This year, as we reflect on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, we’re confronted with the immense pressure the pandemic has had on the nation’s domestic abuse problem.
Research by the Australian Institute of Criminology released earlier this year, outlined the impact lockdown measures have had on gender based violence, particularly for vulnerable women in already volatile situations.
As domestic violence reports rise across Australia, so too has the strain on the services and organisations that support victims, with increased barriers surfacing in the wake of social distancing.
As part of our Driving Change commitment, Uber has for the last two years partnered with some of these supporting services including WESNET, an organisation that represents a network of shelters, women’s refuges, safe houses and referral services.
To date, the $50,000 in funding for the WESNET Uber Rides program has helped provide support services for over 2000 women and children across Australia. From facilitating safe travel to or from shelters, to relocating families and enabling women to safely avoid their perpetrators, the program has given practical support to women as they rebuild their lives.
WESNET has told us how these programs enabled ‘at-risk’ women to get from A to B safely and – during COVID lockdowns – ensured their clients’ safety planning did not grind to a halt.
Hearing the positive impact this program has made to thousands of Australian women and families inspired our team here at Uber ANZ. With this in mind, we are extremely proud to extend our contribution to an additional $60,000 for the program to run into 2021.
We are grateful for WESNET for the critical services they have provided to women and families amidst everything this year has thrown at Australia and their invaluable ongoing education and insight. Alongside the expertise provided by other thought leaders, academics and law enforcement specialists part of our ANZ Women’s Safety Forum, is helping us enhance personal safety in transport and learn what we can do better.
As we look forward to 2021, we will continue to commit to women’s safety across Australia and New Zealand as rebuild in the wake of COVID.
This includes continuing to drive discussions for change through our ANZ Women’s Safety Forum, sustaining mandatory education for driver partners and introducing training for bystanders and the wider community.
Feedback from WESNET and their partners on the impact of the WESNET Uber Rides program:
Karen Bentley, CEO of WESNET:
“The rides program has made a tangible and positive impact on thousands of Australian women experiencing violence, and their children. Not only did the funding enable our member services to continue their vital work amidst lockdown challenges, but in some cases, the rides were life-saving for the women we work with. I echo the sentiment of the overwhelming gratitude our member services provided in our thank you letter to Uber and look forward to building on this exceptional program into 2021.”
Macleod Accommodation Support Service Inc., QLD:
“We absolutely love participating in the WESNET Rides Program, it gives us choices during a crisis when we don’t have other options or the budget. We have used the program to support women with disabilities and women with children. All of our clients express feeling safe while travelling using Uber and appreciate a program that allows for safe and reliable travel at a time when they need it most.”
The Lucy Saw Centre, WA:
“The WESNET Uber rides program has been most beneficial for our clients. We have used the program to assist a client who urgently needed medication but had no transport. We also assisted a client who had been to ER at the hospital and was released without means to get home. We requested a trip using Uber for the client to return home for which she was very grateful. This has been a great program and we would like to thank Uber for their generosity.”
Women’s Legal Service, NSW:
“We are representing our client in a case about her children. For her case to succeed she needed a report from a clinician who was in Wollongong, away from any feasible public transport route and a long distance from our client in Western Sydney. Uber rides got her safely to and from her appointment and she was able to successfully complete the assessment. Without it our client would not have been able to prove her case. What a win for our client and her children!”
Yemaya Women’s Support Service, TAS:
“We have found having the option of providing a ride very important in supporting clients to access counselling. The women who use our service often have safety concerns and being able to request a ride helps them to get to appointments more freely. Many of the women we support are experiencing the impacts of trauma and often find it hard to manage using public transport. Sometimes having the ability to take a trip with Uber means the difference between getting to an appointment or not. This has been a great initiative and we hope it continues.”
WISHIN (Women’s Information Support and Housing In The North), VIC:
“The Wesnet Rides program provides a safe and secure transport option for women we support and their children to move around safely when they don’t have access to a car. The program has allowed us to promptly and reliably transport women to appointments for their health, housing and safety needs; transporting women to safe accommodation as quickly as possible; and delivering urgent material aid and safety phones.
Many of the women we support have experienced financial hardship as a result of family violence and don’t have access to a car. Using the program rather than relying on public transport has allowed women to minimise the risk of further violence as well as COVID exposure risk. The program is an amazing service that we can offer our clients to increase their independence, safety and engagement with a range of services.”
Beryl Women, ACT:
“The WESNET Rides Program has been extremely helpful when we have had to consider workers safety and potential risks to workers going to specific locations, such as attending court. Workers have not had to transport women to court and are less visible to perpetrators who often wait outside for their ex-partner. We have been able to be more creative when developing safety plans with women to get them safely from one destination to another.
The WESNET Rides program has enhanced the capacity of a small Specialist Domestic Violence Service with limited resources and just two service vehicles. With six staff we need to prioritise our time and resources and the WESNET Rides program has assisted us in providing flexible support for women in crisis, and their children.”
Annie North, VIC:
“The Uber app is a great form of transport for our clients, in particular women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds who speak English as a second language. Entering the drop-off address into the app prior to the trip is incredibly helpful for those who may have difficulty verbally communicating it to the driver.
The money our family violence refuge saves on transport by using the WESNET Rides Program can be spent on beneficial therapeutic programs which aid in the recovery of women and children who have experienced family violence.”
Salvation Army, SA:
“Complimentary rides have been immensely beneficial for our clients. It has helped them attend medical appointments, access visits, property inspections and many other important appointments. It’s especially useful for new clients who are unfamiliar with the area and removes the anxiety of catching public transport which can sometimes make it easier just to cancel. All this helps with their confidence and progresses case management, so thank you!”