JULIE Brady, the driving force behind the Great Lakes Women's Shelter, summed up the extraordinary community effort of the past 12 months, which turned a dream into a reality, with a Victor Hugo quote: "There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come."
She was speaking at the launch of the Women's Shelter last week, an event to recognise and thank the many businesses, community groups and individuals who have given their time, money and skills to provide shelter in this region for women and children escaping domestic violence.
In April last year Great Lakes Councillor Jim Morwitch was instrumental in organising a wellattended public meeting to discuss how to respond to the crisis of domestic violence. Peter McKenna from the Manning Great Lakes Police Area Command told the crowd that the Great Lakes and Manning was the fourth highest “hot spot” for domestic violence assault in NSW.
At the time the closest shelter, in Taree, was usually full and mostly unsuitable as women would have to pull their children out of school and lose the support of existing networks of friends and family.
That meeting resolved to establish a shelter in the Great Lakes and set the ambitious target of fundraising $20,000 by Christmas.
The Great Lakes Advocate front page headline on April 15 read: "Ambitious target" but within two weeks was reporting that this target had been smashed as the $20,000 had already been raised, and more contributions kept on coming in.
By Christmas the community had given over $90,000.
A vital partner in the establishment of a local shelter has been the Sydney-based Women's Community Shelters (WCS) who offered a partnership arrangement to pay 50 per cent of start up costs and two-thirds of operating costs for the first two years.
To date GLWS and WCS have paid startup costs of $65,000 and funds are in the bank to cover the next six months of operations.
CEO of WCS Annabelle Daniel was at the special thank you launch last week.
"Just over 12 months ago this was just an idea.
“This is our first regional initiative outside of Sydney and I've come to really love Forster Tuncurry," Ms Daniel said.
The Great Lakes Women's Shelter has two shelters — one in Forster with two bedrooms and a bathroom, and another in Tuncurry with three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Within two weeks of opening in January the shelters were full, and in less than four months have given shelter to around 20 women and more than 40 children.
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