Superannuation and family violence

19.20 The Terms of Reference for this Inquiry require the ALRC to consider reforms to improve the safety of people experiencing family violence. In the superannuation context, the ALRC considers that safety encompasses both physical safety and safety derived from financial independence and economic security.

19.21 The Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse (ADFVC) noted that, in their research on the impact of family violence on women’s financial security, the overwhelming majority of women were experiencing financial hardship, and that for women who were unable to stabilise their financial situation, the consequence was a downward spiral of debt and poverty.[13] The ADFVC also stressed that financial hardship in turn impacts on the safety of victims of family violence. For example, it affects their

decisions to leave the relationship, their capacity to take up safety measures (like locks, alarms, or to relocate), to seek treatment for recovery (e.g. physiotherapy, psychiatric treatment, operations, dental or optical treatment/surgery). Some women spoke about returning to partners because of being unable to support themselves (and their children) on their own.[14]

19.22 In addition, the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees (AIST) estimated that the ‘median superannuation balance for women aged between 55 and 64 years is $53,000, compared to $90,000 for men in the same age group’.[15]

19.23 Against this backdrop, in the course of this Inquiry stakeholders have emphasised that superannuation is another area through which victims of family violence experience coercion and control in the form of economic abuse, or that may provide necessary funds to leave a violent relationship.[16] As a result, this chapter examines three key areas of superannuation in which the impact of family violence is likely to be most obvious: superannuation contributions splitting; SMSFs; and early access to superannuation.

[13] ADFVC, Submission CFV 26.

[14] Ibid.

[15] AIST, Super-Poor, But Surviving: Experiences of Australian Women in Retirement (2011), 10.

[16] National Welfare Rights Network, Submission CFV 150; AIST, Submission CFV 146; Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, Submission CFV 142; Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Women’s Legal Service North Queensland, Submission CFV 99; Confidential, Submission CFV 91; ACTU, Submission CFV 39; ADFVC, Submission CFV 26; Northern Rivers Community Legal Centre, Submission CFV 08.