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Stark reality: Hunter women and children with no safe home


In an alarming situation, Lower Hunter women and children victims-survivors of domestic and family violence (DFV) are struggling to find safe accommodation.

The sad state of affairs has worsened recently, with Jenny’s Place and Nova for Women and Children DFV refuges in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie both regularly at capacity.

And, many of those currently accommodated are staying longer than the usual maximum number of days because there is no secure, affordable or available place to exit them into.

Disturbing, 77 women and 31 children have been turned away over the past month.

But, it is not just crisis refuges who are finding it difficult to secure safe housing outcomes for women and children victims-survivors of DFV.

“In the past three weeks, the Newcastle Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service received approximately 344 DFV referrals in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie, with 161 of those women requiring assistance with accommodation,” Newcastle Women’s Domestic Violence Advocacy Service manager Suellyn Moore said.

“Women and children in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie are sleeping in their cars, couch surfing and some are returning to their perpetrator because they have nowhere else to go.

“Others are provided Temporary Accommodation funded through the Department of Communities and Justice but this is not long term, is not always available, and there is a cap on the number of days and the funding,” Nova for Women and Children CEO Kelly Hansen added.

Earlier this month seven local DFV services in the Lower Hunter called for an extension to the Temporary Accommodation funding and the maximum number of days.

They also sought changes to the approval criteria so that Temporary Accommodation was more practical and accessible for DFV victims-survivors.

Housing for women and children victims-survivors of DFV is a priority issue across the state.

The NSW Women’s Alliance released its 2023 NSW State Election Sexual, Domestic and Family Violence Scorecard this week comparing six political party responses to more than 60 policy recommendations in the election platform Action to End Gendered Violence.

One of the NSW Women’s Alliance recommendations is for the NSW Government to fund long-term, safe housing, including $2.6 billion annually for 5,000 new social housing dwellings per year to house the tens of thousands of people on wait lists, to increase transitional housing by 50% and to lift the percentage of affordable housing in new developments.

“We cannot have a safe state until we secure safe housing,” Domestic Violence NSW CEO Delia Donovan said.

“The reality remains that domestic and family violence is the single largest driver of homelessness for women and children.

“The Women’s Alliance has identified this in their election platform and compared political party responses to the issue.

“This weekend every vote is an opportunity to build new doorways to safer housing and a safer state.”

Jenny’s Place executive manager Marcia Chapman agreed.

“The NSW Women’s Alliance recommendations must be accepted and implemented by whoever forms the next NSW Government,” she said.

“And, while these long-term housing solutions are being implemented, amending the Temporary Accommodation funding, timeframe and criteria is a priority and is something that can happen immediately.

“It is not the long-term answer.

“However, it will at the very least provide a short-term accommodation option to DFV services and women and children who have nowhere else to go.”

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