05 Apr 2016

The time to act is now

By NAB Group Executive, Michaela Healey, first published in the Herald Sun on 5 April 2016.

Daniel Andrews put a challenge to every Victorian on Wednesday, with the release of the findings from the Royal Commission into Family Violence.

We welcome the findings of the Royal Commission, especially those recommendations aimed at targeting financial abuse.

37 Victorians lost their lives as a result of family violence last year.

One in three women will experience family violence in some form during their lifetime.

800,000 Australians are survivors of family violence.

It has to stop.

As individuals, as a community and as businesses, we cannot condone or ignore the suffering and abuse that is occurring every day.

As a bank, and as an organisation which employs nearly 35,000 people – we have an opportunity –  and a responsibility, to curb financial abuse.

It often accompanies and compounds family violence.

It makes it difficult for those experiencing family violence to remove themselves from physical harm. It increases their vulnerability.

We have created an environment where customers can reach out to us for hardship support – and time to manage their finances.

And when they do, we are working to understand the circumstances they may be in – with a specialised team, trained to respond in these situations.

We have also extended our partnership with Kildonan Uniting Care to offer additional, holistic support to those customers who need it most, through Care Ring.

A centralised point of contact at Care Ring can coordinate a range of specialised support services offered by utilities, local government support bodies, housing services and community services.

NAB’s partner Good Shepherd Microfinance also offers no or low interest loans to help people get on their feet and buy essential household items.

Escaping a violent relationship can be dangerous, traumatic and isolating – and efforts like this aim to ensure we are not adding to the burden faced by survivors.

We are making progress but there is always more to do. We need to make sure survivors can get help, regardless of who they bank with.

We welcome the recommendation that the Australian Bankers’ Association develop an industry response.

And we welcome the recommendation for Victorian employers to implement best-practice family violence policies.

As a major employer, we have an important part to play in ensuring those affected are not further burdened with work pressures, forgone income, or worse, the loss of their job.

NAB introduced a formal domestic violence support policy in 2013 and we know it has helped changed the lives of those who have had to use it.

It is our duty to help keep employees safe from family violence; to develop strategies for those at risk, help them travel safely to and from work, block phone calls and emails, change their work location and conduct welfare checks if required.

And it’s our commitment to help those affected through the difficult time in their life; to offer special paid leave entitlements, flexible work rosters, free counselling services and emergency financial assistance, if and when it is needed.

This kind of support, if offered across every major employer, would make a huge difference.

Formalising workplace provisions protects those experiencing family violence from prejudice.

They should not have to justify time taken to seek medical assistance or to attend court appearances.

They should not be made to feel shame for standing up and asking for help.

They should feel confident that managers will acknowledge what they are facing at home.

Intention is not enough. People at risk need tangible support.

Organisations like Telstra and Virgin, as well as some of the other banks, have also shown leadership in putting effective policy in place.

It’s time for other major employers to follow suit. And NAB is willing to do what it takes to help.

We are happy to share what we’ve learnt in the past three years with other organisations – and we’ve made our policy publicly available at nab.com.au.

The Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence is an historic milestone for the Victorian community. We have heard the voice of brave campaigners such as Rosie Batty.

It is their work that has brought this difficult topic into the national conversation and placed it front and centre of people’s minds.

The time for silence is over, it is time to stand up and act.

Michaela Healey, NAB Group Executive

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