Domestic violence breaking point
Support workers on the front line assisting victims of family and domestic violence have called for funding for a larger women’s refuge to deal with the relentless demand for crisis accommodation.
The region’s only refuge for domestic violence, the Albany Women’s Centre, continues to be overwhelmed by vulnerable women and children, with waiting lists in place for the vital safe services according to centre manager Joanna Fictoor.
Ms Fictoor said the Anglicare-managed centre could only house four families and up to 12 children and had been “constantly full” during her six years in the role.
“Sometimes we will have some families who will come in for a few days and it might be a bit of respite, others are homeless due to family and domestic violence and so then housing becomes a major issue,” she said.
“A lot of times the metro refuges are full as well so we then need to look further afield at Esperance and Bunbury.”
Ms Fictoor said Anglicare would always find refuge for domestic violence victims, despite the local crisis accommodation pressures, and never turned women away. “We probably have at least three families or individuals who are on our list all the time,” she said.
“The women’s centre sees well over 300 women and children per year. We will do every avenue we can to ensure that family has a safe place to go to at any time.”
Anglicare Albany clinical response manager Jo Dechief said the Albany Women’s Centre operated as a communal model compared to separate unit facilities in more modern refuges in Perth which made it “very difficult” for victims to recover in a “highly anxious environment.”
“When you look at our client cohort and who those people are you are talking about people who have been through extreme trauma and the entire family has been through that extreme trauma, so it’s not just the victim but also her children who are all traumatised,” she said.
“So when you put this combination of people together in a communal living space, what happens is all that anxious energy feeds off each other and it’s very difficult for families to actually recover because it turns that environment, which should be a safe environment, into a highly anxious stressed environment.”
Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence Minister Simone McGurk said the Albany Women's Centre was upgraded about two years ago and the Department of Communities, which funds Anglicare, had not received a request for funding to upgrade or replace the facility.
Anglicare WA regional manager south Lisa Whitaker called on the State Government to address the “serious shortage” of social and affordable housing which resulted in the Albany centre and most women’s refuges being permanently full.
”You need to remember, women often flee violent homes with only their children and the clothes on their back, they can’t afford to simply take out a mortgage on a new home and start again, they need affordable options,” she said.
Acting Great Southern police district Superintendent Alex Ryan said domestic violence remained a key focus area for police and any increase in services for victims and perpetrators was welcomed.
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