Health employee super fund HESTA has recommended that family violence and financial abuse be added to Superannuation Industry Supervision Regulations as compassionate grounds.
Victims would be able to access up to $10,000 under the HESTA plan.
Financial control is one of many reasons people can feel unable to leave an abusive partner or family. With one in four Australian women experiencing domestic violence, this proposal could save lives.
The move has also been publicly supported by industry lobby Industry Super Australia.
Industry Super Australia public affairs director Matt Linden has put the pressure on governments to “properly resource support for women escaping family violence”.
“When state-funded support fails, allowing access to super in special circumstances could mean the difference between someone seeking vital help or not,” Mr Linden said.
However, Women’s Legal Service Tasmania chief executive Susan Fahey has questioned the proposal, on the basis that women often have inadequate super balances.
Data from the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) shows that the average Australian woman will save less than half of the average man by retirement age.
Further, domestic violence statistics from the federal parliament show that young women aged 18-24 were the highest risk group. When looking at mean superannuation balances, the amount that women under 30 will have accumulated is only $14,812.
“If they have to dip into something they don’t have already, then we are failing people badly,” Ms Fahey said.
“Not only do women have less super but now we are asking them to self-fund their way out of domestic violence because of a lack of basic services like housing, shelter and medical and legal aid.”
If you or a loved one have experienced domestic violence, please go here for more information and to get support – https://www.1800respect.org.au/