Funding hopes for new women's refuge

ANNIE North has been told a new refuge for women and children fleeing violence is still at the top of the list for Department of Human Services funding, despite not receiving funds in the State Budget.

Annie North chief executive Julie Oberin yesterday said she was continuing to work with the Department of Human Services and "hopeful they may find the capital for it soon''.

"But why hasn't it been prioritised, especially given the budget is in such surplus... surely we don't have to wait any longer?'' Ms Oberin said.

"We have been at the top of the list for a long time.

"The community doesn't care where the money comes from, the fact is it's not being prioritised.''

The new refuge for Victorian women and children fleeing violence has been in the pipeline for five years and the State Government has had a large parcel of land put aside in Bendigo for the facility since a feasibility study was done in 2012.

The cluster would be a tastefully-designed walled community with seven self-contained units and room to extend. Two units will be joined, allowing them to be opened up to accommodate large families when needed.

The facility will also include counselling rooms, group work rooms, training rooms and a computer room.

A sound proof room will also allow for court hearings, so some women and children do not have to go to court and face their abuser.

Earlier this week, Ms Oberin voiced her disappointment the project had not been funded in the State Budget.

"How many more women and children have to die?" Ms Oberin said.

“Given the high profile of the domestic murders of women and children recently … it shows how dangerous it is for these women and children.

“While it’s really important to raise community awareness and try and prevent it from happening, it’s absolutely critical that when these women have to leave that they have the right supports in place to help with the risk because it’s the most unsafe time for them, which is proven.''

A spokesman for the Department of Human Services said the cluster was not a State Budget funded project.

"It is project that is being considered by the department from the existing amount that the government invests each year in social housing,'' the spokesman said.

"This is a day-to-day matter and the department will continue to work with the agency on the merits of the project.

"Capital funding decisions are subject to strict departmental governance mechanisms - this is very important to ensure the best use of public funding and to maximise benefits to vulnerable Victorians from the social housing portfolio.  

"Our key directions in the recently released Social Housing Framework aim to have better assets and improve governance arrangements.

"It is important that due consideration is given to all projects so we make sure our social housing portfolio is best suited to the clients it services.''

However Ms Oberin said it was "splitting hairs'' to say the project was never reliant on the State Budget, as all capital works were allocated through a budget.

"It just shows that something else is getting built each time instead and they aren’t prioritising the safety and support of women and children seeking refuge,'' she said.

DRAFT: The concept plans for a new refuge Annie North hopes to build in Bendigo.

DRAFT: The concept plans for a new refuge Annie North hopes to build in Bendigo.

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