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Safety by Design partnership to support consumers experiencing family violence

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The Essential Services Commission has formed a partnership with key leaders in family violence and economic abuse to develop better practice guides for energy and water businesses to support consumers who are experiencing family violence. 

Announced at the Financial Counselling Australia Conference in Perth, the commission’s Safety by Design partnership brings together a team of independent experts: 

  • Thriving Communities Partnership 
  • Flequity Ventures (Catherine Fitzpatrick) 
  • Safe and Equal 
  • Centre for Women’s Economic Safety. 

The guides, featuring the principles of Safety by Design, will help businesses identify risks and harms in their systems and processes. Safety by Design is a proactive approach to preventing the potential for products and services to be weaponised against consumers experiencing family violence.  

Essential Services Commission Chairperson and Commissioner Kate Symons says collaboration is key to driving sector-wide change to protect consumers who are experiencing family violence. 

“Business systems and processes can put consumers experiencing family violence at risk in instances where information is shared inadvertently or actively sought out by perpetrators. 

Right now, consumers experiencing family violence are entitled to support from their energy and water providers through our regulatory frameworks. 

This partnership will build on our existing work by sharing better practice approaches and building capability for change through workshops, engagement with stakeholders and Safety by Design resources. A consistent approach across the water and energy sectors will reduce risks for consumers experiencing family violence, ” Commissioner Symons said. 

Thriving Communities Partnership CEO and Director, Ciara Sterling, acknowledges the critical need for safety-focused system design. 

“Women impacted by family violence must have confidence their interactions with water and energy providers will be secure and not jeopardise their safety. We recognise that businesses are deeply committed to ensuring their systems actively contribute to safer outcomes,” says Ciara Sterling. 

Social entrepreneur and Adjunct Associate Professor, University of New South Wales School of Social Sciences, Catherine Fitzpatrick has authored two ground-breaking ‘Designed to Disrupt’ reports for the Centre for Women’s Economic Safety which tailor the eSafety Commissioner’s Safety by Design to banking and general insurance.  

Fourteen Australian banks have adopted her recommendation to include financial abuse in their terms and conditions. 

“Men who choose violence have found many ways to misuse products and services across a range of industries as a way to control women through their access to money and to terrorise them using technology. 

This project will shine a light on their tactics in energy and water and make recommendations to disrupt their abuse and provide greater protection to victim-survivors,” says Catherine Fitzpatrick. 

“This work continues the commission’s leadership on family violence, including a focus on promoting better industry practice,” Sterling added. 

See the commission’s website for further information about our family violence framework and resources for businesses. 

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Pearl Dy is a community manager and journalist. She is passionate about business and development particularly involving not-for-profits, charity and social entrepreneurship.

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