WOMEN and children escaping domestic violence in the Great Lakes could soon have access to emergency accommodation following a local meeting with State Government representatives.
On Wednesday December 3, a meeting was held at the Forster Neighbourhood Centre by the centre’s Housing First Committee to discuss the need for emergency accommodation locally after the takeover of the Taree Women’s Refuge by the Samaritans Foundation.
A senior manager of the Department of Family and Community Services along with the operations manager of the Samaritans Foundation and a senior manager of Community Housing Limited attended the meeting.
Great Lakes Councillors Jim Morwitch and Leigh Vaughan who, along with Great Lakes mayor Jan McWilliams, moved a council resolution to make strong representations to the NSW Minister of Family and Community Services Gabrielle Upton were also in attendance.
At the meeting it was resolved that the Department of Family and Community Services, the Samaritans Foundation and Community Housing Limited will work with the Forster Neighbourhood Centre to trial a housing plan for residents in the Great Lakes.
Mr Morwitch said a realistic outcome had finally been reached and the Great Lakes was now a step closer to having vital accommodation.
“Having the three key organisations represented at our meeting meant there could be comprehensive consideration of all the issues involved,” he said.
“I believe that our case was well substantiated and the three State Government agencies showed a willingness to work together on our proposed initial trial arrangement which, if it can be initiated promptly, will be in place for the critical Christmas/New Year holiday period when incidents typically escalate.”
The meeting came soon after a submission by Great Lakes Council requesting funding from the State Government for emergency accommodation was rejected by NSW Minister Gabrielle Upton.
“I was initially dumbfounded by the Minister's negative reply but the ultimate commitment by the Department of Family Services to send senior agency officials to work collaboratively with local providers on service delivery was pleasing and has yielded a positive first outcome,” Councillor Leigh Vaughan stated.
Manager of the Forster Neighbourhood Centre, Trish Wallace emphasised that the outcome from the meeting was a positive step forward but “all agencies now need to show, through this trial, that we can work collaboratively under the new legislation to achieve good outcomes for the women and children affected by domestic violence.”