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General Issue

Limitations of Australia’s Legal Hardship Protections for Women with Debt Problems Caused by Economic Abuse

Author

Evgenia Bourova, Ian Ramsay and Paul Ali

Research on economic abuse has identified multiple ways in which perpetrators use debt to exercise power and control over women in violent relationships. However, there have been few attempts to evaluate consumer credit law’s role in responding to perpetrators coercing or deceiving women into taking on debt in their own names or in joint names. At present, one option for women managing such debt is to negotiate payment arrangements with creditors under the legal protections for Australians in financial hardship. In this article, we draw upon focus groups with consumer advocates to examine the extent to which these protections and their implementation by creditors facilitate – or undermine – women’s financial recovery. We argue that these protections have limited capacity to assist victims of economic abuse, in the absence of provisions for severing liability for joint debt incurred in the context of gendered dynamics of power and control.

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