An Australia-first micro finance scheme aims to support domestic violence victims in the "missing middle" - those who earn too much to qualify for government assistance, but not enough to manage essential costs as they re-establish their lives.
Assistance Beyond Crisis offers domestic violence victims in immediate financial need living in the ACT region and earning between $50,000 and $100,000 no-interest loans of up to $5000 to be repaid over three years.
Women's Centre for Health Matters chief executive Marcia Williams said research from the Domestic Violence Crisis Service showed an overwhelming number of domestic violence victims lost their homes after leaving a violent partner.
Others struggled with childcare costs, school fees, renegotiating loans, legal costs, maintaining cars and their pets, she said.
“In Canberra it’s pretty stark - we can see people on a single income who earn between $50,000 and $100,000 really miss out and run the risk of falling into poverty," she said.
"People who work in retail and hospitality and the community sector, they’re on lower wages but you try finding rentals and all that sort of stuff and paying your bills in Canberra, let alone also having to leave a domestic violence relationship."
About 10 people have received $30,000 in loans since July last year. About 40 per cent of successful loan applicants have been Indigenous, all have been women, the majority aged between 35 and 44 and mostly living in private housing.
Loan recipients have used the funds for school fees, buying furniture, legal fees, rental bonds and car repairs and registration.
The establishment of Assistance Beyond Crisis followed a series of workshops held in Canberra in 2016 with the big four professional services, community members and health stakeholders.
Deloitte Canberra managing partner Lynne Pezzullo said the workshops showed a clear need for small loans to support victims of domestic violence in getting their lives back to normal.
“We know the government is helping the very worst cases but we want to reach out and provide support to people on low to middle incomes as well as those on the lowest incomes," Ms Pezzullo said.
"No woman should be without the ability to access short-term support like the loans provide that prevent her from being safe and her family."
The scheme is managed by C.A.R.E. Incorporated with SERVICE ONE Alliance Bank and sponsored by a range of national and ACT-based organisations.
Coordinators raised $275,000 to support the program.
“It was really amazing that we were able to galvanise support from some amazing organisations in Canberra that said ‘this is an issue we want to support’," Ms Williams said.
"All of our donors were amazing. We had everyone from the Snow Foundation to a couple of the banks and some smaller organisations around that really made a difference."
More information can be found at assistancebeyondcrisis.org.au.