Bega Women's Refuge future assured

Member for Bega Andrew Constance (centre) with Cheryl O’Donnell and Daniel Strickland from Mission Australia.

Member for Bega Andrew Constance (centre) with Cheryl O’Donnell and Daniel Strickland from Mission Australia.

Mission Australia is working towards getting the Bega Women’s Refuge up and running as soon as possible. 

The BDN was given a tour of the refuge with Member for Bega Andrew Constance before it undergoes significant repairs. 

Mission Australia was given management of the refuge as part of the Going Home Staying Home (GHSH) homelessness reform package undertaken by the NSW State Government this year. 

The removal of the refuge from the management of South East Women and Children’s Services (SEWAC) has created some disquiet in the community.

The temporary closure of the refuge after SEWACS ended its management early has led to criticism of Mission Australia, however the organisation said it is unwilling to let vulnerable women and children live in the building in its present state.

An independent assessment of the building by Greencap NNA named 18 Category 1 mandatory safety repairs and 22 Category 2 highly recommended. 

“The safety of the women and children coming here, and the staff, is paramount and it’s too risky in its present condition to let it operate,” Mission Australia area manager Daniel Strickland said. 

“We have a duty of care to clients and staff.”

Mr Strickland has managed several large shelters in Sydney and said he was surprised at the state of the refuge. 

“Housing NSW are doing a fire audit this week but just with my experience I’m shocked by the lack of fire exit signs and extinguishers in addition to the very dangerous state of the fuse box and wiring,” he said. 

Renovations to a neighbouring property have caused additional damage to the refuge in recent months in addition to existing damage to bathrooms and stairwells. 

“There is much to be to done in terms of safety, but there also much to be done just to change the atmosphere,” Mission Australia regional leader Cheryl O’Donnell said.

“Women to need to feel secure in this building, but that doesn’t mean they have to feel like they are living in a prison.”

While the refuge is closed, Mission Australia staff in the Bega Valley are overseeing a transitional program that is still assisting women and children who need temporary housing and additional support.

Mr Constance agreed bringing the building up to an acceptable safety standard was worth the temporary closure. 

“Vulnerable people fleeing domestic violence don’t need to come to a refuge where the conditions are unsafe for themselves or their children,” he said. 

“I believe this facility isn’t what the community would expect for those who need it, and I commend Mission Australia for taking this on and being so dedicated to bringing up to the standard it needs to be.

“This refuge will reopen and be a safe haven, Mission are being proactive about getting it done.

“This is about the future of this facility and Going Home Stay Home in this community, and I’m proud Mission has won the tender and is being so positive about helping those who need help,” Mr Constance said.

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