Dr Lyndal Sleep (Panel Chair)
Law Futures Centre, Griffith University
Access to social security resources is vital to many women who are attempting to be free of an abusive relationship. The couple rule in social security law (Social Security Act 1991 (Cth), s. 4(3)) ties women’s access to social security payments to the income and assets of her perpetrator in circumstances where she is determined to be in a relationship with him. If a woman is found to have declared she was single for social security purposes, when according to the couple rule she is still a member of a couple, she can be denied payment, incur a Centrelink debt and/ or be incarcerated for social security fraud. This paper argues that for women to be able to access social security payment independently from their perpetrator, social security payment should be assessed individually for each member of a couple, rather than jointly. This is effectively a step towards universal basic income. This paper is based on the findings of an ANROWS funded project which aimed to detail the dynamics between domestic violence, social security payments, and the couple rule. This was done by examining the pre-existing data sets of Administrative Appeal Tribunal (AAT) decisions of couple rule matters that involved domestic violence. A targeted content analysis was used. Thematic categories included financial abuse, incarceration, and disability.
Dr Lyndal Sleep’s research area is law and social policy. Her most recent project was “Domestic violence, social security law and the couple rule” which analysed AAT couple rule decisions that involved domestic violence to detail the dynamics between the couple rule and domestic violence. It found that social security law through the couple rule effectively entraps women in violent relationships. This research has been published as a major research report and was funded by ANROWS and supported by the Law Futures Centre. She is currently teaching in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, is part of the editorial team of the Journal of Social Inclusion and an adjunct research fellow at the Law Futures Centre, all at Griffith University.