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HomeLatest NewsFunding denied to expand women and children refuge

Funding denied to expand women and children refuge

The NSW Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) has rejected a funding application to double the capacity of a small refuge for women and children in Dee Why.

The refuge, one of the oldest in NSW, currently supports six families at a time. The expansion proposal, which has Council approval, would take those six units to 14 adaptable and flexible units.

“With the expansion, we would go from helping 75 women a year, with their children, to 200 women in the refuge,” Women and Children First CEO, Gabrielle Morrissey told Manly Observer.

Their application for funding from the DCJ was under the Core and Cluster program. The program is about making sure services required by domestic violence victims and survivors are in one core building (to avoid having to visit multiple sites) with a cluster of housing surrounding.

Gabrielle believes they were knocked back because of a technicality.

“DCJ want new refuges on new pieces of land so they can say they have increased the number of refuges in NSW, instead of the number of women who need help,” she says.

“Northern Beaches land is too expensive for us, and besides, there isn’t an overabundance of land here compared with regional towns.”

Gabrielle says DCJ need to toss out the one size fits all mentality and listen to the frontline, especially at a time when violence against women is (finally) hitting national headlines.

“They should say put in your application and explain why the model you are proposing is best suited to your community,” she added.

Women and Children First Refuge. Image: Women and Children First

Member for Wakehurst, Michael Regan, says he has made his feelings known to Jodie Harrison, Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, her staff and the decision makers who refused the application.

“I’m not going away until the refuge gets the funding it needs to do the job it does,” he says.

The Independent MP says he will now turn his attention to the federal government for funding. (DCJ is a state body).

Michael Regan, NSW Independent MP for Wakehurst. Photo: Alec Smart

“I have raised the issue with our Federal MPs to ensure they are lobbying the PM for the refuge to be doubled in capacity. Federal government has the funds and they need to step up.

“This shelter services all of Northern Sydney and is turning women and children away every week. A small investment will change lives and, more importantly, save lives.”

“This shelter services all of Northern Sydney and is turning women and children away every week. A small investment will change lives and, more importantly, save lives.”

Focus on the regions

In Parliament this week, Minister Jodie Harrison said that when the Core and Cluster program is fully rolled out by 2026, it will provide for an additional 2,900 women and children across NSW, with the majority of the refuges in regional communities.

However, Gabrielle believes that no matter where a woman lives, whether there is a lot of domestic violence or a little domestic violence in that area, if a woman experiences violence in the home, they should have the same rights and same access to services as any other woman from any other area.

A drumming workshop to support women recovering from the trauma of domestic violence. Image: Women and Children First

Staying Home, Leaving Violence program coming to the Beaches

Only a fraction of women and children can be supported by refuges like Women and Children First’s refuge which makes the NSW government’s announcement to extend the Staying Home, Leaving Violence (SHLV) program throughout the state, and for the first time to the Northern Beaches, welcome news.

Mr Regan says he has been advocating for SHLV to come to the Beaches for months. The program was originally established over 12 years ago to support regional towns where refuges may not have been available. It has been expanded a few times, including making its way into urban areas, but has never been approved for north of the bridge.

“Many residents are astounded by the shockingly high rates of domestic and family violence in our beautiful local area,” Mr Regan said.

SHLV allows women and children to remain in the family home, if they choose to and it’s safe to do so, while moving out the violent perpetrator and installing safety measures.

Women’s Circle. Image: Women and Children First

“The program allows women, who often have had no choices, the choice in a situation that is not her fault,” Gabrielle says.

“The choice between homelessness and being broke or violence is a non-choice.

“She can choose to go to a refuge, to move out, to stay and possibly move out in their own time.

“It gives options other than ‘flee, escape, hide’, and it puts the burden and accountability on the person who made the home unsafe.

“It’s abjectly wrong that someone would make a home unsafe and then have the privilege of staying in it while the victims are moved out. It’s just upside down.”

Gabrielle is now advocating for Women and Children First to be awarded SHLV to deliver the service from the Northern Beaches to Hunters Hill to Hornsby and in between.

“The government tends to default to what is easiest for them, not best practice, and award services to large organisations who run lots of different programs and may not have the deep specialist knowledge and experience we have,” she explains.

Gabrielle, Mandy, Gretel and Rachael, Women And Children First fundraising luncheon, Manly Pacific Hotel. Photo: Alec Smart

Domestic Violence on the Beaches

NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research recorded 276 domestic violence related assaults on the Northern Beaches in 2023. Gabrielle says that figure isn’t accurate.

“That number is based on the Apprehended Violence Orders (AVOs) issued in the area, however, it doesn’t consider all the women who don’t report to the police,” Gabrielle explains.

“Also, on the north side of the bridge, families tend to fly under the radar and not want to be outed as a family with violence or abuse issues.

“The statistics also assume all domestic violence is a threat of physical violence or physical violence (which is what most AVOs cover), and it doesn’t reflect coercive control, which we know there is a lot of in our community.”

Coercive control will be a criminal offence in NSW from July 2024.

Last year, Women and Children First helped 836 women. That’s more than three times the official statistics. And that is only for one service on the Northern Beaches.

“We can only take a fraction of those women into our refuge, even in an expanded refuge,” Gabrielle says.

“That’s why we need both refuge space and SHLV on the Northern Beaches.”

Gabrielle also highlights that domestic violence and abuse is more common thanwe realise or even like to think about.

“Every time you go to the gym, a club, a classroom, a grocery store, there are women and children living this scenario in your midst,” she says.

“If you have any concerns about a friend or anyone, it’s important to make a call and get advice.”

You can learn more about the charity on their website.

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Manly Observer is an experiment in providing non-sensationalist hyperlocal news on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. We cover the big news across the LGA, but with a hyper focus on the Manly electorate encompassing Balgowlah, Seaforth, Freshwater, Brookvale and Curl Curl up to Dee Why. It is run by those living in the community for the benefit of an informed community. We care about an informed and connected community. That’s it. Simple. Thank you for your support in keeping quality local news alive!

Kim Smee, Editor


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