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Issue #1663      November 5, 2014

Act Now! Stop closure of women’s refuges

The actions of the NSW Baird Liberal-National government in closing scores of women’s refuges are stirring widespread opposition among women in NSW. At a time of increasing social stress, women in NSW who flee domestic violence, will have fewer and less secure places to go.

The Baird government policy forces women back into the very same violent situations they have tried to flee!

A large crowd of women rallied outside the NSW Parliament House on the morning of Friday October 31, calling on the NSW government to restore funding to women’s refuges and to stop the restructure of welfare and healthcare in favour of big business.

October 31 was the closing and transfer date for many previously independent women’s only refuges.

The annual Reclaim the Night rally that evening also attracted several thousand, mainly women participants. Speeches at this rally also focused on the NSW government’s attacks on the women’s refuges and related women’s services.

Since the end of June women only refuges, including specialist refuges for girls and Aboriginal women and other minority groups, have been gradually closed down, or transferred to generalist services run by big “not-for-profit” businesses, mainly owned by churches and charities.

Substantial redundancies have followed, as the small, independent, specialist, secular community-based organisations have been closed down, or taken over.

While a number of refuges have been saved temporarily through community campaigning efforts, many are in jeopardy, or already closed. The fight is far from won!

Justice for women!

The NSW government is using competitive tendering to impose generic “economically run” services – that is, services on the cheap run by a few large, “not-for-profit” corporations, that will have less staff, reduced opening hours and will not specifically cater to women fleeing domestic violence.

Imagine a situation where women with their children escaping violent homes can only seek refuge in shelters that also house large numbers of men, many with their own problems with alcohol and mental illness.

Services for women are not just being degraded. Refuges are actually closing down – meaning fewer beds for women – and in many cases their children – seeking shelter.

“Go Home, Stay Home”

Closure of refuges, their absorption into generalised services contracted out to large religion-based corporations, suits the Liberal-Nationals’ reactionary “Go Home, Stay Home” philosophy towards women.

The closure or transfer of refuges out of the hands of the communities that established them, into the corporate sector is in itself an assault on grass-roots democracy and discourages communities from building institutions of self-management.

The Baird government policy forces women back into the very same violent situations they have tried to flee! This is in a society where, on average, every week in NSW a woman dies at the hands of a violent partner.

Act now! Save women’s services!

On November 27 the NSW Parliament will be debating the government’s “Go Home, Stay home” laws and tendering processes.

Women involved in the defence of women’s refuges are calling for a “Convergence on NSW Parliament” on that day to get the community’s message to the politicians as they debate the government’s reactionary laws. Meantime, weekly meetings and other events are happening to build the campaign. To find out more see: noshelter.com.au

It is vital that the community makes known to the politicians and media its broadest and most intense opposition to these anti-women and anti-community laws.

Parliament must block the “Go Home, Stay Home” laws and tender processes and restore refuge funding to independent community organisations!

If the government’s actions are not stopped, then other governments will likely copy them.

Our diverse and increasingly stressed community needs independent, community-run, specialised women-only services! To maintain these:

  • Long term funding for independent, women’s only services must be guaranteed
  • Competitive tendering for welfare sector services that inevitably go to giant “charity” organisations must stop

Defending women’s refuges is an immediate and urgent priority. Yet it’s just one step in addressing the violence, discrimination and other forms of oppression toward women that permeates a society based on exploitation, violence and war.

Women cannot gain full equality and respect unless we are full economic citizens and can fully participate in the workforce, with equal pay and job opportunities and freely available childcare, so we can go to work.

Otherwise, women are a reserve army of low paid workers in part-time, vulnerable, jobs, depending on a partner or social welfare for the survival of our children and ourselves.

Next article – Golden Dawn does not reach Australian shores – for now

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