Build it and (sadly) they will come

THE Bendigo Advertiser has run strongly this week with the story around the state government’s failure to act on a project to build a much-needed refuge for women and children fleeing violence.

Plans for the refuge date back five years.

The state government funded a feasibility study for the refuge in 2011 and put aside land for the refuge the very same year. Today that land remains vacant.

In a time when the focus on violence against women and children has never been greater, it simply doesn’t make sense. The figures clearly show the need for such a facility.

How can society stand by and accept the fact women and children fleeing a violent home life must be turned away from a much-needed shelter because the ‘no vacancy’ sign is up?

We are left to wonder how many people could have found refuge in this facility had it been built in 2011 or when it was first floated in 2009.

The need for such a facility has long been known.

About 15 years ago then Bendigo Advertiser journalist Linda Barrow and photographer Peter Hyett produced an amazing feature on a safe house in Bendigo.

Such were the lengths needed to protect the location of this home, Linda and Peter were blindfolded and driven around the city for more than 20 minutes before being led inside where a woman waited to tell her harrowing life story.

I have no memory of the statistics in Linda’s story back then. No doubt they were startling, but we tend to forget such things as the years go by. But what has never left me is the story that victim of violence told.

She lived in fear of an abusive partner but despite that emotional and physical torture, she couldn’t summon the courage to leave. 

One day she did. But what should have been the turning point in her life turned into another beating.

This couple lived across a small park from a police station.

As this woman made her way to that sanctuary, her abusive partner knocked her to the ground and kicked her the rest of the way.

Her abusive partner knocked her to the ground and kicked her the rest of the way.

What a gutless mongrel.

Thankfully, that woman did find her sanctuary and was moved to safety in Bendigo.

I often wonder what become of her. You would love to think that former life has become a distant memory.

The reality is a majority of the women and children who would use this Bendigo refuge would harbour similar horrific stories.

It’s beyond comprehension that anyone with the capability to build a facility to provide them relief and sanctuary would hesitate to do so.

The cost of this refuge was once estimated around the $4 million mark – a small price to pay to help change the lives of so many into the future.

Makes no sense, really.

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