3.02pm | March 24, 2022




SUBJECTS: Domestic and family violence, 500 additional community sector workers, crisis accommodation for women and children fleeing violence 

SHANE HAMILTON, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR DAWSON: We're here today for a fantastic announcement for women's services right across Queensland, but more so locally here in Central Queensland. We recently had our women's forum and we listened to the needs of women in our area. Through that forum, we've gone away, we've worked through some of the issues, and we've come out with some really great outcomes through this and what Jenny is going to announce today. Women in our community are struggling to find accommodation, crisis accommodation. And services just like Linda's here really need more people to help them on the frontline to get through that. So, the announcement today is really exciting, and something that we've been working hard on in the background to get.

SENATOR JENNY MCALLISTER, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR COMMUNITIES AND THE PREVENTION OF FAMILY VIOLENCE: Thanks, Shane. It's terrific to be here at Mackay Women's Services. I'm grateful to Linda-Ann Northey, for welcoming us here this morning. We've had a terrific talk about the kinds of issues that are facing women in Central Queensland. Right across the country, we hear that women are struggling to find accommodation for themselves and their children when escaping violence. People often say, why doesn't she leave? Well, the answer is because too often there just isn't anywhere to go. I know that Linda-Ann Northey and all of the community service workers in the local area work incredibly hard to support every woman that comes through their door. But the truth is, with the private rental market being very very tight, too often it is just unaffordable. That's why Labor is making housing for women and children escaping violence a priority. We will establish a fund which will allow us to build 30,000 new affordable homes across the country, and 4,000 of those will be allocated specifically to women and children leaving violence and older women at risk of homelessness. We also know that crisis accommodation matters. Leaving a violent relationship is the most difficult and dangerous thing that many women will ever do. And that's why we'll allocate $100 million to refurbishing and revitalizing and extending crisis accommodation. Here in Central Queensland, that will mean we'll be able to provide just over $2 million to expand crisis accommodation options here. That means we can help we estimate another 187 women and children each and every year. Services also tell us that nothing is more important than an extra pair of hands. So, we've said that we will provide an additional 500 community sector workers who can work particularly on domestic and family violence. Here in this area, that means that we'll have an additional 12 people. Twelve people who can stand beside a woman who's taken a very difficult decision to leave a violent relationship. We know this is just the beginning. Under the current government, there has been a puzzling lack of interest, enthusiasm, energy, or creativity when it comes to women's safety. We know that what's required is national leadership, and a Labor government is ready to provide it. I wonder Linda-Ann if you wanted to make a few remarks? 

LINDA-ANN NORTHEY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF MACKAY WOMEN’S SERVICES: Thank you very much. Thank you very much to everyone for this amazing news today. As we've always said, it's looking at, you know, the Maslow's hierarchy of needs, the basic survival needs. If someone reaches out for help to leave a domestic violence relationship, what are the core things that they need help with? They need somewhere to go, they need basic housing, and they also need an advocate, someone to support them, someone to walk alongside them. It's so important that they get both, and that that window of opportunity to make a change, to make a difference, that they actually do have a solution. So, all of our services work so closely together to value add and to find resources out of almost nothing or to work together to make sure that there's a cushion of support put in place. But to actually have a house or somewhere for people to go is a core start to making sure that people feel safe. Sadly, in recent times, we've had women, many who have been living in their houses, sorry, in their cars with young children. We had a woman traveling through recently who was leaving a crisis situation, got very close to our service, and her car broke down. She had four young children under seven and she had everything that they owned in a trailer on the back of that car, they had, without the support of somewhere to go, they would have been stuck there, with a broken car and all of their belongings in that trailer. In even more upsetting circumstances, we've had a woman who had left a violent relationship, and had gone to stay at a friend's home, and what she was provided with to live in, was a box trailer. Now I'm not sure if you know what a box trailer is, but a small little square trailer with a tarp put across the top for her and her nine-month-old baby to live in. We are not going to ever be saying that women who are leaving violent relationships are second class citizens and deserve to be living in those kinds of conditions. What they deserve, is a home of their own and a safe place to go to look after their children, the future generation. 

JOURNALIST: Do you guys have any statistics on how many women in the area are in need of these services at the moment? 

NORTHEY: Well, what we find is it's ever increasing. So, at this point in time, our intake has gone from where it was four years ago with no dedicated worker, to one dedicated worker, to two, to recently four, and now five dedicated workers who are constantly providing that support. Unfortunately, in recent weeks, we're getting more and more that are walk ins. So, we need more face-to-face workers being able to support the number of walk ins and the response required every day. So, it's dramatically increasing in terms of those who recognize that there are very high risk or imminent risk of harm, be it physical harm, or death. And the complexity is really increasing. So, the women themselves are recognizing that, and our service is then looking at how do we put that cushion of support and response for safety? 

JOURNALIST: And what's usually the timeframe from someone's like coming in for like emergency accommodation to getting into that more permanent home situation after leaving?

NORTHEY: Well, I feel that, you know, when they first present to us, and they're going to be homeless that night, the answer has to be immediate. So, the timeframe for them to have an immediate short-term solution is today. And they have to have somewhere to sleep that night. And then that might be how long will we take after that to get them a more permanent accommodation? So, we have to look at what's the solution tomorrow? What's the solution the next day? And sometimes we have a three-day plan, sometimes we have longer. But to get into that ongoing permanent housing has been further and further away and a longer time of late. So, we want to make sure that we have a more immediate solution today, tomorrow, that they go somewhere first, and they can get that stability and security of their own place instead of that short term and unstable situation.

JOURNALIST: So, when they come in here, is it like a month, two weeks, three months? Like what are you usually finding?

NORTHEY: Yeah, I think it varies, it depends on the community. As we've said before, we work in partnership with all of the housing refuge and accommodation services across this region. So, it's an integrated service response to come up with solutions. It really is so variable, but what we do find is, say, with refuge, where people might have been there for, you know, four weeks to three months. At this point, they might be there for 12 months, because there's nowhere else for them to go. So, it's a long-term situation of waiting for an answer. So, someone brand new comes into that system, they're starting at point one, you know, on a long list of where other people have gone before. And it's like someone who has had no response, versus someone who's had 12 months response, but they're still in the same situation.

JOURNALIST: And how important is an announcement like this for the future of your services and the facilities that you guys have?

NORTHEY: It's amazingly important. So, I think that we get lots of support for funding and exactly the right kind of responses. But sometimes there's those little pockets that we could do with a lot more. And so, what we're seeing here is getting that extra accommodation, knowing that there's housing, that basic survival need and knowing that people will have an advocate to walk alongside them and support them through the system and to support them to succeed in the move to their housing. Absolutely fundamental and critical to their change of safety and to be in a better situation.

MCALLISTER: Thanks everybody. Thanks for coming out, we really appreciate it.