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Domestic and family violence (DFV) fuelled by the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic could strip the NSW economy of more than $24 billion by 2025, according to new research.

This staggering economic outlook is based on estimates of 60,000 women in NSW experienced DFV for the first time, and a further 46,000 experienced an escalation in violence during 2020.

These are some of the alarming findings in the DFV chapter of Aftershock: Addressing the Economic and Social Costs of the Pandemic and Natural Disasters, a new research series into the impact of events of the past two and a half years on people in NSW.

The Impact Economics and Policy research, commissioned by NCOSS and other peak bodies, including Domestic Violence NSW, found $3.3 billion could be removed from the NSW economy over the period 2020 to 2025 due to the impacts of increased DFV during the first year of the pandemic alone.

These costs include increased use of health and social services, lost productivity, and flow-on costs to the criminal justice, child protection and income support systems.

This figure soars to $24.6 billion when pain, suffering, illness, disability and premature mortality attributable to DFV are included.

Other evidence set out in the report includes:

  • A third of respondents (all female) to a national survey in 2021 had experienced intimate partner violence in the previous year.
  • An estimated 4,800 women in NSW either stay in a violent relationship or face homelessness due to the lack of affordable housing.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women (3 in 5) and women with disability (2 in 3) are disproportionally impacted by DFV – this figure is 1 in 6 for the rest of the population.
  • Women are predominantly the victims of DFV, and they and their children suffer the most profound lifelong impacts from this violence.
  • Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a 17 percent increase in breaches of apprehended domestic violence orders, rising to 54 percent in Inner West Sydney, 38 percent in New England and North West NSW; 38 percent in South West Sydney and 28 percent in Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven.
  • Blacktown, Inner South West and Parramatta were the areas in metropolitan Sydney with the highest rates of DFV and the highest direct costs associated with DFV. Outside metropolitan Sydney, the Central Coast had the highest rates and associated costs.

NCOSS CEO, Joanna Quilty, said the findings indicate the shocking and far-reaching economic and social impacts that DFV has on the people of NSW.

“This research presents the horrifying picture that too many women in NSW are robbed of the basic human right to feel safe in their own homes,” Ms Quilty said.

“The international research is clear, and this research backs it up – domestic and family violence increases dramatically in the wake of large-scale disasters.

“Even more concerningly, this modelling relates to the first year of the pandemic and the restrictions NSW experienced in that first wave.

“So, it likely underestimates the problem and its impact, given NSW has experienced more stressors in terms of natural disasters and ongoing COVID restrictions, on top of the 2020 lockdowns.”

“Floods and fires increase financial stress, instability and uncertainty. They can also mean people are cut off and isolated, posing an obstacle to accessing the services and support they need if experiencing violence.”

DVNSW Interim CEO, Elise Phillips said the report highlights exactly why more investment is needed to support women in unsafe situations.

“This report confirms the increased demand that specialist DFV support services have experienced on the frontlines since the start of the COVID pandemic,” Ms Phillips said.

“Additional COVID one-off funding for DFV services was welcome, but insufficient. Now is the time to urgently invest in increased baseline funding for DFV support services so that victim-survivors receive timely and effective support.”

“We also need to see more investment in social housing so that women and children can safely leave violent relationships; and in primary prevention programs to end gender-based discrimination and violence in the broader community.”

Previous NCOSS data included in the report reveals that in 2021, more than 4,800 women were forced to stay in their unsafe homes or face homelessness.

A further 2,410 were left homeless during this period because they could not access secure and permanent housing after leaving their violent home.”

The report recommends that the NSW Government invest in an additional 5,000 social housing units to be built every year for the next ten years to combat the housing crisis in NSW, providing women and children with a pathway out of DFV and a safe, secure place to call home.

Since the start of the pandemic the NSW Government has responded to increasing rates of DFV with additional funding of over $100 million a year which has been sorely needed.

However, the NSW Government would need to increase funding by $500 million a year to close the per capita funding gap with Victoria.

Media contact: Nick Trainor 0407 078 138


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Read the Aftershock report series here