Hunter unions and women’s support services are welcoming the introduction of new legislation to Federal Parliament this week, giving workers across Australia access to ten days of paid domestic violence leave.
11 million workers are expected to benefit if the legislation successfully passes, including casual staff.
Both women’s advocates and the broader union movement have spent around a decade calling for the change.
Hunter Workers Women’s Committee Chair Leanne Holmes says security at work is a basic right.
“We’ve been in situations where women have had to make the choice between feeding their kids and finding a safe place to live,” she said.
“A worker can now take paid time to go to court, move house, move his or her kids to a different school without losing their job, and that’s the most important part. Work is people’s anchor, it’s their sort of safe space where they can earn an income.”
Labor’s likely to be able to muster up the numbers to get the bill passed, though the Opposition has indicated it’s still leaning towards the Fair Work Commission’s model, where casual workers wouldn’t receive the entitlement.
But Nova for Women and Children CEO Kelly Hansen says women make up the majority of the casual workforce, and are often the most at risk.
“A lot goes under-reported,” she said. “This may give women the courage or the confidence to be able to report, and know that they will be able to follow through on any aspects that they have to, without being penalised.”
“I think it’s indicative of cultural change towards women and gendered violence. It also is indicative of trying to remove barriers and alleviate some of the pressures for women.”
If passed, the legislation is expected to come into effect for larger businesses by February next year, though smaller businesses will have an additional six months to prepare for the change.
Anthony Albanese joined women’s safety advocates at a vigil on the lawn of Parliament House on Thursday morning, describing domestic violence as a “stain on our national soul”.
Ms Holmes was there, and says it was an emotional moment.
“Walking through Parliament yesterday on the front lawns, and Anthony Albanese coming out and then being in the chamber for that legislation to be commended to Parliament, you can feel the change,” she said.
“We’re finally in a space where the people of Australia are being listened to, and there’s real positive change happening – literally happening before our eyes.”
“It’s not just saving lives, it’s saving livelihoods.”