super. Family violence claims will triple. Which will be good for feminist groups who get funds through family violence funding but it will be very bad for family's and children.
    Waiting to retire at 70
    20th Jun 2017
    HESTA CEO Debby Blakey would do better to lobby governments to support ALL victims of violence, domestic or otherwise.

    Next someone will be suggesting Super be make available to the young for a deposit to purchase their first home - oh, that's already occurred and fortunately been 'knock on the head' as silly.
    Or maybe use Super to pay off our HEC fees. Oh yes that's been done too and, again appropriately, 'knocked on the head'.

    The less fortunate in our community deserve to be helped by the more fortunate in times of need; that's defines a caring community. Paraphrasing someone else: 'give unto others, as you would have them give to you.'
    20th Jun 2017
    HESTA CEO Debby Blakey is taking a very short-sighted and narrow-minded view.
    20th Jun 2017
    Superannuation is meant to fund retirement nothing else. Not houses, not HECS, not a fancy holiday and not as a "running away fund".

    We keep being told how disadvantaged women are in super and retirement and now some want to further disadvantage women by allowing them to dip into their super so they can escape? How many times would this be allowed? If a wo/man goes from one abusive relationship to another, how often can s/he access super to "escape"?
    20th Jun 2017
    Money put into super is taxed at 15% which for most is less than they would pay if not channelled into super. So the taxpayer has subsidised this already. The the earnings of the fund are only taxed at 15% as well.
    Superannuation was designed SOLELY FOR RETIREMENT BENEFITS (= a sel paid pension!!!!!), not other things.
    If you allow people to use it for other purposes then they get to retirement age and cry 'no money' whilst demanding a full pension. That us better known as DOUBLE DIPPING.
    Please leave the super system alone worthy causes galore. It is not meant to fix up a bad life or personal goals!
    20th Jun 2017
    As I said before - it's only had a half lifetime run - 25 years - instead of a 'lifetime run' of 50 years to bring it up to scratch.

    All this nonsense is patching up the failing economy by getting people to liquidate their assets in one way or the other.... which will only generate more and greater problems at the end of that 50 year cycle.

    This government ship of fools panicked over super and pensions, and didn't take 'the long view' and sit back and wait for the fruit to ripen at 50 years.

    Once again - chopping away at super retirement benefits now to feed short term goals, while chipping away at pensions and calling them a rort and a loan etc - is doing not one thing to resolve any problem - but it is distracting mightily from the real issues confronting the ordinary taxpayer these days, about government and governance here.

    Stoopid is as stoopid does, as they allus say down in Green Bow,
    21st Jun 2017
    Super is meant for retirement, nothing else!
    Maybe if the abused would use their brain and get out of a bad
    relationship at the beginning of it pronto they wouldn't be so destitute
    21st Jun 2017
    How do you train people NOT to get into toxic relationships? Unfortunately people learn from experience, often bitter and costly in many ways.
    ex PS
    22nd Jun 2017
    If we let people raid their Super accounts now, we will have to pay them a Pension once they retire. For every action, there is an equal reaction. People need to decide whether we want people to help provide for their retirement or not, we can not have it both ways.
    If you are all for releasing funds from Super to pay for everyday events then you need to think about whether we want a Super System at all.
    What the government would prefer is for people in an abusive relationship to use their own Super funds to get themselves out of trouble than have to resort to government funds. So it is all about the government ducking its responsibilities to help those who need it.
    20th Jun 2017
    On Budget night our P.M. proudly announced the Pension Concession Card was to be given back to any Pensioner that lost it due to the new Asset Test Jan1 2017.guess what folk this is all bull shit if you lost it one week later no Pension Concession Card.This is official straight from our Mr Morrison.
    20th Jun 2017
    Sorry gang my comment as to pension c.c. is getting off the subject but it is just to let any one effected know.
    20th Jun 2017
    Not at all - the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. It always does my old heart good to see or hear a jumped-up politician or political statement get its come-uppance or at the very least by revealed to the public feed on bulldust and kept in the dark to mushroom.
    20th Jun 2017
    Yes TREBOR we seem to be in deep shit with most of it coming out of Canberra.
    20th Jun 2017
    the vile language as used by floss in this column shows the mental and moral dispositions of some of the contributors to these columns
    20th Jun 2017
    100% correct - now put down that mirror.
    ex PS
    22nd Jun 2017
    I love h99, always good for a laugh, even though he is not even trying to be funny.
    20th Jun 2017
    heemskerk 99 you tell it as it is as shame our P.M.can't, you will just have to join the real world.

    20th Jun 2017
    "Perpetrators of family violence and abuse are cold and calculating, whittling away the self-worth of their victims. Often, men and women return to abusive relationships as it's the only place they believe they have any value and that their abuser is the only person who will ever have them. "

    I have to call for caution here... there are countless facets to 'relationship violence/abuse' and one of those is that the abused person may be suffering a mental illness. The stereotype of the cold, calculating abuser is more akin to the off the planet junkie type and is not necessarily a part of mainstream abuse, which can take many forms.

    You seriously need to look at every incident on its full and true value - and not generalise, as the current catch-all and one-sided approach does.

    Before we go characterising abusers as clod, calculating users... we need to fully explore the entire gamut of issues involved and avoid sweeping 'solutions' - which, to date, have created more harm than they have prevented, and have multiplied the facets of GENUINE abuse to now include the State and its instruments, themselves acting without civilised or Lawful constraint.
    21st Jun 2017
    'Sorry 'bout that - but that 'without civilised or Lawful constraint' is a deliberate long term play by government to ensure and shore up its control over the individual.

    I began, way back in 1992, by offering a submission to the NSW 'Law' Reform Commission in their pursuit of Paul Keating's 'uniform domestic violence laws' (without which State governments would LOSE funding (hello)... and opposing their intended approach to this issue... on the grounds that using anecdotal evidence from remote Indigenous communities on violence within relationships and then extrapolating it to Australian society at large.... was a false representation and did not accord with the facts and with simple reality.

    That alone, following the 'inclusion' of my submission as 'one of two dissenting views', lead me to consider the ACTUAL realities of a vote being passed in a house of parliament, the way it was manifest 'on the ground', and the way it did (or did not) accord with the Rule Of Law (later in my musings, I included 'regulation' as something that should properly be held liable to the Rule Of Law).

    Anyway - any pursuit of history and of the basic foundations of the Rule of Law (Capital L intended) clearly shows that the simple raising of a sufficient number of hands in a parliament, did NOT create any semblance of Law. It is only legislation, which is NOT Law.

    Then we have law, which is what is passed into the legal and governmental system as the outcome of legislation. At this point it is not, and does not accord with the Rule Of, Law. It is only what can be forced upon a populace by virtue of having been voted on in a house of elected representatives, and is then handled by government bodies and courts, and has yet to pass the test of whether or not it actually accords with the Rule Of Law, which carries certain stipulations.

    This passing of legislation directly into the hands of bodies appointed to oversee Law is a clear abrogation of and end run around the requirement that such moves be first tested under Law before becoming the power in the land.

    If it fails that test (which it will demonstrably not if never so tested) - it cannot be law, and certainly not Law, or even be regulation, since regulatory activities of government bodies must themselves abide by the Rule Of Law, and NO person has any right to act upon any legislation/law/regulation that has NOT passed the test of the Rule Of Law.

    So now we address the avenues by which any individual or group may challenge the input of a piece of legislation into law or regulation... but not yet into Law.

    What are these avenues?

    An individual may confront one of these pieces of legislation/law once that individual has been compelled by that legislation/law to defend him/her self. What are their chances in such a situation, when faced with a totally biased and unthinking approach to Law, that virtually guarantees that anyone 'accused' has no chance?

    A group may do the same, and both may take this piece of legislation directly to the body appointed to adjudicate on its applicability to Law (not legislation, law or regulation). What are their chances when the cost of placing such a contest against legislation/law is prohibitive, and their chances of success are already seriously disadvantaged by the inherent bias of any judicial system, in that it considers itself part of some 'thin blue line' of control over the populace, and not as a fearless defender of EVERY individual Equally under Law (and not under 'law as written = legislation/law), and when these massively courts of last and only appeal against wrongful legislation/law are deliberately stacked so as to ensure that the view of the prevailing party will hold sway?

    Answer = No Chance At All! Or Buckley's.

    (yes - this is all my own work - love it or leave it - and is precisely why I continually demand a Royal Commission into the judiciary and into jurisprudence, and including into the way legislation is formulated outside the Rule Of Law).

    22nd Jun 2017
    Might make a little more sense to give the abused access to $1oK or so of the abuser's superannuation, rather than encouraging them to risk poverty in old age. But then, the rich and privileged have no idea what life is like in the real world, do they? They keep coming up with DUMB and DUMBER ideas - OR ideas deliberately designed to ensure the underprivileged and strugglers stay that way.

    Yes, of course giving the abused access to the abuser's super presents major problems of evidence, legal costs etc. to ensure a proper analysis of the situation and a just decision, etc. There are no simple answers, so maybe overpaid fools should stop pretending to have answers. The ONLY answer to our social ills - and it isn't a complete answer by any means, but a measure that will go a long way to helping - is to TAX THE RICH and provide better social services. Stop driving greater and greater inequality in society. Recognize that even those who do the most menial and low paid jobs - yes even those who work unpaid for - charity or for the community - make a major contribution to society and deserve decent health care, access to social support when needed, and a respectable retirement. And the overpaid turds who stash their ill-gotten gains in the Caymans deserve to be hung and their riches confiscated to fund the infrastructure and services they used but did not pay for.
    22nd Jun 2017
    Ah - so now the civil action(which it never was in reality) of complaining of abuse (without proof) should move instantly in the rather dark public mind to a punishment in one way or another?

    This is precisely why I say there is a dire need for a full consideration of all facets of abuse within relationships, with an open mind, and a discontinuation of the current chosen paradigm of 'male v female only', and a cessation of the virulent propaganda that paints all men accused under that regime of zero proof in a CIVIL matter as abusers.

    Told yes before many times - that approach IS violence writ large, and does nothing but inflame situations and relationships, while permitting the State some adopted 'right' to intrude with violence into the family home and dismantle social institutions and create MORE victims, to suit its totally separate agenda.

    Think hard, add facts, and stir relentlessly.
    22nd Jun 2017
    Note that I referred to abusers and abused, Trebor. No reference to gender, because either gender may be the abuser and either gender may be the abused. Also, I conceded that punishment would present problems of evidence, legal costs, etc. It's NOT a solution.

    I agree with your comments.
    25th Jun 2017
    I am lucky I earn a large salary . I pay taxes on income -GST. SUPER and just about everything else . How much tax do we pay ??. Maybe we need to look at where all the money goes. .
    The government needs to look at where all the money goes. Any one can look at the budget and work out where it all goes.
    25th Jun 2017
    Millions of dollars are spent on medical research , how much is spent working out what causes domestic violence.?????????
    Please explain.
    This is not just female but male too.

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