Industry super fund HESTA has called on the Australian government to change the law to allow victims of family violence to tap into up to $10,000 in their superannuation.
The fund’s CEO, Debby Blakey, said this measure would help combat the widespread problem of domestic violence because many women delay leaving violent relationships for a lack of money.
“While early access to super is currently possible to stop the bank selling your home, pay for a dependant’s funeral or get medical treatment under compassionate grounds, this is denied in instances of family violence,” Ms Blakey said in a statement.
“We think it’s entirely appropriate that super regulations extend compassion to victims and survivors of family violence to empower women with the financial means to escape abusive relationships.”
HESTA, the industry super fund for health and community services workers, proposed that both victims and survivors of family violence be able to withdraw up to $10,000 from their superannuation fund.
Ms Blakey acknowledged that using super for this purpose was not ideal, and was only intended as a “band aid” measure while state and federal governments worked to combat the problem of domestic violence.
“Women already retire with almost half the super of men, and they shouldn’t have to use their super for this purpose. But family violence is one of the rare situations in which short-term financial needs are more compelling than the need to preserve superannuation for retirement.”
Ms Blakey said HESTA was leading the charge on the issue because more than 80 per cent of the fund’s 820,000 members are women.
“The unacceptably high rates of family violence plaguing Australian society means thousands of our members may be directly impacted. It is heartbreaking when we approve the death benefit of a member, knowing they have died at the hands of an abusive partner.
“Our members and employers are also part of health and community sector organisations at the frontline of supporting women seeking safety, support and a life beyond violence and abuse. They see these issues every day.”