CBA on Thursday released research on the extent of financial abuse, which estimated at least one in 30 women and one in 50 men were victims. The report added the figures underestimated the full extent of the problem.
Financial abuse is where a perpetrator seeks to control or sabotage their partner’s financial resources, and experts say the behaviour can be a precursor to domestic or family violence.
The report, which was written by Deloitte Access Economics and commissioned by CBA, said financial abuse cost victims $5.7 billion in 2020, through behaviour such as controlling a victim’s access to money or refusing to contribute to household bills or shared expenses for children.
Mr Comyn added the true costs of the “hidden epidemic” of financial abuse could not be measured in dollars, and he had been surprised at how widespread the problem was, according to the report.
“I think we’ll all agree that some of the numbers that Deloitte has researched are absolutely staggering. Approximately 600,000 people over the course of the last 12 months are victims of financial abuse,” Mr Comyn said launching the report on Thursday.
Addressing financial abuse has become a growing priority for banks in recent years, and the Deloitte report said it was increasingly recognised as a distinct form of domestic and family violence.
It said the most common form of financial abuse was withholding or controlling a victim’s income. Refusing to contribute to household expenses (which was only estimated for female victims) was the next most common form of financial abuse.
Violence prevention expert Moo Baulch, who also advises CBA, backed the government’s draft plan on Thursday. Ms Baulch told Minister for Social Services Anne Ruston, who also attended the event, that the draft plan would probably cost billions of dollars to implement.
“It’s going to cost a lot of money, Minister, I’m not sure if you’re aware what you’ve committed to with this one. I think we’re talking billions here, really,” said Ms Baulch, director of primary prevention at the Women’s and Girls’ Emergency Centre.
Mr Comyn also said dealing with financial abuse and the wider issue of domestic violence would cost billions.
“It’s going to be a multi-billion dollar investment that’s required across both governments, clearly across financial institutions, but the private sector more broadly, not for profit, working with academia,” he said.