How to escape financial abuse

Thursday 29th August 2019

Women in SuperESSS Event

It is estimated that 16 per cent of all women are impacted by financial abuse at some point in their lives, according to Industry Fund Services finance manager, Natalie Lister.

Lister can speak first hand about the damage that financial abuse can cause, having been a victim of domestic and financial abuse herself at the age of 29 with three young children.

Pictured (L to R): Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand CEO, Stella Avramopoulos; deputy chair of the Women in Super Victorian committee, Katie Frazer; Industry Fund Services finance manager, Natalie Lister

Speaking at a Women in Super seminar last week hosted by ESSSuper, she described her experience as a “money trap”, in which she’d been ceding her earnings to her former husband to fuel his gambling habit. And as she later found out, financial abuse can be difficult to detect, as it can take many different forms.

“One often long-lasting impact is on superannuation. Post-separation the woman – if she’s discontinued working to look after children – will likely have a lower balance than he does,” she said.

However, under superannuation law, entitlements can be split. The first hurdle is knowing this option is available, then having support to achieve this through a legal agreement or court-based process.

Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand CEO, Stella Avramopoulos, spoke at the seminar about the role of financial literacy in helping people know where to go and how to get help in the event of domestic abuse.

“Often financial abuse is part of the pattern of violence. This may lead to no savings, poor credit rating and challenges in maintaining employment – resulting in financial insecurity, which makes leaving the abusive situation hard,” Avramopoulos said.

“Financial literacy can help people understand where to go and how to navigate and advocate for themselves in the system. Adequate income support – including in retirement – is essential for a dignified life.”

“On this issue, our objective, collectively, should be to transform across the community, Government, corporate and the not-for-profit sector. At every touchpoint, we should build the capability to address financial abuse,” Avramopoulos said.

“It involves getting our services better aligned so domestic violence doesn’t escalate into hardship.”

Avramopoulos said while each case is different, the superannuation industry plays an important role in listening with care and encouraging understanding of financial choices.

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