A place of hope and dignity

EDITORIAL: Annie North celebrates funding

WE WILL BUILD IT: Annie North windfall.

JUST BUILD IT campaign.

ANNIE North plans to build a place of dignity and hopefulness following a state government commitment to fund a new refuge complex for women and children fleeing violence.

Board chair Julie Oberin yesterday welcomed a $3 million state government funding commitment to build the facility, saying it had been a long time coming.

"With domestic and family violence becoming a higher profile in the community, it’s led to increased community awareness, more and more women and children trying to seek help and so increasing demand on all of our services,'' she said.

"Our facility has served us very well but women and children deserve better facilities so they can be safe in their own community without having to leave their family and friends and pets and all their belongings.''

The organisation 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 has not had the capital works money to build the facility.

Ms Oberin recently asked how many more women or children had to die before the refuge was funded.

"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 complex 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.

Ms Oberin said while $3 million was a great start, it was important the complex was not a standard accommodation block.

"It needs all the elements ... it needs to be safe and private and have a culture of dignity, of hopefulness,'' she said.

"It's also a healing place, so it's got to have the right facilities.''

Ms Oberin said she was overwhelmed by the community support in recent weeks for the refuge.

"Since 1989, we have been protecting families on our own - but with this new model the community helps us protect and support the women and children,'' she said.

"That in itself is a message for women and children - the community is supporting them and not blaming them.

"We’ve been hiding away for more than 20 years trying not to attract too much attention to ourselves, but with this new facility it’s a new model and it becomes part of the community to help keep it safe and also to make it work best for the families and the community response we’ve had over the last couple of weeks has been phenomenal.''

Annie North board chair Robyn Trainor said the new model would “provide an environment for counselling, education, learning and have play spaces’’.

“It also helps us to engage better with the integrated service system, so work more collaboratively with police, the courts, specialist family violence services, to improve outcomes for women and children and also to improve accountability to perpetrators of violence,'' she said.

"It also will allow us to engage better with the community and have a bigger public profile so that we can keep this issue on the agenda and work towards the prevention of violence and part of that is changing community attitudes.''

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