Mixed messages over funding for refuge

DRAFT: Concept plans for the new Annie North women's refuge.

DRAFT: Concept plans for the new Annie North women's refuge.

PREMIER asked why state hasn't funded new women's refuge

ANNIE North women’s refuge was told before Christmas last year plans for a new cluster model refuge for women and children fleeing violence had “elevated’’ on the Department of Human Services list of priorities.

The organisation’s understanding was the project had reached the top of the list.

The message was delivered via the Department of Human Services, after a series of meetings in the weeks before.

The state government owns a large parcel of land in Bendigo that has been set aside for the development since a feasibility study was done in 2011, but Annie North Women’s Refuge is still waiting for capital funding to build the facility.

Annie North chief executive Julie Oberin met with Member for Northern Victoria and now state government minister, Damian Drum, in October.

Mr Drum then wrote to the Minister for Housing, Wendy Lovell, and Minister for Community Services, Mary Wooldridge, before following up those letters with conversations about the project.

It was then that Ms Oberin received a call saying the project had elevated.

But on the day before the 2014/15 State Budget was handed down last week, the women’s refuge was told the project had stalled.

When the Bendigo Advertiser contacted Minister Lovell’s office, the issue was referred to the Department of Human Services, who gave the following statement: 

"Annie North is 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.

"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.

"The Annie North project is being considered by the department in accordance with existing governance mechanisms.

"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.''

The Bendigo Advertiser has asked the department why Annie North was told the project was "elevated'' following conversations at ministerial level, but now "stalled''.

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