It's time to fund refuge for women and children

IT'S a fair question to ask: if now is not the time to invest in services that work with women and children fleeing violence, when is?

The state government this week trumpeted it was spending $4.5 million in expanding a pilot risk management program that brings together family violence and human services, police, corrections and courts. 

The program, which already runs in the Geelong and Hume regions, will start up in eight new areas and see full-time workers appointed to co-ordinate information sharing and support victims by linking them to services they need.

Any investment in support for women and children is welcome. But it was nowhere near enough.

As Annie North Women's Refuge and the Centre for Non Violence have said today, the system is stressed and stretched - and how many more women and children have to die before governments take notice?

We don't need a government that says all the right things and puts up small amounts of cash hoping it's enough. We need a government that actually does all the right things.

It's not good enough to say the new cluster refuge was not a State Budget-funded project.

The Department of Human Services this week told the Bendigo Advertiser it was "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''.

Australian Homelessness statistics state one in every two women with children in the homeless service system is escaping domestic violence. Children make up 27 per cent of people experiencing homelessness, and they are almost always in a family group and most likely with a single mother.

The number of family violence-related homicides is increasing. But for every one of those high-profile deaths, how many more women and children are fleeing, or living with, violence. 

Surely, safe places for them to go need to be top of the list. And surely, the time to fund them is now.

Nicole Ferrie, deputy editor

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