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WOMEN are being sent back to potentially lethal situations every night because refuges cannot meet demand.
Annie North has been sitting on plans for a new cluster model women's refuge, for which the state government has had land put aside in Bendigo for three years, but is still waiting on funding.
Chief excecutive Julie Oberin this week asked if now was not the time to fund more services for women and children fleeing violence, when was?
“This is not just something that happens to some women, this is an epidemic,’’ she said.
“When more than one woman a week is killed across the country it’s a national disaster.
The cluster will 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.
Centre for Non Violence chief executive Margaret Augerinos said the system was stressed and stretched.
“We’re struggling to respond to the numbers needing high security refuge across the state which is impacting on the safety of women and children,’’ she said.
“We know it can take women up to seven or eight attempts before they leave and by then there are experiencing significantly higher levels of control and lethality risks,’’ Ms Augerinos said. “The violence is escalating to a point where they feel physically threatened and that their lives and the lives of their children are in danger.
“If the support is not forthcoming, we could be sending women and children back into lethal or very dangerous situations.''
Annie North board chair Robyn Trainor says the new cluster model would give more regional women escaping violence access to immediate emergency accommodation and support with an integrated system response.
“We need to keep women and children safe in their own communities when possible, allowing children to stay in school and women close to their support networks,'' she said.
This is not just something that happens to some women, this is an epidemic