Feminist NGO Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia (RDVSA) is urgently seeking funds to keep the phones switched on at the NSW Rape Crisis Centre (RCC).
The NSW RCC is the last remaining public 24 hour, 7 days a week sexual assault counselling service in the state.
If RDVSA does not find the funds to keep the NSW RCC open, it will be forced to liquidate, spelling the demise of its other services, such as the support line for people affected by the royal commission into child sexual abuse, training for NRL rugby league players on respectful relationships and an online real-time chat service for victims of sexual assault.
RDVSA is planning to fundraise, but ultimately it needs a funding guarantee from the federal government.
The RCC was previously funded by the state government. NSW Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Pru Goward said that she has written to the federal government to "request negotiations continue in hope of reaching a positive resolution".
The funding crisis is the result of the loss of RDVSA’s major government contract for the running of the 1800 RESPECT support line, a national sexual assault and domestic violence counselling service.
The government handed the running of 1800 RESPECT to for-profit insurance company Medibank Health Solutions (MHS).
MHS subsequently diverted calls to 1800 RESPECT to lower-paid workers instead of the experienced all-women unionised staff at RDVSA.
The service has also undergone cost-cutting changes to maximise MHS’ profits at the expense of the previously renowned service’s quality.
MHS has introduced a triage operating model, in which MHS operators assess the seriousness of a call before deciding whether to refer callers to a specialist counsellor.
But RDVSA says callers need to speak to a trauma specialist from the outset.
RDVSA now needs to find the funds to pay about 60 specialist counselling staff made redundant in the corporate takeover.
The workers fought to save 1800 RESPECT, running a ‘No Profit From Rape’ campaign.
A statement released by the Australian Services Union NSW & ACT on October 28, which covers workers in this sector, said: “For seven years the internationally recognised specialist rape and domestic violence trauma counsellors at RDVSA have supported women, children and men to recover from the trauma of violence...
“These women mounted an amazing campaign to save their service: the No Profit From Rape Campaign.
“Today, we thank them for their service, dedication and fierce advocacy.
“Thank you sisters. We stand in solidarity with you. We won't stop fighting till we end profit from rape.”