FORSTER is one of two domestic violence ‘hotspot’ areas that have missed out on a round of $8.6 million in government funding for specialist homelessness services in NSW.
Related content: Domestic violence story must be told...click here
Related content: Great Lakes needs its own shelter...click here
Related content: Sydney organisation to help in push for shelter...click here
The funding, announced a few weeks ago by the Family and Community Services Minister Gabrielle Upton, comes under the state government’s Service Support Fund (SSF).
“The most obvious response to the minister’s decision not to allocate a small amount of funding to Forster would be that this is seen as a ‘safe’ National Party seat.”Forster Neighbourhood Centre manager Trish Wallace
SSF was established to help specialist homelessness service providers that were unsuccessful in the Going Home Staying Home tender to deliver additional and complementary services.
All of the ‘hotspot’ areas in NSW received a slice of the funding except for Forster/Tuncurry and Lismore.
The Save our Women’s (SOS) group identified these locations as well as Port Stephens, Rockdale, Marrickville, Cooma, Campbelltown and Bega because of either a high need for a women’s refuge or current services are falling short and need certainty.
SOS spokeswoman Roxanne McMurray said it was extremely disappointing that Forster/Tuncurry was one of two areas that missed out on the funding.
“An outreach service operated from Taree is not the same thing as having a service on the ground in Forster where people have local knowledge and expertise.”
A spokesperson from the Department of Family and Community Services said the Taree Refuge’s service provider, the Samaritans Foundation had been “funded to provide outreach accommodation and support services to the Forster/Tuncurry community.”
The spokesperson said the Samaritans Foundation provided support services to people experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness by providing Temporary Accommodation using Link2Home, the NSW Domestic Violence Line and their network of local hotels.
“Women who are homeless, including those affected by domestic and family violence can be assured that there continues to be women-only services in place for them.”
Forster Neighbourhood Centre manager Trish Wallace said: “Even if there was a room available at the Taree refuge, Great Lakes residents would more often choose to stay within a violent family arrangement - maintaining a stable school environment rather than adding to family conflict by relocating their children from school to school.”
Member for Myall Lakes Stephen Bromhead said he believed women in the Great Lakes were catered for at the Taree refuge. He said if the Neighbourhood Centre and council wished to put another submission forward to the state government he would support it.
“But let’s get the evidence to show there’s a need to put a proper submission to the minister.”
Ms Wallace disagreed and said Mr Bromhead was out of touch.
“I would argue it’s the local State Member, with all his resources, who should be able to generate the further ‘evidence to show the need’ and that if he was truly supportive he would generate that data,” she said.
“Public knowledge, authenticated by the Forster Neighbourhood Centre identifies a growing need for accommodation for women and children who wish to make the break from a violent environment but remain located within Great Lakes.”
With the State Election around the corner, Ms Wallace believes the situation in Forster is not being viewed as a priority.
“The most obvious response to the minister’s decision not to allocate a small amount of funding to Forster would be that this is seen as a ‘safe’ National Party seat.”
The Neighbourhood Centre’s president Julie Brady echoed these comments and said asking women to travel from Forster to Taree who are in crisis was equivalent to “asking a Sydney women and children to relocate to Wollongong or Newcastle.”
She said the centre would continue to press the matter until there is an appropriate response from government.
Community meeting to address the issue
COMMUNITY members, workers, organisations and local service clubs are invited to attend a meeting to discuss what support services could be made available in the Great Lakes for women fleeing domestic violence.
Annabelle Daniel from Sydney based organisation Women’s Community Shelters (WCS) will deliver a presentation about how WCS works and what it can do for the Great Lakes.
The meeting will be held at Club Forster on April 9 from 10am to 1pm. For more information phone Trish Wallace at the Forster Neighbourhood Centre on 6555 4351.