New weapons in the fight against domestic violence during COVID-19

Release Date: 
3 April 2020
Statement

Senator the Hon Marise Payne
The Hon Paul Fletcher

Australia’s eSafety Commissioner today announced the release of new guidelines and online training tools to help frontline workers continue to safely support victims of domestic and family violence during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new advice and training tools are accompanied by guidance to help women experiencing domestic and family violence reduce their risks online while living at home in isolation.

“For women either living in an abusive relationship or having recently separated, being forced to remain in one place for an extended period of time is frightening and dangerous,” said eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant.

“While technology can be an essential tool to continue to deliver support services for women exposed to domestic and family violence, it also brings with it additional risks.

“These new guidelines and training tools for frontline agencies and their workers are designed to address these risks and allow women to continue to feel safe and protected when seeking help from frontline agencies during this pandemic.”

The Commissioner said that as the pressure of living day to day in isolation increases, abusive behaviours, and some forms of technology-facilitated abuse, are likely to escalate, too.

“Women may be limited in how quickly they can get help because their devices are compromised."

“And this is why we have also included practical advice women in vulnerable situations can use to protect themselves when they are cut off from their normal support networks like family and friends.”

Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, the hon Paul Fletcher MP said “The Morrison Government is committed to keeping Australians safe – especially as the community takes necessary action in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. We understand that, for some people, home may not always be a safe place. 

“It’s important that people who feel at risk of abuse from a domestic partner know where they can go for help, especially if their phone or online communications are being monitored by an abuser, and that frontline workers have the right information to sensitively manage these risks.

“That is why we are complementing the $150 million domestic violence support package announced this week by boosting resources and support available online. I thank the eSafety Commissioner for developing these necessary online training resources for frontline workers and guidance for vulnerable women in isolation.”
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, said that now more than ever, all Australians needed to be vigilant about violence against women.

“Women and children experiencing violence need to know they are not alone and services remain available to help them stay safe during this difficult time,” Minister Payne said.

“Service providers are adapting the way they work, in order to continue helping women through the COVID-19 pandemic. These expertly developed resources will assist with that transition.”

The advice for women includes using a different, safe device if possible so they can get help if needed and also to stay connected with friends and family, and changing passwords or passcodes on all accounts, devices and emails. 

The new guidance for frontline workers includes making sure platforms they use to communicate with their clients are secure and being aware their client’s devices, like mobile phones, may be compromised. 

The new frontline worker guidance and advice for vulnerable women in isolation during COVID-19 can be found at: www.esafety.gov.au/COVID-19 

Frontline workers can register their interest in new online training webinars, available from next week.