NSW Labor has pledged to respond to one in three unanswered calls to the statewide sexual violence hotline if it wins the next election, pledging to spend $923,000 additional costs per year for the essential service.
Over the past year, 4,000 calls from sexual assault survivors have gone unanswered to the 24/7 NSW Sexual Violence Helpline. The helpline received over 14,000 calls and online contacts in 2021, a 27% increase from the previous year.
Advocates say the rate of missed calls is due to the lack of funding for counselors who run the trauma service, which is run by Full Stop Australia and provides support for survivors of sexual assault, family or domestic violence.
The organization receives more than $1.5 million a year from the state government to operate the helpline.
NSW Labor says it will provide additional core funding of $923,701 a year to cover the salaries of 25 additional councillors, if they are successful when voters go to the polls in March.
A one-time contribution of over $460,000 would go towards improving access to sexual violence services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, women with disabilities, migrant and refugee women, and the LGBTIQA+ community.
“The services Full Stop Australia provides to the NSW community are invaluable, and we are proud to support their continued efforts, particularly the support they provide through the helpline,” said
Prue Car, Labor deputy leader.
“It’s hard enough to make the decision to reach out and ask for help. It’s unacceptable that no one picks up on the other end of the line when you make that call.
Minister for Women’s Safety and the Prevention of Domestic and Sexual Violence, Natalie Ward, said sexual assault was “a serious and devastating crime”, in which the government is investing significantly.
Ward said an additional $20 million in Commonwealth funding had also been invested in domestic and family violence services in NSW as part of the first tranche of the National Violence Partnership Agreement domestic and family 2021-23.