On 29th August the No Shelter collective organised a speak out to oppose the closure of women’s refuges under the NSW Government’s Going Home Staying Home reforms. So far 18 specialist women’s, youth and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander services have closed or been taken over by one of the big four religious charities. Some will be maintained as services for women, some will be turned into generalist homelessness services.
August 29 also marked the day that the local and historic Elsie shelter was handed over to St Vinnies. Established by a group of feminists in 1974, Elsie was the very first ever domestic violence refuge in Australia. At a time when Police would often refuse to assist domestic violence victims these women established the shelter through sheer determination.
All the dedicated specialist staff at Elsie and many other independent organisations that have lost their funding have been let go, losing an incredible wealth of knowledge. The Baird Government’s determination to see these services run for less money by large homelessness service providers demonstrates their failure to understand the intensive nature of empowering victims to re-build their lives.
I want to acknowledge all the dedicated staff at Elsie and other refuges that have been let down by the Government. At a time when domestic violence is the only crime on the increase in NSW this is a tragic loss for our community and the safety of women, youth and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
You can learn more about the story of Elsie here: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/40-years-of-elsie-20140411-36h9v.html