Women, Violence & Poverty

One in five women experienced financial hardship in 2017 if they had been the victim of severe partner abuse in the past year. This was more than triple the rate of financial hardship experienced by women who had not been the victims of severe partner abuse in 2016 (20% vs 5.6%).

The Life Course Centre worked closely with our partners at Anti-Poverty Week in 2021 to shine a light on the associations between an experience of violence and subsequent financial hardship for Australian women. We undertook special research analyses to provide a deeper understanding of the links between women, violence and poverty, and bring attention to the structural inequalities that perpetuate gendered disadvantage and heighten the risks of violence for women in Australia.

Our analyses, based on data from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health, examined the rates of young Australian women (aged 21–28) moving into financial hardship following an experience of violence or abuse. We clearly demonstrated this direct association by highlighting that young women with a past-year experience of violence were much more likely to be in financial hardship—by two to three times the rate of women who did not suffer violence.

This research, led by Dr Alice Campbell and supported by Professor Janeen Baxter, was released just prior to the National Summit on Women’s Safety in September 2021. Presented as a Life Course Centre Briefing Paper and an Anti-Poverty Week Fact Sheet, it attracted high levels of media attention including a prominent article ‘Flight from violence leading to poverty’ in The Australian newspaper, an article in The Conversation, and exposure on ABC Radio National.

Our research was featured in Life Course Centre and Anti-Poverty Week newsletters and generated positive feedback and requests for further information from a range of government, business and community organisations, including The Champions of Change Coalition and the Women’s Policy Action Tank. Anti-Poverty Week Executive Director Toni Wren also highlighted our research in her address to the National Press Club in Canberra in November 2021.

Significantly, the associations between women, violence and poverty, and the need to address structural gender inequalities, were reflected in the Final Statement from Delegates at the National Summit on Women’s Safety. The Australian Government also directly recognised the link between violence and financial hardship for women when it announced a new two-year Escaping Violence Payment trial in October 2021 to support women fleeing violent relationships.

Women, violence and poverty is an important research topic, as evidenced by the impact of our 2021 research analyses, and one that we will continue to progress in the Life Course Centre.

This impact was informed by the following Life Course Centre research: