Notice of Annual General Meeting

Wednesday 23 November 2022

3rd Floor, Fitzroy Town Hall, corner Moor and Napier Sts, Fitzroy
You can also attend online – see details below


Please RSVP to by 5.00pm Friday 18 November 2022 to advise
that you will be attending the AGM.

Please ensure that you include your email address.

Link to AGM and meeting papers

The online link to the AGM will emailed to all people who have RSVP’d closer to the meeting date. If you do not RSVP, you will not receive the link. The minutes of the previous AGM, annual report and audited financial statements will be emailed to members and others who have advised that they will be attending prior to the AGM.

If you are attending in person

Enter via a blue stone lane off Moor St into a courtyard.
Follow signs to SSRV (and Fitzroy Legal Service), at glass sliding door SSRV staff will meet you and escort you to the 3 rd floor meeting room.

Please call (03) 9481 0299 or email if any assistance is required with RSVPs, online attendance or if you have any access requirements.

Social security as a weapon of economic abuse

People using violence against their partner are adept at weaponising economic products and systems to extend their abuse both during a relationship and after it ends.

Economic abuse is an often-hidden form of family violence in which one person tries to control another by restricting or exploiting their economic resources in a way that threatens their economic security and potential for self-sufficiency.

This could look like one partner controlling all the money, or withholding necessities, sabotaging their partner’s ability to earn an income, or building up debts in the other person’s name.

There are many different tactics of economic abuse but it is usually not the only thing going on. It commonly co-occurs with other forms of abuse, like emotional, psychological, physical, or sexualised violence.

Importantly, when the person using economic abuse is a man and the target of their abuse is a woman, there are structural disadvantages that make the woman more vulnerable to his increased control, and less able to recover, including: the gender pay gap, women’s higher rates of unpaid care, higher rates of part-time and casual work linked partly to the cost and availability of childcare, as well as societal expectations about motherhood.

Conservative estimates suggest 1 in 6 women will experience economic abuse at the hands of a current or former partner. And more than 60 per cent of women in high financial stress have a history of economic abuse.

The link between domestic violence and economic insecurity is well established. We know that:

  • Women experiencing domestic violence have more difficulty paying bills, carry higher average levels of debt, and are more likely to go without food when they are hungry.
  • Women experiencing domestic violence are much more likely to cease paid employment.
  • Domestic and family violence is the primary reason women seek support from homelessness services.

However, the deliberate nature of economic abuse driving this financial precarity is often overlooked.

For instance, preventing a partner from working, redrawing ‘savings’ from a joint mortgage facility, putting joint bills in the other partner’s name only, or being the registered owner of a vehicle their partner relies upon for transport, are just a few examples.

The social security system should be a key support for people experiencing violence from an intimate partner, but it is also manipulated, even while it is already ill-equipped to provide adequate and timely support to victim-survivors of abuse.

Some of the ways the social security system is turned into a weapon by perpetrators include:

  • women being forced by the abusive partner they live with to apply for the single rate of the Jobseeker payment (which is a higher amount than the rate when you are part of a couple), and then threatened with being dobbed in;
  • misleading claims about the percentage of care of children to manipulate Child Support payments; and
  • refusal to lodge tax returns meaning that an incorrect rate of Family Tax Benefit is paid, leading to a future debt for the victim-survivor.

All of this is against a backdrop where even if the abusive partner is not deliberately manipulating Centrelink, the system still falls short in supporting people experiencing domestic and family violence. It assumes couples share income, it doesn’t deal very well with couples who are separated but living under the one roof, and it fails to adequately support people who have assets on paper that are controlled by their partner or ex-partner. The criteria for Centrelink’s Crisis Payment in cases of domestic and family violence is too restrictive and must be claimed within seven days which is a ridiculously short time frame for people in crisis.

This interplay of gendered violence, structural economic barriers, and poorly designed social security undermines women’s economic safety.

This article was written by Rebecca Glenn, Centre for Women’s Economic Safety, Jasmine Opdam, Financial Abuse Service NSW, and Pamela Taylor-Barnett, Social Security Rights Victoria.

This article first appeared in Economic Justice Australia’s publication Social Security Rights Review, August 2022, and was reproduced with permission.

Violence or poverty: social security is the key to reform

Every person affected by family and domestic violence should be able to access adequate financial support to leave an abusive situation and rebuild their life in a safe home. To ensure that essential social security reform remains a priority over the next decade, SSRV has added our signature to those of 500+ other organisations, including the leaders of 67 key domestic violence, welfare and other aligned organisations, in an open letter to the relevant Ministers. 

The open letter calls for the Government to ensure that social security is embedded in the new National Plan to end violence against women and children.

Economic Justice Australia (EJA), the authors of the open letter, have since had positive meetings with Attorney General, Mark Dreyfus, and Minister for Social Services, Amanda Rishworth. The ministers understood and were sympathetic to the issues and indicated they were open to exploring the possibility of changes to the law.

The Department of Social Services will be working over the next couple of months on developing a brief for the Minister and have agreed to consult EJA on the draft.

SSRV will keep you updated as news comes to hand.

Did you know?

As we all know, disasters can have unexpected consequences for those affected. For some, this can include impacts on their social security entitlements and obligations.

A disaster, such as a flood or bushfire, may result in a person losing their identification documents, for example. This can result in a Centrelink dispute about proving their identity when they go to apply for a Disaster Payment.

Another common example is where correspondence from Centrelink goes undelivered or not received due to the postal address being one in a disaster affected region. The letter sent by Centrelink might include important time limitations which are easily missed if the recipient does not receive the letter, and they may not even know the letter was sent.

At SSRV we understand the significant impact a disaster can have on your social security entitlements – and we’re ready to help.

Find out more about SSRV’s Disaster Preparedness and Response Plan and read more from our Did You Know? series.

Staff Profile: Margie Ambrose, Communications Officer

I joined SSRV at the end of 2020, at a time when the vulnerabilities of the many Australians had come into sharp focus due to the pandemic and many of us were having our first interactions with Centrelink – and a time when I was thrilled to be doing work that wasn’t home-schooling. 

I create and manage all the external communications for SSRV, including website content, social media, and the development of our monthly email newsletter. It’s important work, simply because if people don’t know we exist, or are unsure about how we can help them, how will they know to reach out to us when they need it the most? 

The team at SSRV are some of the smartest, most passionate people I have worked with. The dignity and rights of our clients are their motivation and working with them inspires me in the work I do. 

They’re also willing to step out of their comfort zones in order to help the most vulnerable members of our community. Some of our staff have written articles for me, having never written one before, and most recently, they have started producing video clips for our website and social media, which can be confronting and challenging for anyone. 

All this produces an engaged and energetic workplace vibe, which is probably the thing I love about working for SSRV the most. 

I am a single mum of two girls, who are bold and clever, and who never walk past an injustice without taking action, which makes me think I must be doing something right. When I’m not working, I enjoy hanging out with them, paddle boarding, hiking, bike-riding or watching Stranger Things for the twentieth time. 

Homelessness and social security rights

Every night there are 116,000 Australians sleeping without a home. They are mothers and children escaping family violence, young people with little support, families unable to keep up with rent, people living with disabilities. Once, homelessness was thought by many to be something that happens to other people, but that’s changing.  

Homelessness is a growing crisis in Australia. Rising interest rates mean landlords have needed to increase rents. Add to rising rents the increase in cost of living and basic necessities such as food and heating and you can understand why, for many families living on Centrelink payments, housing has become simply unaffordable.   

The theme for this year’s Homelessness Week was ‘to end homelessness we need a plan’, and at SSRV we believe that plan needs to address the rate of Centrelink payments and issues of equality and accessibility to social security. 

Without a liveable rate of social security, families will continue to be unable to afford to pay rent. Without equal access to social security, the number of the most vulnerable people in our communities experiencing homelessness will continue to grow.  

SSRV will continue to work for real change to our social security system, while providing free legal advice on social security and Centrelink matters for people right across Victoria. 

The Choice: violence or poverty

Violence or poverty: this is the terrible choice many women escaping family violence in Australia face every day. This week, ABC’s current affairs discussion show Q and A dedicated an entire episode to addressing the issues around single mothers and poverty.

The program focused on a newly-released report from journalist and researcher Anne Summers that drew on data especially prepared by the ABS mostly from the 2016 Personal Safety Survey. 

The panel included Anne Summers, Jess Hill, author of See What You Made Me Do, Veronica Gorrie, author of Black and Blue, Federal MP Anne Aly and anti-violence activist, Arman Abrahimzadeh, who all took questions from the audience, including Leanne Ho from Economic Justice Australia, who asked a question we consider crucial to addressing family violence:

“What will the new Labor government do to ensure that economic security, particularly social security income support, is included in the new National Plan for the Safety of Women and Children?”

While Minister Aly re-affirmed the Federal Government’s commitment to supporting single mothers escaping family violence, there was no such commitment to include an increase in social security as part of its National Plan for the Safety of Women and Children.

Watch The Choice: violence or poverty on iView.

SSRV believes that women escaping family violence will continue to be faced with the choice between violence and poverty unless livable social security rates are addressed.

Next Friday, Federal and State ministers with portfolios responsible for women’s safety will meet to discuss economic safety for women. We are urging these ministers to make economic security a key pillar of the National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children.

Georgina Sack, Executive Assistant

I started my position as executive assistant to SSRV Director Gillian Wilks in 2021. My role is to assist a very busy Gillian with day-to-day tasks and requirements and act as liaison with staff and some of our external stakeholders. This gives Gillian the ability to focus on the bigger SSRV organisational picture.  

Due to the pandemic, I had to start the position remotely and get to know everyone via Zoom. It was wonderful returning to the office a couple of months ago – I had the chance to see how ‘tall’ everyone is.

This is the first time I have worked in a community legal service. My working background has been a varied one, working in primary schools, hospitals, medical research institutes and colleges. I even had a job working at the Museum of Victoria when it was situated alongside the State Library. We worked up in the roof top area and to get to the staff tearoom we had to walk across scaffolding without handrails. Quite a feat and I’m still here to tell the tale!

When I am not at work, I enjoy scuba diving and bush camping; both activities I prefer in summer to winter. I also enjoy daily walks with our greyhound Mr Henry.

The SSRV team is a very dedicated and compassionate team, working in a challenging area of community law, and I feel very privileged to be supporting them.

SSRV’s Integrated Services Project: expanding our reach

Recently SSRV’s Integrated Services Project has taken opportunities to get out and about, connecting with communities at in-person events both in Melbourne and regional Victoria.

At the end of May, the Integrated Services Project (ISP) team – Graeme Parsons, financial counsellor and Dermott Williams, community lawyer – were invited to visit Ballarat and take part in a debt expo organised by Ballarat and Grampians Community Legal Service. The conversations Graeme and Dermott had were meaningful, and it was great to connect with people in their own community rather than remotely, the way SSRV normally operates. 

This is particularly important in regional locations, where, as we’ve seen with other events such as one’s we’ve contributed to in Gippsland, that face-to-face contact and trust building is essential to meeting the needs of clients and other community organisations with which we work.

In early June, the ISP team participated in the Young Carers Festival, closer to home at the MCG. Graeme and Dermott attended with a team from FCVic to promote the work of financial counsellors and SSRV to carers and their families, with a particular focus on issues they may be facing with Centrelink and social security related issues. It was a fantastic evening with many impactful conversations happening throughout the night.

SSRV is looking forward to more opportunities like these, visiting and engaging with people outside the constraints of our usual service delivery and in the best way for the people who need us.

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