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City of Sydney: Councillors unanimously support a new Women’s Refuge in the inner-city

Inner-city refuges, including King Cross' Lou's Place, will be placed for greater support following Council's decision. Photo: Lou's Place.

By DANIEL LO SURDO

City of Sydney Councillors have unanimously supported a motion that will increase services to communities affected by Family Violence. The motion, which sets to establish a publicly-funded Women’s Refuge in the City of Sydney Local Government Area (LGA), was moved by Councillor Kerryn Phelps in direct response to the rising Domestic Violence rates in the past three months.

A report released by Domestic Violence NSW detailing the impact of the 2021 Greater Sydney COVID-19 lockdown revealed that 73 per cent of recorded services have seen an increase in demand during the lockdown, with 50 per cent of services seeing an increase of 75-100 per cent. It was also conveyed that the complexity of cases had grown during the lockdown, while waitlists for services had increased by almost half (48.5 per cent).

An immediate recommendation made in the report was to “increase the base funding for specialist domestic and family violence services so they are equipped to cope with the ongoing demand” caused by COVID-19.

“As little as $50,000 would go a long way to give dozens of terrified women and children protection, a safe place to live and a chance to rebuild their lives,” Ms Phelps said at the September Council meeting.

“In times like this, we need to show solidarity with our community’s most vulnerable more than ever … but it means we need to urgently find ways where we can support those struggling most in our community, and be able to assure them that their suffering is not going unheard.”

The Big Issue

Deputy Lord Mayor Jess Scully, who seconded the motion, recognised the multiplicity of the issue.

“It is tragic to know that an increase in domestic violence often follows hot on the heels of any crisis,” Ms Scully told the meeting. “It’s not just housing, it’s crisis services, it’s financial support, it’s material support [and] it’s the ongoing casework that’s required.”

Ms Scully encapsulated these resources as “wraparound services,” and conveyed that “sector leaders” understand that the cost of housing is equalled by the costs of wraparound services that are necessary for people “through the most difficult moments of their lives.”

The motion requested that Council’s Chief Executive Officer consults with key sector services in the LGA to determine the most impactful and “appropriate way for the City of Sydney to continue to provide support for women experiencing crisis” given the increased demand throughout the lockdowns, and to use this consultation to investigate the possibility of establishing a refuge. It was also requested that the City writes to the NSW Government to enquire how Council can work in partnership to support women and children escaping violent and abusive situations.

The motion was carried unanimously by councillors.

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