Fighting financial abuse

Nearly 16% of Australian women have been financially abused by a partner, according to a recent study by RMIT University researchers.

The 2017 report – Economic abuse between intimate partners in Australia – found 63% of women who were experiencing high financial stress had a history of economic abuse, compared to the population average of 15.7%.


Nearly 16% of Australian women have been financially abused by a partner

Financial abuse is when a partner or significant other manipulates a person's access to finances, assets and decision-making as a tactic to create dependence and gain control in the relationship.

It has a significant impact on the health and financial wellbeing of victims and is legally recognised as a form of family violence in four Australian states and territories.

“Economic abuse is a hidden form of intimate partner abuse,” the researcher wrote in an article for the Conversation. “Victims are often unaware it is happening – until they are in the process of separation and divorce, or are experiencing severe financial stress.

“They are unlikely to see themselves as victims or identify with domestic violence services or websites unless other forms of abuse are occurring.”

“Health, social support and financial services need to be aware that women experiencing high levels of financial stress could potentially also be experiencing economic abuse.”


Australian Securities and Investments Commission has listed 10 warning signs of a financially-abusive relationship, including:

  • Another person is controlling your bank accounts or credit cards or using them without your consent
  • Your signature has been forged on cheques, bank accounts or legal documents
  • Your bills haven't been paid, even though you have entrusted someone to do this
  • Large or unexplained withdrawals or transfers have been made from your bank account
  • You are being isolated from your family or friends, or threatened with being isolated if you don't give the perpetrator what they want
  • Your property or possessions are being used without your permission
  • You are made to feel guilty if you don't give money to the perpetrator or their family.


For information, support and referrals contact:

1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732

WIRE on 1300 134 130

National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007

Relationships Australia on 1300 364 277 

20 November 2017