For the first time in almost a decade, this year’s Federal Budget includes a “Women’s Budget”, which the Government claims will help “elevate the position of women in Australia” and reduce key threats to women’s wellbeing, such as domestic and family violence.
Below Jennifer Doggett outlines the history of the “Women’s Budget” and provides an overview of this year’s statement and reactions from peak women’s groups in the business, parenting, early childhood, health and social justice sectors.
Jennifer Doggett writes:
The first Women’s Budget was delivered by the Hawke Labor government, overseen by Susan Ryan, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women, and was sustained for 12 years (1983–1996).
In 1996 the incoming Howard Government moved away from a Women’s Budget Statement to a more narrowly focused policy statement (called variously between 1996-2004 a Ministerial Statement or a Women’s Budget Statement) on issues perceived to impact women, such as the family tax benefit or the “baby bonus”. In 2004 this shifted into a “family Impact Statement”.
In 2008 the Rudd Government reinstated a form of the Women’s Budget Statement and continued this every year until 2013. In 2014 the new Prime Minister and self-described “Minister for Women” Tony Abbott abolished the Women’s Budget but argued that he would personally take responsibility for his government’s approach to advancing the interests of women.
The re-instatement of the Women’s Budget by the Albanese Government represents a return to Labor’s previous record of taking a broad, cross-portfolio approach to improving gender equality.
Minister for Women Senator Katy Gallagher said that the Government was committed to levelling the playing field for women across the board.
Women are not an add-on in this budget. They are not a group of people that are nice to consider or include in the budget as a political fix like they have been under the former government,” she said. “Labor’s first Budget delivers on our election commitment to elevate the position of women in Australia through responsible and targeted investments, because we know that policies that are good for women are good for the economy.”
The key measures in this year’s Women’s Budget include:
Workforce participation and early childhood
- a $531.6 million investment to expand the Paid Parental Leave scheme up to 26 weeks by July 2026–the biggest boost to Australia’s Paid Parental Leave scheme since it was created in 2011.
- $4.7 billion over four years to make it easier and cheaper for parents to access early childhood education and care.
- Provide families with First Nations children access to a minimum level entitlement of 36 hours per fortnight of subsidised early childhood education and care from July 2023. This will provide a strong foundation for First Nation’s children.
- $20.2 million to establish two new Expert Panels on Pay Equity and the Care and Community Sector in the Fair Work Commission.
- Reform the workplace relations system to make gender equity an objective of the Fair Work Act 2009 and legislate a statutory equal remuneration principle
To support the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022-32 the A package of just over $1.7 billion, including:
- $1.3 billion in funding for a range of targeted initiatives to address gender-based violence.
- $39.6 million in 2022-23 for additional support through the Escaping Violence Payment program
- $25 million over five years to trial innovative responses to address the behaviour of perpetrators
- $12.6 million over two years to extend the program assisting Temporary Visa Holders who are experiencing family, domestic and sexual violence.
- ‘$169.4 million for 500 frontline service and community workers to support women and children experiencing family, domestic and sexual violence, with support targeted to women and children in rural, regional and remote areas; First Nations people; the culturally and linguistically diverse community; women with disability; and the LGBTQIA+ community.
- $83.5 million over 6 years for consent and respectful relationships education, to prevent violence before it begins and support young people to develop safe and healthy relationships.
- $42.5 million to implement all recommendations of the Respect@Work report. This includes $32 million to fund Working Women’s Centres in all states and territories, which provide free advice and assistance to women on issues including workplace sexual harassment, discrimination and wage theft.
- $3.4 million to support the implementation of 10 days paid domestic and family violence leave.
- $3.0 million to restore funding to the National Family Violence Prevention Legal Service forum.
- $100 million for crisis and transitional housing options for women and children fleeing domestic and family violence and older women on low incomes who are at risk of homelessness, through the Housing Australia Future Fund.
Women’s health and wellbeing
To support women’s health and wellbeing, the Government has pledged:
- $26.2 million funding 12 new perinatal mental health centres across Australia.
- $5.9 million towards expanding the pregnancy and postnatal guidelines for expectant parents, including target consultation and guidance for culturally and linguistically diverse and First Nations people.
- $13.9 million to increase the number of autopsies and investigations undertaken after a stillbirth.
- $22.5 million over 3 years from 2022–23 to build a dedicated Birthing on Country Centre of Excellence at Waminda, an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service in Nowra, NSW. The Birth Centre will be operational by 2025–26 and will support best practice birthing on country services and support
Reactions from stakeholders
The response of women’s, social justice and welfare groups to the Women’s Budget has been largely positive, although groups have also identified some gaps and omissions, in particular in the areas of workforce and women in poverty.
Some of the positives identified by stakeholders in the Women’s Budget include that it:
- Signals a shift in the way policy is formulated and framed in future budgets, changing the old paradigm that “women’s” policies are all about children and family.
- Begins the process of “mainstreaming” gender equality and centring it in every single government policy.
- Recognises that gender inequality has broader economic impacts and is not just about impact on individuals.
- Brings Australia into line with other OECD countries which already undertake “gender budgeting”, involving “tracking and reporting gender equality outcomes through budget processes so that policy-makers and decision-makers have access to information and analysis that assesses how a policy proposal may impact women and men differently.”
- Could potentially have a profound impact in the future on policy areas such as taxation, superannuation, social security and housing which typically are not developed with a “gender lens”.
Some of the negatives of the Women’s Budget that stakeholders have mentioned include that it:
- Is inadequate to deliver on the government’s promise to end violence against women “within a generation” and delivers only half of the funding estimated to be required to genuinely address gendered violence. .
- Does not address critical workforce shortages in the early childhood education and care, health, aged care and disability sectors which will undermine the successful implementation of initiatives in these areas
- Does not comprehensively address the circumstances of women living in poverty in Australia, for example, via increases in JobSeeker and the reinstatement of the Sole Parent Payment.
The Women’s Electoral Lobby welcomed the government’s commitment in the Women’s Budget Statement to setting an agenda to drive change, including changes to early childhood education and paid parental leave but expressed disappointment that there was no new money for women’s safety which is required in order to implement the new National Plan to End Violence against Women.
Chief Executive Women has welcomed the budget and Women’s Budget Statement, particularly its efforts to recognise that gender equality is at the heart of Australia’s future prosperity and resilience. “Today’s budget tells us that women are respected, valued, and their participation is now regarded as central to Australia’s economic prosperity,” said Sam Mostyn, President of Chief Executive Women.
Gender equity group Fair Agenda welcomed the budget’s progress towards a more gender equal future, but called out the inadequate funding to address women’s safety.
The Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association (APNA)
APNA said the budget “failed to address” the growing nurse shortages in general practice and aged care, and the nursing profession is still waiting for the government to recognise how serious the shortage of primary healthcare (PHC) nurses is. Recent surveys from APNA show that one in four PHC nurses plan to leave nursing within the next two to five years.
Advocacy group for parents, children and families The Parenthood welcomed the budget’s investments in early childhood education and care and paid parental leave. It also recognised that the government must act to address the shortage of early childhood educators.
The nation’s peak advocacy organisation for children and services, Early Childhood Australia (ECA), welcomed the budget as a “positive step” towards a longer-term vision for early childhood education and care.
Founder of Teach Us Consent, Chanel Contos welcomed the government’s investment in consent and respectful relationships education in schools. “$83.5 million over six years for consent and respectful relationships education” Contos tweeted. “Thank you to everyone who made consent education a national priority this year.”
Save the dates
- 5pm AEDT, 8 November: Health policy and the Federal Budget
- 5pm AEDT, 15 November: Health in All Policies and the Federal Budget
More details to come closer to the time.
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