Working together to support vulnerable women in Victoria

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit many parts of the community hard, but one of the worst-affected groups has been women.

Women lost more jobs than men, took on more unpaid work in the home including home-schooling children, and were less likely to receive government support.

In addition, almost one in 10 Australian women in a relationship have experienced domestic violence during the coronavirus crisis, with two-thirds saying the attacks started or became worse during the pandemic1. A survey of 15,000 Australian women also revealed 4.6 percent of all women experienced physical or sexual violence from a current or former cohabiting partner between February and May 2020.

In Victoria, vulnerable women were left even more susceptible to abuse with extended restrictions stopping people from seeking help and perpetrators using lockdowns to further control and isolate their victims2.

Origin supports women in crisis

Sadly, the true extent of family violence will only emerge in the months and years to come3, so it’s more important than ever to invest in support for front-line practitioners and organisations who lead Victoria’s family violence response.

This is one of the many reasons Origin is pleased to support The Queen’s Fund, a non-profit organisation that provides emergency funding to Victorian women and children facing homelessness, domestic violence, family crisis, mental illness and disability.

“We’re so proud of this partnership with The Queen’s Fund, whose important work helps to give vulnerable women in Victoria the crucial breathing space they need to get back on their feet after significant financial hardship or abuse,” said Jan Prichard, General Manager, Customer Care at Origin.

Origin began its partnership with The Queen’s Fund in 2018 to assist vulnerable women with their energy bills in the form of debt waivers. Origin also supports customers who have experienced or survived family violence directly, providing bill credits worth approximately $65,000 nationally.

The life-changing work of The Queen’s Fund

The Queen’s Fund has had an immeasurable impact on many women’s lives, such as single mother Erin* who lost her job at a factory in June 2020. Erin receives no financial support from her child’s father and prefers to have no connection to him due to family violence. Struggling to pay for her family’s necessities, The Queen’s Fund requested support from Origin to waive Erin’s $350 electricity bill, which meant Erin could put her government income towards rent and groceries.

In the year to February 2021, The Queen’s Fund helped nearly 400 women like Erin, and more than 450 children. It provided $130,000 to help pay for food, rent, household bills, essential appliances, school uniforms and even second-hand laptops so children could connect to online learning during the Victorian lockdowns.

Sally McLean, President of The Queen’s Fund, predicts that the demand for assistance from The Queen’s Fund during the COVID-19 lockdown is just the tip of the iceberg.

“We’ve had a steady flow of applications from women affected by the lockdown, but we definitely haven’t seen the worst of it.”

With the latest ABS monthly labour force data showing that Victoria has the highest number of women who are unemployed, ever, The Queen’s Fund expects that the impacts of the pandemic will continue long after the vaccine rollout addresses the immediate health crisis.

Want to help?

To support The Queen’s Fund with a donation, or to learn more, please visit the website. With an unpaid committee and low overheads covered by a historical bequest, 100 percent of donations to The Queen’s Fund go directly to the women in need.

How Origin is helping

We’re proud to support a range of organisations making a positive contribution to their local communities, including Victoria’s The Queen’s Fund, Sydney Alliance’s Voices for Power energy literacy program, Don Dunstan Foundation’s Adelaide Zero Project tackling homelessness and Aboriginal-owned South Australian organisation Nunga Mi:Nimar.

We also provide a range of support for our customers who are in need. We encourage anyone experiencing financial stress to reach out to us so we can assist.

Beyond our key customer advocacy program, Power On, which allows vulnerable customers to access bill relief, concessions and other government support, we’ve introduced new ways to educate and empower customers such as Bring Your Bill Days, and are sponsors of the Financial Counselling Australia National and State Conferences.

If you or anyone you know needs help,
please call 1800 RESPECT or launch an online chat

*Name has been changed.

1Survey by the Australian Institute of Criminology as referenced in Domestic violence on the rise during pandemic, Anthony Galloway, Sydney Morning Herald, July 2020

2More help required: the crisis in family violence during the coronavirus pandemic, The Conversation, 18 August 2020

3Coronavirus: Fear of family violence spike as COVID-19 impact hits households, Monash University Lens, 18 March 2020

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