Safe families program to get the axe

Toby HusseyAlbany Advertiser
Eric Ward fears he would be homeless without SAC support.
Camera IconEric Ward fears he would be homeless without SAC support. Credit: Toby Hussey

The Federal Government’s decision to scrap funding for a unique Indigenous Australian support program could impact up to 150 people the Great Southern, according to the provider.

The Safe and Resilient Families Program, which has for 10 years provided domestic violence and housing support to families in Albany and Katanning, will lose its funding on June 30.

Since 2009, through a $365,000-a-year Federal grant, the program has helped domestic violence survivors and those in danger of home eviction.

It is delivered in Katanning and Albany by Southern Aboriginal Corporation.

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In a letter to SAC chief executive Asha Bhat, Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said the program “has not achieved strong outcomes” and funding would be redirected in the region.

A spokesman for the Federal Government said SAC had not reached the terms of its funding agreement.

“The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet did not continue funding for this program due to concerns with the delivery of this project,” he said.

“Despite considerable support provided by the Department, Southern Aboriginal Corporation was unable to deliver an effective intensive family case management service.”

Ms Bhat said ending funding for the program was “harsh” and “unjust”, could impact up to 150 people and eliminate three jobs.

“At no point in time (were) the performance issues raised with us,” she said.

Nationally, Indigenous women are 32 times more likely to be hospitalised from domestic violence than other women, and Indigenous people are a disproportionate percentage of the homeless community.

Those were groups Ms Bhat said would be worse off without the SARFP.

Albany man Eric Ward, 57, first accessed the service two years ago after taking guardianship of his three children.

The first-time single father said with three young boys he struggled to keep his home tidy for rent inspections and was under threat of eviction.

He said that turned turned around with the help of SARFP workers, but he would be homeless without the support.

“A wicked lot of stress off me,” he said.

“I would be under a bridge now … (my kids) could have been fostered out.”

Domestic violence survivor Louise, whose name has been changed, accessed the program weekly this year for group meetings and art sessions.

The 39-year-old battled with depression and a recent methamphetamine crisis with her children, and said the support had been vital for her while she looked for her first job in years.

Ms Bhat said Louise and Mr Ward were two people of about 12 families with similar stories across the region who relied on the program.

While other support services exist, she said this was the only “culturally sensitive program in the region”.

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet was contacted for comment.

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