WEL to handover postcards to NSW Politicians

MEDIA RELEASE: TUESDAY 1st MAY

Survivors of Domestic Violence to Sing at handover, NSW Parliament House Wednesday 2nd May

Thousands of community members in NSW have signed the Women’s Electoral Lobby’s Keep the lights on in women’s refuges postcard campaign. WEL urges the NSW government to improve how we prevent and respond to domestic violence by strengthening and properly investing in one of the three main service entry points for victims of violence in NSW – specialist women’s domestic violence refuges.

The postcards will be handed to politicians at Parliament House on Wednesday 2nd May. The Singing Out Strong (SOS) women’s choir, made up of survivors of domestic violence, will sing out loud in the Foyer to draw attention to the importance of specialist women’s refuges. Two members of the choir will speak about their own personal experiences of domestic violence and support.

The Women’s Electoral Lobby wants to highlight the opportunity NSW has during the development process of the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement to strengthen services and expand specialist domestic violence refuges. The Campaign asks the government to follow in the footsteps of the Victorian government which last year committed 2 billion dollars to respond and prevent domestic violence in its State. NSW needs a similar game changer.

In NSW the 2014 changes to domestic violence refuges under the NSW Going Home, Staying Home reforms saw homelessness service contracts reduced by 43% with services consolidated into larger consortiums. In this process many specialist domestic violence women’s refuges were changed to become general women’s homelessness shelters. This reduced the specialist assistance available to victims of violence and resulted in NSW women and children finding overcrowded shelters with diverse priorities or no room at all, leaving some women no choice but to return to their abuser. If this approach is continued under the new Agreement the situation for women and children escaping violence is expected to become worse.

Women and children seeking refuge from violence cannot be properly supported by a generic homeless response. The risk of harm to a woman and her children frequently escalates after separation. Women and children need specialist services that can provide critical supports to prevent further harm and potential homicide. They need staff who are focused on the complex legal, child protection and social support systems required for separation and safety – staff that fully understand the range of abusive behaviours involved in domestic violence, their impact and the effects of trauma on victims and their children.

In NSW, domestic violence continues to be the leading cause of homelessness, and causes huge financial, health and other costs to individuals, and to the community as a whole. In Australia last year, 50 women died as a result of domestic or family violence and thousands more suffered. Domestic violence contributes more than any other factor to the burden of disease for women, aged between 22-44 yrs. KPMG estimated the cost of violence against women and their children in Australia in 2015–16 at $22 billion.

Currently women’s refuges form one of the three main service entry points for victims of violence in Australia. In NSW a third (33%) of those who used homelessness services did so as a result of domestic violence. Over half (56%) of all those whose requests for help were not met in NSW were women. We need to increase specialisation and expand services so we can stop turning vulnerable women and children away. The NSW Government has the opportunity when it is developing the Housing and Homelessness. Agreement to address this issue. WEL, with the support of thousands of people across NSW, is urging the Government to do so.

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Supporters can sign the virtual postcard HERE - https://www.wel.org.au/keep_the_lights_on_sign

Available for comment:

Cat Gander and Jane Bullen (members of WEL NSW Executive Committee) are available for interviews prior to, and at the event on 2nd May. Please email wel@welnsw.org.au or m: 0409070013.

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