Women’s Legal Service Tasmania (WLST) are disappointed that the Commonwealth Government has not focused on ensuring that women have access to details about the superannuation assets accumulated during a relationship.
In 2018 the Commonwealth Government committed to reform the law to ensure that women could access details about all superannuation held by the other party.
Reforms are needed to ensure financial orders issued by the Family Court are fair and take account of all assets of the relationship. It is disappointing that Parliament has not prioritised this work.
The CEO of WLST, Yvette Cehtel, said: “Under the current system it is too easy to hide superannuation as we rely on the other party to be open and honest in disclosure. Where family violence is present, it’s often unrealistic to expect that perpetrators will always be honest and disclose all of their superannuation interests. This is particularly the case where financial abuse is part of the family violence experienced in the relationship.
WLST are not surprised that Women’s Legal Service Victoria have found that two thirds of women cannot access superannuation information. This is frustrating to us, and to our clients also.”
While it is possible to seek information about another party’s superannuation independent of the other party, this is only effective if we know the superannuation funds names where any super funds are invested. If our clients don’t know where the other party has superannuation invested, and the other party choose not to disclose that information, then we may not ever know the full extent of the superannuation pool to split. This makes splitting superannuation funds in a just and equitable way impossible.
When we know the name of the superannuation fund we can issue a Superannuation Information Request Form directly to the superannuation fund. In our experience, in most cases clients do not have access to this basic information.
WLST is noticing that with the changing nature of employment and people changing jobs more often, it is not uncommon to have multiple superannuation accounts. A review of this scheme would be of great benefit in ensuring that all superannuation interests are disclosed in court proceedings.
This issue particularly affects women – in 2015-2016, the average superannuation balances for women aged between 60—64 were just over half those of men of the same age ($270,000 accumulated by men and with $157,050 accumulated by women). This is because women continue to take home an average of $251.20 per week less than men. Women also spend nearly twice as many hours as men in unpaid work every day.
The lack of pay parity, interruption to paid work on account of caring for others and the part time and casual work in which many women remain employed all contribute to this story.
This means women have much to lose when part of the property pool of the relationship remains hidden. This is not just and equitable, and results in women being more likely to require support from the Government in their older years. This ongoing Government inaction shows a complete disregard for these women and their circumstances.
All assets must be declared and shared between separating parties. It is only just, fair and equitable that this occurs.
For further information, please contact:
Ms Yvette Cehtel
Chief Executive Officer
Women’s Legal Service Tasmania
Phone 03 6231 9466
 See: Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia Ltd, (October 2017) p5.
 Workplace Gender Equality Agency, (February 2018) p1.
 Workplace Gender Equality Agency, Unpaid Care Work and the Labour Market, November 2016, p4.