The Impact of Wage Increases on the Under Resourced DFSV Sector – ABC Radio

Larissa Ellis CEO Women’s Safety Services of Central Australia 00:00
Hi, Liz, thanks for asking me on [to ABC radio]. Look, we’ve calculated the [minimum wage]
increase to be about 150 to $200,000, that will hit our budget. So that’s quite a significant
number for us.

ABC Host Liz Trevaskis 00:15
And what are you going to be able to do? Or what are you going to have to look to do to cover
those costs?

Larissa Ellis CEO Women’s Safety Services of Central Australia 00:23
Look, we’re looking quite seriously at our budget. It kind of comes at a little bit of an
inconvenient time to be honest, with our budgets due to our directors for approval for the next
year, so we kind of got the advice that yes, we had a 4.6% increase that we needed to apply to
our wages, which as Susan [Crane from Dawn House] said, we agree to I think our staff
deserves that increase. But it left us with very little time to kind of look at our budgets work out
where we’re going to try to cut some of the funds, and how we’re going to apply that 4.6%.

ABC Host Liz Trevaskis 01:06
I was talking to you earlier, and I said, we have to cut services. And you said look, no, I think we
can we can just hang on there. But the issue is the demand is increasing so seriously, that you
won’t be able to meet that demand, can you give us an idea of how that of that growing
demand for domestic violence services.

Larissa Ellis CEO Women’s Safety Services of Central Australia 01:27
Look in domestic and family violence, unfortunately, in the Northern Territory, we have the
highest rates across Australia. We haven’t seen an abatement at all, and with COVID-19 we’ve
actually seen an increase and an increased demand on our services. WoSSCA provides both an
outreach service and a crisis accommodation service, that’s 24 hours a day, seven days a
week, we’ve seen an increase to both of those, for requests to service for both of those
services. We are constantly looking at where gaps in services are some of the underspend that
we had last year we were looking at where we could actually apply that and meet some of
those gaps in service. Now, unfortunately, with the 4.6%, we won’t be able to put in some of
those measures that we had identified.

ABC Host Liz Trevaskis 02:19
So areas where you could help women and children – predominantly women, not always, but
predominantly women and children fleeing the horrors of domestic violence, there were things
you wanted to do to help them further, maybe break these cycles, what were some of the
things that you’d identified that you wanted to implement that you now won’t be able to?

Larissa Ellis CEO Women’s Safety Services of Central Australia 02:43
Some of the things that we have been considering we have approximately 45% of the women –
well the people accessing our services are children under the age of 15. At the present
moment, we don’t offer a specialized therapeutic service for those children and we would like
to. So that was one of the things that we were looking at trying to implement for next financial
year. Another one is a practice…

ABC Host Liz Trevaskis 03:11
Before you get to that, does that mean little kids who are caught up in the storm of this
violence? You don’t get someone specially assigned to work with them to help them through?

Larissa Ellis CEO Women’s Safety Services of Central Australia 03:25
No, unfortunately.

ABC Host Liz Trevaskis 03:27
That’s devastating.

Larissa Ellis CEO Women’s Safety Services of Central Australia 03:30
It is it is.

ABC Host Liz Trevaskis 03:31
I had to catch my breath, Larissa, you’ve caught me off guard. Sorry. We were also talking
earlier about the fact that you don’t have an Aboriginal cultural liaison officer and that was
something that you were looking at implementing, again, won’t be able to because of these
increased costs, what kind of challenges does it present not having not being able to afford that

Larissa Ellis CEO Women’s Safety Services of Central Australia 03:57
Look, I think we have quite a high number of Aboriginal staff within our service, we probably sit
about 17 to 18% for Aboriginal staffing. But we do have across our service, it probably sits at
about 93% of the women and children accessing our service do identify as Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander. And I think that it’s important for cultural competency and cultural safety
for us to have a cultural adviser attached to our service that can look at our policies, our
procedures and our processes to say yes, that it is appropriate that yes, you know, we are
doing the right things for the majority of the people that are entering our service.

ABC Host Liz Trevaskis 04:42
There’s also an area where you won’t be able to do more when it comes to something called
something around priority three referrals which is very technical, but what does that relate to?
Because it sounds like something quite significant that you now won’t be able to extend your
services around.

Larissa Ellis CEO Women’s Safety Services of Central Australia 04:58
Look, we’d really like to accept it. Every single woman who approaches our service,
unfortunately, we cannot. We need to look at capacity both in our outreach and in our crisis
accommodation. And so we have established priority tools that assist us to identify those
women and children most at risk. And they’re the ones that we try to put as much resources
into as we possibly can. Those women who are unable to access our service, we ensure that we
provide a referral to another service if we can.