Inquiry into the Financial Services Regulatory Framework in Relation to Financial Abuse

Read our submission here.

Women’s Legal Services Australia welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the Parliamentary Joint Committee’s Inquiry into Financial Services Regulatory Framework in Relation to Financial Abuse.

Women’s Legal Services provide legal assistance and wraparound support services to women, including social work and financial counselling, to provide a trauma-informed, multidisciplinary, and integrated approach to service delivery. Many of the women assisted by Women’s Legal Services are experiencing economic or financial disadvantage, alongside a range of other issues including domestic, family, and sexual violence, sexual harassment or discrimination at work, risk of homelessness, engagement with child protection, or precarious visa status. Many Women’s Legal Services employ financial counsellors or financial abuse prevention workers who help women to regain financial control and economic security, particularly where they have been prevented from leaving violent or abusive relationships due to economic insecurity and are rebuilding their lives post-separation.

Women are twice as likely to experience financial and economic abuse as men.[1] Financial abuse is a gendered issue because women face unique structural and systemic barriers to economic and financial security. Financial and economic systems were designed within a patriarchal system that does not centre the needs of women, and these systems have failed to recognise and respond to the unequal power distributions between men and women.

The financial services industry often fails to meet the needs of women due to gendered blind spots.[2] Financial products and methods of household money management that seem benign on the surface can easily lead to control of women and financial abuse. As noted by the Centre for Women’s Economic Safety:

    “The starting point is to identify the ways products are weaponised to cause harm and to consider potential design options to prevent, disrupt and respond that also address the underlying drivers of gendered violence against women.”[3]

    The National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022–2032 identifies financial and economic abuse as one of six key areas of focus for addressing gender-based violence.[4] It outlines an expectation that financial institutions actively work to prevent abuse through their products and services.[5]

    In conducting this Inquiry, we recommend the Parliamentary Joint Committee focus on the misuse of financial products in the context of domestic and family violence and make recommendations focused on reducing harms to women, particularly victim-survivors of domestic and family violence.

    This submission provides insights into the experiences of Women’s Legal Service clients in relation to financial abuse, and a range of ways the current financial system and regulatory framework including financial institutions, financial products and services, impact women who have experienced financial abuse and enables the perpetration of financial abuse.

    Women’s Legal Services staff including lawyers, caseworkers and financial counsellors have unique insights into financial abuse and its impacts on women and children, particularly victim-survivors of domestic, family and sexual violence, and can play an advisory role in relation to efforts to improve the financial  services regulatory framework, but must be adequately funded to do so.

      [1] Australian Bureau of Statistics (2023), Personal Safety, Australia (2021–2022), Canberra: ABS <>.

      [2] Mariya Rosberg, ‘Serving Women As Financial Services Customers – Women in Financial Services’, Oliver Wyman (Blog Post, 2020) <Serving Women As Financial Services Customers (>.

      [3] Catherine Fitzpatrick (2022), Designed to Disrupt: Reimagining banking products to improve financial safety, Centre for Women’s Economic Safety – CWES Discussion Paper 1, p. 18 <CWES_DesigntoDisrupt_1_Banking.pdf>.

      [4] Department of Social Services, National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022–2032, Commonwealth of Australia <National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022-2032 (>.

      [5] Department of Social Services, First Action Plan & Outcomes Framework 2023–2027 under the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022–2032, Commonwealth of Australia, p. 16 <First Action Plan 2023–2027 (>.