A feminist look at the new Federal Budget

News Reflections

Written by Scarlett Musu and Katherine Lim in consultation with Dr Emma Fulu / 02.11.2022

Federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers delivered his first budget last week, setting the scene for the future direction of the Albanese Government. Mainly, these include delivering on Labor’s key election promises - allocating $7.5bn for childcare reforms, aged care, cheaper medicines and expanding paid parental leave. Some big steps forward were taken, and others missed, which we dissect below.

Written by Scarlett Musu and Katherine Lim in consultation with Dr Emma Fulu / 02.11.2022

A photograph of Dr Emma Fulu talking with peers at the Future Women event, Budgeting For Success.
Photo credit: Olive and Maeve for Future Women

Labor’s first budget in almost a decade delivers on their key election promises and sets the stage for what’s to come.

Whilst global economic uncertainty has meant that Australia has been forced to deliver “a bread and butter” budget, there are certainly things to celebrate and opportunities that can be taken in the next budget!

Here’s our feminist take on the Federal Budget.

What we're excited about

For the first time in an Australian Federal Budget, women have been placed front and centre. An 85-page women’s budget statement acknowledged that “gender inequality is holding Australia back” and looked at tackling complex issues like the gender pay gap and discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

This budget begins the process of mainstreaming gender equality and centring it in every single government policy – focusing on structural and systemic reform. Learn more about our work in this area.

There’s been a record investment in women’s safety, with $1.7 billion allocated towards women’s safety initiatives, and an ambitious goal set to end violence against women and girls in one generation.

Here’s what that funding will support:

  • $100 million for crisis and transitional housing options for women and children fleeing family and domestic violence, and older women on low incomes who are at risk of homelessness
  • 500 frontline community sector workers to increase support for women and children in crisis
  • $40 million to boost the Escaping Violence Payment program
  • Legislation to provide 10 days of paid family and domestic violence leave
  • A trial of innovative responses to address the behaviour of family and domestic violence perpetrators ($25 million over five years)
  • Full implementations of the recommendations of the Australian Human Right’s Commission’s Respect@Work report ($42.5 million over four years)
  • Funding for respectful relationships education ($65.3 million over four years)

There are a number of initiatives targeted towards First Nations people and communities, focusing on health and education outcomes, as well as a record $99 million invested in First Nations justice. This funding will primarily go towards initiatives aimed at “addressing the underlying causes of incarceration” as well as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services.

And, of course, there’s $75.1 million set aside over the next two years for the referendum on enshrining an Indigenous Voice to Parliament in the constitution, with the vast majority of this going to the Australian Electoral Commission and other agencies so they can begin preparation.

Well-being will be measured alongside economic outcomes, in a bold move that has been adapted from New Zealand.

It’s refreshing to see recognition of the interconnectedness of social and environmental issues in this budget – for example, gender inequality creates the conditions that underpin violence against women, and violence impacts on health and housing which affects workforce participation, and so on. Encouragingly, this budget has a more holistic approach than previous budgets and, for the first time ever, the Australian government has linked climate change and gender.

Labor has made a commitment to affordable housing, aiming to boost housing supply by a million homes. Listen to Dr Chay Brown, our Research and Partnerships Manager, discuss the link between violence against women and housing insecurity and poor quality housing with Peter McMillan from the NT Shelter here.

What else we would like to see

Whilst we can celebrate the fact that women have been placed at the centre of this Federal Budget, it’s important to acknowledge that this is not just about women. We’d like to see greater recognition of gender beyond the binary, but more importantly, we want to see more of an explicit focus on those who have been marginalised.

The ambitious goal to end violence against women and girls in a generation is welcomed and applauded. However, there are concerns that the funding allocated isn’t enough – especially when considering the needs of people facing multiple forms of oppression, like First Nations women.

We do know that there is a dedicated National Action Plan to End Violence Against Women and Girls to come, by and for First Nations people, and this could not be more vital. ABC’s Four Corners recently revealed that First Nations women are being murdered at up to 12 times the national average. 315 First Nations women have gone missing, or been murdered or killed in suspicious circumstances, since 2000.

We need greater investment from a needs-based perspective, especially in remote communities for whom the funded mainstream services like 1800RESPECT just don’t reach.

We would like to see a much stronger focus on perpetration of violence – we need not only investment in perpetration data, but investment in strengthening healthy masculinities and addressing harmful masculinities in Australia.

A much bolder approach to climate action would have been welcomed – Labor has missed an opportunity here which will have grave impacts on our health and well-being as well as the future of our planet. With the link between climate change and gender acknowledged, we could have a stronger focus on gender-responsive climate adaption efforts.

Lastly, we would also like to see tax reform that addresses the deepening inequality in our society and supports those who will be hardest hit in economic challenges – the poorest and most marginalised communities.

What's next?

This year’s Federal Budget is a step in the right direction and that is reason to celebrate, however, there is still much work to do.

This is not just about money – this is about improving systems so that every single Australian has the same opportunities, access to resources and shared power and respect.

We all have a role to play in advancing gender equality and ending violence against women. Learn more here.

This blog post was developed based on a panel discussion hosted by Future Women which our Founder, Dr Emma Fulu, participated in. The event took place on Nunnawal Country, Canberra on Wednesday, 26 October 2022.