AFTER successfully lobbying for additional funds for refuges in inner-city Sydney, the Save our Services (SOS) campaign is turning its focus to other areas of NSW, including Bega.
This year, the NSW Government’s Going Home Staying Home (GHSH) program has seen separate services managed by 250 different organisations reshaped into 149 large service packages that are led by 70 organisations.
Following the allocation of GHSH funds locally, the management of the Bega Women’s Refuge transferred from South East Women’s and Children Services (SEWACS) to Mission Australia and has been closed for several months for maintenance.
SOS spokeswoman Roxanne McMurray said Bega has been chosen as an essential “hotspot” that needed the government’s urgent attention for the benefit of the community.
Ms McMurray said the hotspots were places with a high need for women’s refuges and where current services were falling short or needed certainty.
“We’ve looked closely at the new services that are now operating across NSW and these hotspots have issues including no 24/7 service, staff numbers being drastically cut, or long distances to the next closest refuge.
“We’ve been greatly concerned that the Bega refuge, which operated successfully for 26 years, has now been closed for months and will be closed over Christmas, one of the worst times of the year for domestic violence,” Ms McMurray said.
Gabrielle Powell from the Women’s Resource Centre said local referral services had nowhere to send women and children needing assistance.
“Mission Australia is now operating the refuge and is offering limited services, but only have a couple of staff and are no longer 24/7,” she said.
“We have limited referral options, mainly the Links2Home hotline, which is just referring them back to the refuge.
“These reforms were meant to have been given to the best services, but no-one in the community believes this is a better service.
“We’re also concerned that the original tender did not include a refuge in Bega, and it was only after strong community pressure that the local MP Andrew Constance announced one, calling it an ‘omission’.”
Ms McMurray said SOS had presented a petition to NSW Parliament containing 15,000 signatures that expressed concern about the loss of refuges and services.
The petition was briefly debated in NSW Parliament last Wednesday, where Member for Canterbury Linda Burney spoke in support of the petition and called the tender outcome a “brutal, slash and burn process”.
The Minister for Family and Community Services Gabrielle Upton said the petition was built on “flawed foundations” and defended GHSH.
“Domestic and family violence is a key cause of homelessness and the Going Home Staying Home reforms will better support those escaping family and domestic violence,” she said.
“Approximately half of the new packages have a discrete, specialist response for women.
“This petition is deplorable,” Ms Upton said.
For information about the hotspots go to soswomensservices.com.