It is just a year since the much repudiated ‘Going Home Staying Home’ initiative of the NSW State Government radically altered the way in which social services to the homeless and most needy in our community are managed. Save Our Services (SOS) commenced in April 2014 when the Boards of Leichhardt Women’s Community Health Centre and Detour House realised that women’s refuges in their area would be closing and women and girls would have nowhere to go. This was ‘because the State Government’s funding tenders did not support women-only services and instead favoured large scale organisations and mixed client groups. … and it was clear women-only services would be wiped out, as would specialisation.’ [from SOS’s Facebook page]
Widespread community action in protest at these changes resulted in some reversals. The Government reinstated funding which saved 20 women’s services and many other specialist services. Most of the refuges for women and girls in the city have stayed open, and around $20 million per year has been returned. Even so, across NSW there are fewer women-only refuges, less specialisation, lost expertise and many of the existing services do not provide care outside business hours. Elsie in Glebe is functioning under the management of the St Vincent de Paul Society but hours of service are yet to be confirmed. However it is noteworthy that representatives of the new Elsie team are liaising with the community through FLAG and the Glebe Community Development Project team.
Yet there are still major concerns around accessibility for endangered women and children. Immediately prior to the recent State election the Premier Mike Baird ‘told an International Women’s Day breakfast in Sydney that he wants to set up a register that would record the names of offenders with a violent past.’ [www.abc.net.au/news/2015-03-06/domestic-violence-offender-register-proposed-for-nsw/6285138] As reported by Liz Foschia ‘New South Wales could become the first state in Australia to set up a domestic violence disclosure scheme’.
It is to be hoped that under new Minister Brad Hazzard this initiative becomes reality, and together with adequate availability of refuges can benefit people at risk.