ACT News

ACT gets domestic violence funding boost in wake of Tara Costigan's death

The ACT will boost funding for domestic violence prevention in the wake of the Tara Costigan death, a move applauded by a sector struggling to meet increasing demand. 

Mother of three Tara Costigan, 28, was killed in February.
Mother of three Tara Costigan, 28, was killed in February. Photo: Supplied

Attorney-General Simon Corbell announced the extra $300,000 in funding on Thursday, saying it adds to the government's ongoing efforts to curb the "scourge" of domestic violence in the ACT. 

An extra $100,000 will be available for women's safety grants, which help vulnerable women escape violence.

Health Minister Simon Corbell
Health Minister Simon Corbell  Photo: Rohan Thomson

Another $100,000 will be given to the Domestic Violence Prevention Council to "expand and progress its works program", while $100,000 will be used to strengthen data collection on domestic violence crime.

"Clearly the tragic death of Tara Costigan has only reaffirmed the critical nature of continuing to respond to this issue," Mr Corbell said.


The funding - to be drawn from the confiscated assets of Canberra criminals - has been welcomed by sector leaders and Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson. 

Domestic Violence Crisis Service executive director Mirjana Wilson said funding for the Domestic Violence Prevention Council was sorely needed, saying it had been operating on the goodwill of members so far.

Ms Wilson said the $100,000 for the data collection was "exciting", while warning more money may be needed to get a full picture of the problem. 

She said she would wait to see whether increasingly stretched frontline support services, like her agency, would be better funded in coming months. 

"Those three initiatives are all very different ones, and really important," Ms Wilson said.

"I now look forward to seeing how other areas will benefit and will be given priority."

Earlier on Wednesday, the ACT opposition pledged a bipartisan approach and called for a roundtable to bring together local police, domestic violence experts, victims, and support workers before a crucial Council of Australian Governments meeting on the issue in July.

Mr Corbell welcomed that commitment, but called on the opposition to condemn federal government cuts to critical organisations like the Women's Legal Centre and the Welfare Rights and Legal Centre.

"The support from the opposition is welcome," he said.

"This is not a partisan issue, this is very much an issue of preventing death, preventing harm, preventing violence against women and children in our community."

In response, the opposition said it did not want to see any cuts to domestic violence services, but warned the government not to play politics with the issue. 

"We need to send a very strong message from the ACT, a united message, that we don't want to see cuts to services, we actually want to see more resources to services," Mr Hanson said.

The government expressed scepticism about the opposition's idea of a roundtable before COAG in July, something Mr Hanson had hoped would set clear objectives for the ACT.

Mr Corbell said five roundtables had already been conducted in recent years.

"I think we have a very good and comprehensive understanding of the issues as they relate to domestic violence in our community," he said.

"But we know this continues to be a scourge for far too many families in our community, that's why today I'm announcing additional, further funding."

Mr Corbell also spoke of the work the ACT was already doing on domestic violence.

Last year, the ACT government launched an investigation into the estimated 72 domestic violence-related deaths between 1988 and 2012. 

Mr Corbell hopes that review will guide future reforms and give a clearer picture of the problem. 

It also already has an ACT Prevention of Violence against Women and Children strategy, and worked with the Commonwealth on the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children 2010-2022. 

He said more than $500,000 in new funding to support women, including in domestic violence cases, had been given in the past 12 months. 

The government's announcement on Thursday comes a day after Ms Costigan, 28, was laid to rest at a funeral at Albert Hall.

Her alleged killing at the hands of her former partner Marcus Rappel, 40, has shocked the community. It has seen a spike in demand for calls to help to the Domestic Violence Crisis Service, already struggling under a 40 per cent increase in contacts in five years and a doubling of crisis visits in two years. 

Ms Costigan was killed a day after she sought help from the courts, gaining an interim domestic violence order.

Mr Corbell said the government had not rushed its funding announcement, and had been working hard on the issue of domestic violence for years.

"I welcome the renewed support we're going to get on responding to domestic violence as a result of this very high-profile and tragic death."