New women’s shelter secured for Sydney’s west

Women fleeing domestic violence can end up on the streets due to the lack of support services.

The Parramatta Women’s Shelter, which will meet a critical need in Sydney’s west, has secured a lease and supporters say it will be ready to welcome women and their children within months.

Elizabeth Scully, who is on the board of the Parramatta Women’s Shelter told Green Left Weekly this was made possible by community support.

Scully explained that funds had been made available through Women’s Community Shelters (WCS), which receives government funding and philanthropic donations, but would be supplemented “with local grassroots funding”.

“We’ve had our first Bunnings barbecue,” said Scully, and “we have seen some beautiful generosity and received generous donations, including from Our Lady of Mercy College and the Sisters of Mercy, who gave us funding for a child support worker.”

Domestic and family violence is the leading cause of preventable death for women between the ages of 15–44. Many women who are escaping family violence end up homeless, due to lack of refuges.

“There is so much unmet need in this community,” Scully told GLW. “One in two women are currently turned away from crisis accommodation in New South Wales.

“This is a modest increase in available crisis accommodation, but will make a real difference to women.”

The Parramatta Women’s Shelter is the seventh in the network established by WCS, which started in 2013.

Despite growing concern about the prevalence of domestic and family violence in Australia, NSW government funding cuts have resulted in the closure of city and regional refuges, the loss of specialist services for women, and the transfer of services into the hands of churches and charities.

WCS CEO Annabel Daniel told GLW the organisation “grew out of a need for specialised women’s services.

“Domestic and family violence is a gendered issue. Homelessness is a gendered issue.

“Women over the age of 55 are now facing homeless in greater numbers. Older women’s homelessness will become a social tsunami over the coming years.

“We are resolute that this should be a specialised service.

“Aboriginal women are disproportionately affected by domestic and family violence. We aim to offer a culturally appropriate and sensitive approach.”

WCS works with communities to establish new shelters under a “tri-partite” funding model in which government, philanthropy/business and community contribute.

The average stay in a shelter is 2-3 months and a shelter costs around $420,000 a year to run.

The shelter will have the capacity to house 3-4 women and their kids on a temporary basis.

“It is more than just a safe roof,” said Daniel. “We will also be providing individual support, including advocacy for affordable housing, employment, education and training pathways.

“We want to walk alongside women.”