Doubts raised about local women’s refuge

An idea floated by Narrandera Shire Councillor Jenny Clarke regarding the possibilities and feasibility of creating a women’s shelter in Narrandera was the subject of a presentation to the Narrandera Council at its July meeting on Tuesday.

At the time Cr Clarke raised the suggestion, Cr Barbara Bryon stated that it would be sensible to liaise with local domestic violence groups. This led to Iris Schofield from the Narrandera Domestic Violence Committee, Yvonne Wilson from the Linking Communities Network in Griffith and Michelle Kilgower from The Salvation Army in Leeton making a presentation of facts and estimations about domestic violence in Narrandera at Tuesday’s Council meeting.

Yvonne Wilson, the CEO of the Linking Communities Network, offered a stark insight into domestic violence in Narrandera.

“In 2017-18, the number of cases referred to us from Narrandera – and that included referrals from the police, from the hospitals, and from self-referrals – is 32. In Leeton, we have had 152 referrals. We’ve had to accommodate six women from Narrandera,” Ms Wilson said. “In Griffith, we are sponsored by the State and Federal government to the tune of about $700,000 and that is all used. We have a brokerage program whereby we can use our funds to book hotel rooms for emergency accommodation, or organise transport back to family. We’ve utilised $2000 for Narrandera. In Leeton we’ve given $16,000.

“The total referrals we had for the year was 1055 – and only 32 of those were from Narrandera. I’m not trying to downplay the issue. It’s a pity if it’s one woman. But commencing a women’s refuge is a huge undertaking.

“To establish a dwelling where women can go at 10pm – you need to make it safe. Who’s going to staff it? How are you going to pay for it? It’s a country town. People will know where that house is. How could you keep it safe?”

Cr Narelle Payne sought clarification from Ms Wilson.

“Am I right to believe that you think that a shelter is expensive, unsafe and impractical, and you think that the system is working?” Cr Payne asked.

Ms Wilson said the systems in place weren’t perfect, but the brokerage system, combined with the Narrandera Police, meant that the system in place was in a position to keep women, men and children safe.

“There are glitches in every system, but the police in Narrandera and Leeton are very good. They’ll remove the male and take out an AVO against the male on the victim’s behalf. They bring women and children over in the night to Griffith, or they meet us halfway in Leeton. They have no problem doing that.

“The brokerage system means the police can put women and children in a hotel and we can organise to pay for it. Their options aren’t limited because they’re in Narrandera.”

Ms Wilson said that if the council wanted to do more to help domestic violence victims, they had options open to them.

“Raise the profile of domestic violence. Make people realise who is being affected by domestic violence. It’s not just the man and the woman in the middle. It breaks up families. It impacts children, it affects grandparents.

“The Narrandera Council is quite proactive, but if you want to help, encourage people to go to the hospital, go to the police. Go to family. Remove themselves and remove the children. Some people don’t see it as violence. They’ll say, but he loves me, but he apologises, but I only get hit if I do this. Don’t tolerate it.”

Ms Kilgower backed up Ms Wilson’s statements. “My role is project manager for women’s services. From my experience, everything that Yvonne is saying is correct.

“People do need the support, though. They need it immediately, and they don’t need it tomorrow. We’re available to talk to people, including men. We come here whenever we’re needed,” Ms Kilgower said.

Ms Schofield, the secretary- treasurer of the Narrandera Domestic Violence Committee, also offered her views on the matter.

“I just want to stress that we’re only an awareness committee. We hand out brochures and we run information days so that survivors know who to go to in their hour of need,” Ms Schofield said.

“I will say this, though – you tried to get disabled housing here. It took a very strong committee ten years to get it,” she said.

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