In June 2017, Consumer Affairs Minister Marlene Kairouz visited Good Shepherd Youth and Family Service in St Albans, where family violence financial counsellors have so far supported 65 women living in Brimbank and Melton. Good Shepherd clients are dealing with a range of issues including abusive partners incurring fines and utility debts in their name.
Good Shepherd is funded as part of our new specialist family violence financial counselling service, which has helped almost 1,700 victims across Victoria since its launch in October 2016. This service is an extension of our existing Financial Counselling Program, which provided over 31,000 free, independent and confidential phone or face-to-face counselling sessions in 2016-17, delivered by community agencies across Victoria.
Family violence perpetrators can trap their victims in violent relationships by taking control of their finances, making them financially dependent on the abuser. The financial counsellors help vulnerable women access financial hardship programs and negotiate with creditors and debt collectors to protect assets from repossession.
Victoria is the first state government in Australia to fund financial counsellors specifically for family violence victims, an initiative that is already improving the lives of those who need it most.