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‘Last resort lifeline’: Domestic violence victims to be able to take $10,000 from superannuation

Domestic violence victims fleeing their abusers will soon be able to get $10,000 from their superannuation accounts as the federal government begins rolling out initiatives to help women ahead of the federal budget.

New measures first unveiled more than two years ago by then-Women’s Minister Kelly O’Dwyer in the 2018 Women’s Economic Security Statement will now see action in a matter of weeks, including data sharing between courts and the tax office to reveal retirement balances during divorce proceedings.

Superannuation Minister Jane Hume.

Superannuation Minister Jane Hume.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

An exposure draft will be released “soon” for changes to increase the visibility of superannuation accounts and balances during divorces and for access to super for domestic violence victims, Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and the Digital Economy Jane Hume said.

A new compassionate ground for early access to super would allow domestic violence victims to apply for up to $10,000 of their super to be withdrawn “as an important last resort lifeline.”

Senator Hume said the draft would provide a timeframe for feedback from stakeholders and representative groups, ensuring safeguards would be put in place to reduce the chances of financial exploitation.

“Both immediate measures and long term prevention are needed, and this measure will complement the government’s existing initiatives to prevent and respond to family and domestic violence … and will coincide with the release of visibility of superannuation in family courts, which results in uneven asset distribution, which disproportionately harms women,” she said.

The 2018 statement raised a swathe of financial difficulties for women and was followed by a 2020 report released alongside last year’s federal budget by Minister for Women Marise Payne. The 2021-22 budget is expected to be handed down in May.

The 2018 statement said about 17 per cent of women have experienced violence from a current or former partner. “While superannuation should ideally be preserved until retirement, there are certain immediate and extreme circumstances where the benefits today outweigh the benefits of maintaining those savings until retirement,” it said. “Extending early access to superannuation, in addition to other support, can provide an important last resort lifeline needed to begin the recovery process in a safe environment.”

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