HESTA has called on the federal government to change regulations relating to the early release of super on compassionate grounds. This change would allow victims and survivors of domestic abuse to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation as a last resort.
Superannuation can already be released early for a number of reasons including to pay for a partner's funeral or terminal illness.
HESTA chief executive Debby Blakey said, ‘We could not sit back knowing every year, on average, at least one woman a week is killed by a partner or former partner. Given the statistics, it’s likely that thousands, if not tens of thousands, of our members may be directly affected by family violence.’
Many HESTA members deliver services to victims and survivors of domestic violence, and see the impact it has on families and individuals.
To act in the best interests of the members experiencing family violence, Blakey believes they need to consider short-term safety in potentially life-threatening situations and long-term recovery from the trauma.
Finances are one of the greatest barriers to leaving an abusive household. Financial control is almost always present, yet financial support for victims is scarce. The superannuation industry is unable to fill the gap alone and it should not be up to the individual women.
Blakey stated, ‘we strongly believe support for those affected by family violence is the responsibility of all levels of government. Urgent action is needed to provide more options for those seeking safety and a life beyond violence and abuse.’
Super should only be accessed when there is no other financial option and should be a tool to stem the loss of life. Victims and survivors of family violence have a higher susceptibility to homelessness, poverty and mental illness, with the ability to stay connected and earn and income being a great asset.
Implementing these measures requires appropriate safeguards and careful consideration. Blakey is consulting with expert family violence service providers on the best way to implement change.