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Issue #1626      February 12, 2014

Concern after cuts to remote refuge funds

Changes to the funding model for women’s refuges in remote Western Australia will place Aboriginal women and children at severe risk, Marninwarntikura Fitzroy Women’s Resource Centre (MFWRC) chief executive June Oscar has warned. “In the remote communities of the Kimberley’s Fitzroy Valley, funding cuts have forced us to contemplate the removal of our basic human rights – the right to feel safe, the right to be free from harm,” she said.

“Our women’s refuge, a shelter of safety, care and crisis response and relief, is soon to be dismantled to a skeletal structure.”

MFWRC staff told the Koori Mail newspaper that the WA Department for Child Protection and Services had cut funds to four remote Aboriginal women’s refuges in the Kimberley and Pilbara and that funds would be redirected to metropolitan areas.

‘’They based their decision on statistics indicating declining occupancy rates,” Ms Oscar said. “It is a discriminatory judgment, condemning us for not being able to meet the requirements of a technically difficult reporting program that has been imposed on the refuges without the necessary on-the-ground training for local staff.

“If this was the basis for their decision, why have we not been part of a consultation process? Each women’s refuge faces complex challenges at having to cope with a drastic reduction in support and, potentially, life-threatening outcomes for their clients.”

Department for Child Protection and Family Services Director General Terry Murphy said the shelters at Roebourne, Fitzroy Crossing, Halls Creek and Wyndham had high vacancy rates.

“The proposed model will provide the Marninwarntikura Women’s Shelter with funding consistent with other safe houses and provide better outcomes for women and children experiencing domestic violence in the Fitzroy region,” he said.

Ms Oscar said she understood that funding models changed.

“But, a decision imposed on us which disregards our knowledge and expertise, which shows no foresight into its damaging consequences and rips a safety net from beneath our feet, is certainly the wrong one,” she said.

“In the Fitzroy Valley, we have worked tirelessly to develop holistic models of care with the long-term aim to eliminate all forms of violence. We have built one block of success on another.

“However, if the foundations are removed it will all crumble. Governments must remain mindful that we are a severely traumatised community, inflicted by grief and violence, our resilience fractured with fragilities.

“It is we who are most aware of our need to break these cycles.”

A campaign has been started to lobby WA Premier Colin Barnett to reverse the funding decision.

“At the moment, the state government’s message is clear: There is no support available to us; there are more pressing needs than our right to a safe existence,” Ms Oscar said.

“No matter what changes, we have to ensure that there is an accessible and secure space of safety for our community. Is it too much to ask for this basic universal human right?”

To support the campaign: change.org

Koori Mail

Next article – Come clean over future of Snowy Hydro

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