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Plan to end violence needs to address $1.6 trillion superannuation challenge

·2-min read
The super system can be abused and women are paying the price. (Sources: Getty)
The super system can be abused and women are paying the price. (Sources: Getty)

The Federal Government’s plan to end violence against women will fall short unless it considers the way superannuation can be weaponised against women, experts have warned.

The draft National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children was released on Friday, and while it is a welcome plan, more needs to be done to address women’s financial security, the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees (AIST) said.

Australian women retired with 40 per cent less in superannuation on average, AIST CEO Eva Scheerlinck noted, adding that the current scheme operated on a set of faulty assumptions.

“The impact of coercive control in a violent relationship was starkly demonstrated in 2020 in the early-release-of-superannuation scheme, with many women being coerced into accessing their super or having it fraudulently accessed by their domestic partner,” Scheerlinck said.

“This, combined with systemic barriers leaving women with 40 per cent less super than men on average at retirement, means many women do not have enough money to be financially independent at retirement.”

Women over the age of 55 are the fastest-growing group of homeless people in Australia, with nearly one quarter of women retiring with no super at all.

For older Australian women, this is partly due to compulsory superannuation only coming into place in 1992. However, Australian women are, on average, paid 14.2 percent less than men and when families have children, 95 percent of paid parental leave is taken by mothers.

Paid parental leave is the only form of paid leave that doesn’t attract superannuation payments.

The first pillar in the national plan - ‘prevention’ - aims to address the systems creating barriers to financial independence for women. However, the draft plan doesn’t include reference to superannuation.

Scheerlinck described the $1.6 trillion superannuation system as one system that creates financial inequality.

“It assumes people work full time throughout their entire careers, taking no breaks, as well as assuming they are homeowners,” Scheerlinck said.

“In reality, women experiencing family violence are often prevented from working and therefore do not receive any super, so the impact of this on their retirement must be addressed in the new plan.

“We look forward to working closely with the Government on ensuring all women, including those who have experienced violence, can retire with dignity.”

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