It was an affirming moment in Good Shepherd history when Rhonda Cumberland and Adam Mooney, CEOs of Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand and Good Shepherd Microfinance respectively, were called on to give evidence in the first week of public hearings for the Royal Commission into Family Violence, which began on 13 July 2015. This representation is testament that Good Shepherd is seen as a national leader in assisting women and girls who are in extreme need, vulnerable and marginalised. Together, Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand and Good Shepherd Microfinance are working towards a world where women are free and able to live an independent life and fully participate in society.
Significantly, Rhonda's expertise was called on day one at the opening of proceedings. Along with Wendy Steendam, Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner, Rhonda gave an historical perspective of how family violence has been viewed and managed by community services, police and the courts since the 1970s—and the pivotal changes that took place within Victoria Police under Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon's leadership as in the early 2000s.
In the lead up to the Royal Commission Rhonda said that stopping violence against women everywhere will be one of the most important contributions to the advancement of human progress. "This is the key proposition in our submission to the Royal Commission; it's the new future we are driven to achieve," she said.
"Specifically, we have focused our submission on governance and policy reforms, women's decapitalising as a result of economic abuse, prevention, and response and recovery.
"Stopping family violence and sexual assault, both gendered crimes, seems a distant reality. Our aim is for all women from all backgrounds to participate fully in society. This will not happen until we address inequality. We will focus our efforts to create change. It's why the Royal Commission is so important and our engagement with it essential.
"Unless we put the cause of family violence at the heart of reform and at the heart of every prevention and response effort, we won't achieve the change that we need," she added.
Adam was asked to talk about financial abuse and the role microfinance can play in tackling this issue. Financial abuse is a form of family violence that negatively impacts a person financially and undermines their efforts to become economically independent. Conservative estimates suggest two million women in Australia have experienced financial abuse.
Adam discussed four ways microfinance can optimise the conditions to avoid, mitigate or address family violence:
Relieving the stress and anxiety for people who felt trapped in a situation of financial abuse
Assisting women who leave a violent relationship to set up a new home quickly
Identifying possible financial abuse during the loan interview process and facilitating a referral to a support service
Providing women suffering financial abuse with a safe alternative to high-cost payday loans which can cause financial hardship
Together, Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand and Good Shepherd Microfinance are working towards a world where women are free and able to live an independent life and fully participate in society.