Waverley Council voted unanimously to seek the continuation of funding for women’s refuges and specialist women’s homelessness support services in the inner city and eastern suburbs at a council meeting held last Tuesday (June 17).
The council will formally write to State Member for Vaucluse and NSW Minister for Community Services, Gabrielle Upton, to clarify the position of local women’s homelessness facilities including B Miles House.
Ms Upton announced a record $445 million over three years for non-government organisations to deliver homelessness services across New South Wales, including $23.8 million in the South Eastern Sydney District, as part of the Going Home Staying Home reforms.
“Going Home Staying Home will help improve the lives of the most vulnerable members of our society,” Ms Upton said.
The reforms have been criticised by Spokesperson for the Status of Women and Greens NSW MP, Dr Mehreen Faruqi MLC, for failing to guarantee long-term funding for specialist women’s homelessness programs such as B. Miles House.
“It is essential for women who may have experienced domestic violence and trauma to feel safe and receive specialist care,” Dr. Faruqi said.
Dr Faruqi has accused the NSW Government of mismanaging the tender process and promoting instability in the sector.
“There has been a lack of consultation with service providers on the tenders, as well as the short time period between qualifying, tendering, and the announcement of successful bids that has thrown the sector into turmoil.”
“Because of this, some service providers are facing the real possibility of closing down after 30 to 40 years of women’s only specialist service provision,” Dr Faruqi said.
These concerns were echoed by council, with the motion to request continuation of funding to women’s refuges and specialist women’s homelessness support services receiving support across the political divide.
B Miles House is one such service which has not been guaranteed continued funding under the new reforms. B Miles has been in operation since 1989 and “accommodates and supports women who are living with a mental illness and are homeless, or are at risk of homelessness”.
The future of B Miles is of great concern to Waverley Mayor Sally Betts, who has undertaken to discuss its future specifically with Minister Upton.
“We were happy to in principal support the motion on the Council paper because the Minister had already made the commitment to the continuation, and in fact announced an increase in the funding to specialist women’s services,” said Ms Betts.
The motion was brought to council by Greens Councillor Dominic Wy Kanak after hearing from representatives of the SOS Women’s Services Campaign.
The SOS Women’s Services Campaign is a coalition of women and women’s services which is campaigning for the continued funding of specialist women’s homelessness services.
“I think that in some scenarios having a specialist service for women is the kind of comfort and surroundings the most recently traumatised would need,” said Cr Wy Kanak.
“I think once they have worked through the service they could transition to something more generalised. These services are definitely needed in the earliest stages of trauma.”
Cr Wy Kanak is especially concerned for his immediate and other extended Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.
“High levels of victims and perpetrators of abuse and violence in the Indigenous Community are in need of specialist domestic violence and homelessness services,” Cr Wy Kanak said.