Related content: Forster identified as a hotspot
A SYDNEY women’s advocacy group is lobbying the state government to provide funding for emergency accommodation in the Great Lakes for women escaping domestic violence after an initial submission was recently rejected.
The Save our Women’s Services (SOS) group has shown its support to Great Lakes Council over a submission lodged to the state government requesting funding for emergency accommodation in either Forster or Tuncurry.
The submission was put forward by Member for Myall Lakes Stephen Bromhead on behalf of council after the announcement that the Taree Women’s Refuge would be taken over by the Samaritans Foundation as part of the state government’s Going Home, Staying Home reforms.
Council, however, received notification this month by the NSW Minister of Family and Community Services Gabrielle Upton that the funding application had been rejected.
“We were hoping that our local member would be able to pursue this matter on our behalf “with vigour” as we requested. It is disappointing that the Minister has chosen not to listen.”Councillor Leigh Vaughan
In a letter, Ms Upton said the Samaritans “will provide a discrete specialist response for women in and around the Greater Taree Local Government Area with a focus on women and children escaping domestic and family violence.”
She said the Samaritans would include outreach services covering Forster and Tuncurry to link homeless clients with appropriate support services including accommodation, health services and income support.
Ms Upton also explained that the Forster Neighbourhood Centre was not eligible to apply for the Service Support Fund which was established for organisations unsuccessful in tendering for the new specialist homelessness services.
The rejection comes not long after Forster was identified as one of eight hotspots in NSW where there is a high need for women’s refuges and where current services have failed or need certainty.
Representatives from SOS met with delegates at Ms Upton’s office in Sydney late yesterday to discuss council’s submission.
Spokeswoman Roxanne McMurray said funding was recently restored to five women’s services in the inner-city of Sydney after SOS lobbied the state government.
“We’re hopeful for Forster and other towns (identified as hotspots) in NSW,” she said.
“The minister has told us her door is always open so we believe she’s willing to listen and work with us on these important issues in the state.”
Mayor Jan McWilliams said with the support from SOS, it is hoped that the minister will reconsider her decision.
“With Forster named a hot spot, hopefully ours will be considered given that we have already lodged a submission,” she said.
“If that fails well we will start looking in another direction.”
Councillor Leigh Vaughan expressed her disappointment over the rejection saying there needs to be more of an explanation as to why the neighbourhood centre was not eligible for funding.
She said to say that “discrete services for women will be provided ‘in and around the Greater Taree local government area’ shows a singular lack of understanding of the local geography and the needs of Great Lakes residents.”
“In general, there is a huge lack of understanding by the bureaucrats in Sydney ivory towers of the needs of regional NSW and Great Lakes in particular. One size does not fit all!,” she said.
Member for Myall Lakes Stephen Bromhead said he believes factual evidence needs to be put forward to the minister to highlight the need in the Great Lakes.
“Are people getting turned away? Are there so many people that we need our own centre here? What are the numbers? That’s what we need. I think there is a lot of anecdotal evidence but no firm data,” he said.
“I definitely think it’s a worthy cause to have accommodation here but we really need to get data so the case is strong.”
Mr Bromhead said he intends to speak with representatives from the Samaritans Foundation about the services available to people in the Great Lakes.
The issue was also discussed at council’s ordinary meeting yesterday.