• 24Feb

    This is an article that WEAVE  wrote for Parity in 2013. Still very pertinent for today.

    How is a lack of feminist analysis within domestic violence and contemporary services contributing to a reproduction of women’s and children’s homelessness and continued risk of domestic violence victimisation?

    By Marie Hume, Dr. Elspeth McInnes, Kathryn Rendell, and Betty Green (Women Everywhere Advocating Violence Elimination Inc.)

     

    It is well established that a significant percentage of homeless people in Australia are women and children escaping male violence. According to Homelessness Australia, just over two in every five of the estimated homeless population are women. More women than men seek assistance from the homeless service system each year. Two-thirds of the children who accompanied an adult to a homeless service last year were in the care of a woman, usually their mother, escaping domestic violence. Domestic violence is the most often cited reason given by women presenting to specialist homelessness services for seeking assistance.

    The majority of people turned away from specialist homelessness services are women and their children. One in two people who request immediate accommodation are turned away each night due to high demand and under-resourcing.

    However, homelessness is not the only problem for women escaping male violence. Male violence against women and children is a complex dynamic which needs specialist women-only services, and we would argue, feminist responses to help women be safe and be empowered.

    Many organisations providing services to women attempting to escape from all forms of violence are hampered in their ability to operate from a feminist perspective.

    There are a range of reasons for this, such as the defunding of progressive women’s services; the growing divisions between different types of services; funding and output measurement tools focusing on individual change; and the sharp shift in the provision and focus of services, away from a social recognition of men’s violence against women and towards an individual pathology of women’s poor choices and victimisation.  In fact women’s services are currently at serious risk of being de-politicised. (Hume, McInnes, Rendell & Green 2011).

    In order to provide support and help to women escaping male violence our services must firstly listen to and respect women’s experiences of violence. Women are the experts in this experience and over years have learnt survival mechanisms. They are experts of their own survival. Our role is to help women find their own pathway to safety and to help them negotiate the systemic barriers to such safety.

    Feminist practice, according to Davies, involves…

    “…‘woman-defined advocacy’: …advocacy that starts from the woman’s perspective, integrates the advocate’s knowledge and resources into the framework, and ultimately values her thoughts, feelings, opinions, and dreams—that she is the decision maker, the one who knows best, the one with the power.” (Davies et al., 1998, pp. 3-4, cited by Laing, 2001))

    Women’s services throughout Australia are struggling to maintain a feminist perspective in supporting women escaping male violence. They labour against systemic structural barriers; and ideological and policy determinants.

    Policy determinants have led to many domestic violence services operating in an increasingly medical model, where the responsibility for their safety is placed on individual women and focus for change is on victim, rather than perpetrator. Often male perpetrators become invisible in service provision.

    An example of this is the South Australian Homeless 2 Home (H2H) client and case management system.

    All specialist homelessness agencies in South Australia are required as part of their funding agreement to use this system. In the assessment process workers are required to assess women.

    This covers areas such as “Anger and mood management; emotional, educational and employment stability” and sets out goals that should be addressed in providing a service to women. The domestic violence status of the woman’s exposure to violence is minimised in the assessment process, with the focus on her individual deficits. Practitioners are not directed to any mention of the structural inequities that women face when escaping from domestic violence. Rather the assessment process seems to be operating on a deficit model of service provision, where the woman, identified as “the client” is judged as deficient because she is a victim.

    The focus in the provision of services for women has shifted from the structural to the individual. Rather than being sites of political activism, based on the sharing of common experiences and self-help, women’s services have become sites of professionalised therapeutic intervention. Women are increasingly being treated as victims in need of professional help – and even seen by some services as the source of ‘the problem’ of violence against women.

    As community providers increasingly replace government provision there has been an accompanying trend away from consulting the people using the service, to those providing the service. Services report to governments about what their clients need, positioning themselves as experts on the issue, rather than the people going through the situation of need. The voices of professionals are increasingly privileged at the expense of those needing the service.

    Karen Webb in DVRC quarterly article states that there are “higher demands from funding bodies to demonstrate measurable outcomes” which impacts on how services operate.

    “McDonald (2005) argues the feminist analysis of family violence has experienced ongoing silencing due to an increased accountability attached to government funding in addition to an increased focus on individual empowerment. Due to human services being subjected to a competitive market, family violence programs are forced to produce measurable outcome-based data.”(Webb, 2012, p.6)

    For homelessness services this translates into reducing the numbers of women victims of violence by professionals working to reduce their assessed pathology, as expressed in ‘mood problems’ or ‘unemployment’. This trend can be seen to be broadly linked to policy and funding decisions of governments over time, as well as the backlash against both feminism and women which has become evident in public debate.

    Increasingly, particularly during the years of conservative government, funding was directed away from many progressive women’s organisations and towards men’s rights groups and conservative organisations. In addition, government policy was such that funding agreements with recipient organisations prohibited funded agencies from challenging government policy and practices.

    Davies et al. (1998) trace the impact of responses to domestic violence over the last 30 years, which have resulted in what they term ‘service-defined advocacy’ in which ‘advocates fit women into the services available without understanding their plans’ (p. 17)(as cited by Laing, 2001)

    Increasingly, services for women are being outsourced to generic, and often faith-based, organisations. The result of such outsourcing is that women-only services are becoming less available. It also means that many of these non-government organisations are often providing broad based family services. Not only do they not have a feminist analysis of violence against women, but ideologically their faith defined pro-family stance operates to discount or deny women’s experiences of violence.

    Dr Lesley Laing cites a number of theorists who argue that there has been a shift away from a feminist, social and advocacy response to domestic violence to a medicalised, psychological view of domestic violence. She cites Gondolf who attributes these changes…

    “…to both the growing involvement by mental health experts with the issue of domestic violence and to the pressure experienced by some refuges to secure funding by developing their services in line with more conventional social welfare agencies. Via processes such as these, it is argued that ‘a severe and political problem has been transformed into a psychological one’” (Gondolf & Fisher, 1988, p.2 cited in Laing, 2001 p. 3.)

    We would also argue that the increase of the professionalization of women’s services frequently has resulted in professional practice paradigms that have not been grounded in feminist theory and practice.

    Alongside of this has been the medicalization of women’s issues which has occurred concurrently with the decline in political activism. Medical/ therapeutic models of service delivery have become increasingly forced upon the women’s sector, with an emphasis on women’s pathology, individual therapeutic responses and personal healing. (See South Australian Homeless 2 Home (H2H) client and case management system.)

    An example of this is the recent introduction of the Empowerment StarTM into the Victorian family violence sector. This program is described by Karen Webb as a casework outcomes measurement tool designed specifically for programs aimed at supporting women who have experienced family violence. Karen Webb:

    “…primary focus of the tool is to measure and document the changes in a survivor’s attitude, motivation and behaviour toward an end goal. The language used in the tool reflects a number of problematic assumptions.”(Webb, 2012, p.6)

    She argues that the assessment tool “privileges the worker’s ‘expert’ view over the survivor’s.” (p.7) and tends to make women responsible for creating change and being responsible for establishing safety for herself and children. She argues that the use of such a tool is…

    “Reinforcing the idea that each individual woman needs to be ‘empowered’ in order to avoid violence only lowers the accountability of abusers and society. This is not empowerment nor does it fit in within a feminist framework: this is silencing and maintaining the status quo.”(Webb, 2012, p.9)

    This is an example of neo-liberalism’s co-option of the word ‘empowerment’. It implies that women expose themselves to violence by making poor choices of relationships with violent men, or by displaying irritating behaviour which provokes men to violence against them. It creates a perspective wherein the role of services is to ‘fix’ women’s desires to make poor choices and cure them of being irritating to men. Men’s use of violence remains invisible and the targets of the violence become responsible for causing it.

    The Federal Government’s Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has created a data collection programme (S.H.I.P) which collates personal information in relation to women who seek support from women’s shelters. Many women’s shelters are required to provide such confidential and personal information if they wish to continue to be funded.

    The information gained in this data collection is used to enable governments and the community “to make informed decisions to improve the health and welfare of Australians”.

    However, much of the data collected is framed in terms of housing rather than domestic violence, which results in the core business of women’s domestic violence services moving away from domestic violence to homelessness. Placing women in a “safe” home does not mean that women are safe.

    The reality for women escaping male violence is that there exists a range of systemic failures which prevent women from achieving real safety. For example, it is well documented that separation is the most dangerous time for women and children and that women can be subjected to ongoing abuse, harassment and stalking for years after their separation (Bagshaw, Brown, Wendt, Campbell, McInnes, Tinning, Batagol, Sifris, Tyson, Baker & Fernandez Arias 2010 p77). Despite this, the Australian family law system consistently fails to acknowledge and account for domestic violence and child abuse. In the majority of cases the family law system continues to expose women and children to ongoing violence and abuse by forcing women and children to maintain relationships with their abusers as a result of court orders for access between children and their abusive fathers.

    “To maximise the effectiveness of interventions with women who have experienced violence, it is important that practice models emphasise women’s safety and perpetrator accountability; explore and validate women’s experiences; acknowledge strengths and avoid pathologising women; attend to the diverse cultural and social contexts of women’s lives; and locate the range of interventions within the wider socio-political context.” (Laing 2001, p 14-15)

    If a collective feminist consciousness of men’s violence against women is to be regenerated, politicians, policymakers, human services professionals and managers need to once again listen to women’s voices. Women’s experiential knowledge of male violence must inform collective action that commands government attention in demanding social change.

     

    Visit WEAVE’s Facebook page

    Bibliography

    Davies, J., Lyon, E., & Monti-Catania, D. (1998). Safety Planning with Battered Women: Complex lives/difficult choices. Thousand Oaks: Sage as cited in Dr Lesley Laing, 2001 “Working with women: Exploring individual and group work approaches. “Australian Domestic & Family Violence CLEARINGHOUSE Issues Paper 4 2001

    Gondolf, E. W., & Fisher, E. R. (1988). Battered Women as Survivors: An alternative to treating learned helplessness. Massachusetts/Toronto: Lexington Books.

    Hume, M., McInnes, E., Rendell, K. & Green, B. (2011). Women’s services in the 21st century: Where are we heading? Australian Domestic & Family Violence Newsletter, 46, pp.3-4.

    Laing, L. (2001). “Working with women: Exploring individual and group work approaches. “Australian Domestic & Family Violence CLEARINGHOUSE Issues Paper 4 2001

    Webb, K (2012). “empowerment or compliance? making women responsible for change” DVRC Quarterly (Domestic Violence Resource Centre, Victoria) Spring/Summer

    http://www.homelessnessaustralia.org.au/UserFiles/File/Fact%20sheets/Fact%20Sheets%202011-12/Homelessness%20&%20Women%202011-12%288%29.pdf

    http://www.sa.gov.au/subject/Housing,+property+and+land/Customer+entry+points+and+contacts/Homelessness+services+provider+entry+point/Client+and+case+management+system

    http://www.sa.gov.au/upload/franchise/Housing,%20property%20and%20land/Housing%20SA/h2H_manual_section_4.pdf

    http://www.aihw.gov.au/privacy-of-data/

     

     

  • 04Jan

    Our latest Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull says:

     “Real men don’t hit women.”  

     

    In Australia, violence against women raised its profile in 2015.

    Rosie Batty our Australian of the Year has been a strong advocate during this year in raising awareness and bringing it to public attention. She has been (and continues to be) a strong advocate for women. She has shown much strength and courage in bringing violence against women to the forefront of Australia’s consciousness.

    As Real for Women has shown there have many women and women’s groups throughout Australia this last year standing up for women.

    thankafeminist

     

    The Australian Government  announced a $100 million package of measures to provide a safety net for women and children at high risk of experiencing violence.

    Of course, they didn’t announce that they had previously taken away $300 million dollars from women’s services and organisations.

    The Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence was initiated in 2015 by the new Labor government in Victoria.

    The ABCTV’s  ‘Hitting Home’2 part series on family violence received high acclaim.

    Sarah Ferguson

    But let us look at the reality of what is happening in Australia for women.

    Domestic violence services continue to be de-funded.

    Tweed Valley Women’s Services recently forced to close

     

    “I was shocked and outraged that this forced closure has occurred as the Tweed Valley Women’s Service provides vital services, particularly for those women and children fleeing from domestic violence,” Ms Elliot said.

    SaveWomensRefuges recently conducted a survey of domestic violence victims

    “Our survey results are telling us heartbreaking stories of women and children forced to return to live in violence, of sleeping in cars, in stairwells and on public transport. We need the Prime Minister to fund domestic violence refuges now. Sign and let Malcolm know it has to be a priority!!”

     

    Womens Electoral Lobby have also raised concerns about the loss of secure funding for women’s refuges.

     

     “Women’s refuges save lives. We request that the Prime Minister act swiftly to agree to a long-term secure separate national funding program for women’s refuges to ensure women and children escaping family and domestic violence have a safe haven and access to specialist services to enable them to rebuild their lives.”

     

    The Guardian in June 1914 reported that the Liberal State government redirected $6m funding from inner city to rural NSW, predicting that up to 20 shelters will have to close their doors.

    “The tendering process is completely new for this sector. We’re talking about an established network of women’s services across Sydney that have been operating for 30 to 40 years and never had their funding come under threat from any government – Liberal or Labor – until now.”

    “You can’t provide quality care for women unless you’re operating from a specialist framework. We’re all operating on evidence based models.” There is also the likely outcome that women, including those escaping domestic violence, will have to seek shelter in mixed accommodation.

    As reported to the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence:

    “For victim support, historically underfunded (and recently suffering cutbacks and closures), needs adequate funding to cope with current demand, because DV is not going to be resolved or reduced overnight, these are life-saving services, and pay for themselves in reducing homicides and serious injuries. As for social workers and child protection agencies, better education and better case management is needed.” 

    Media coverage of domestic violence

    A study recently showed that the media often distort domestic violence.

    “The report, published by Our Watch and Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (Anrows), found there were widely established patterns of reporting in Australia and internationally that were overly simplistic, distorted and inadequate and increased the public’s confusion.”

    Many reports also shifted blame from the male perpetrators to their female victims.

    “One common theme across much of the media reporting in Australia and the US was that the social context in which male-perpetrated violence against women occurred was often excluded.”

     

    Cuts to homelessness services

    “Several peak organisations that provide policy advice and research into homelessness and housing services received word from the Department of Social Services on Monday that they would no longer receive funding.”

     Homelessness groups were informed just prior to Christmas in 2015 that the federal government reportedly pulled funding from a number of advocacy organisations.

    Reported by the Guardian.

    It is well-known that women and children fleeing domestic violence make up the majority of homeless people.

    Family Law

    In 2015 Background Briefing presented a critique of family law – ‘In the child’s best interests’

    I wrote about this programme previously on MairiVoice

    It would seem that parental alienation syndrome and father privilege is still the ideological underpinnings of our family law system.

    Notably, the programme interviewed one specialist family law assessor, Chris Rikard-Bell and he was true to form.

    “One cannot just depend on what the child’s statements are.” 

    When asked specifically about parental alienation syndrome, which appears to be the basis of his work:

    “The concept of alienation, by which a parent consciously undermines the child’s relationship with the other parent, is still a valid concept.”

    ‘I refer to alienation if it specifically occurs and describe it but I avoid using the Parental Alienation Syndrome label, even though it is often useful, as it has now come under such scrutiny that it often creates more debate than is helpful.’

    Apparently you can follow the principles of parental alienation – just don’t call it that.

     

    Community Legal Centres lose funding.

    Funding for CLC’s have not been restored.

    ‘Community legal centres will lose 30 per cent of their funding by the end of 2018 at the same time as police in Australia are handling one domestic violence matter every two minutes’The Federal Government is once again punishing victims of domestic violence with the toughest measures it has ever imposed on women seeking legal help.”

    “Pockets of funding at all levels are under threat. Some are not being renewed, others are being reduced. In 2017, the sector will see a 25 percent cut in Commonwealth funding across the board. Funding cycles are now reviewed annually rather than every three years, making it difficult to plan ahead further than a single financial year. As a result, new employees are generally put on 12, six or even three-month contracts, which makes it hard to attract top talent.”

    “However, CLCs do turn away tens of thousands of people a year. The demand is so high that the Productivity Commission has recommended an injection of $200 million into the sector, but with the Government seemingly ignoring the report, cuts remain a part of daily life at the RLC.”

     

    And Daily Life reports on how legal help is now being means-tested.

     

    “In a shock move just days after this year’s federal budget, community legal centres learned they would be compelled to means test those in need of legal support.  Eight months of consultation were pushed aside to make way for just one measure to get help – financial hardship.”

    “Gone were categories such as the risk of physical violence. Gone from the list were Indigenous women seeking support or people at risk of homelessness. The only thing which matters now is money.”

     

    Cuts to welfare benefits

    Families face cuts in welfare payments under the Federal Government’s changes to Family Tax Benefit rules.

     

    The biggest changes are hitting Family Tax Benefit Part B (FTB-B), which will be cut for families when their youngest child turns six.(ABC news).

    “The federal government has reintroduced to parliament cuts to family payments including abolishing annual bonuses.”

     

    Families will no longer receive family tax benefit supplement Part A of about $726.35 and Part B of $354.05 under the measures which Labor previously rejected. https://au.news.yahoo.com/a/30249637/family-tax-benefit-cuts-return/

     

    Anti vilification law

    Wicked Pickets have done a wonderful job in raising awareness about A community action to extend anti vilification law to include ‘sex’ as a ground for complaint.

    wicked pickets van

    So far they have had no luck in convincing our politicians about this.

    Refugee policies

    Headline the Saturday Paper in August:

    Nauru rapes: ‘There is a war on women’

    “One woman lies catatonic in hospital after being raped and beaten. Another was raped and immolated. This is the world awaiting refugees released from detention on Nauru.”

     

    And from the Huffington Post

    “At least two Iranian women detained on Nauru claim they were strip-searched by male security guards from an Australian firm who laughed as they ordered the women to remove their clothes, with allegations male guards are telling female detainees they have the power to conduct strip searches.”

    And for the Somali woman who had been raped on Nauru and was seeking an abortion, shows us that Peter Dutton, our Immigration Minister lied about what occurred when she was brought to Australia,

     

    Documents from the Department of Immigration and Border protection show that officials knew a Somali woman who had been raped on Nauru had not outright refused an abortion despite claims she had by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton after she was sent back to Nauru without the procedure last year. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said at the time that Abyan had changed her mind about the abortion and that she was to be returned to Nauru. It is unclear from the documents why Abyan was removed when she had not rejected an abortion, as claimed by the Minister, however a note in the FOI documents from Australian Border Force warned: “There is a risk that once in Australia, [Abyan] will seek to join legal action which would prevent her return.”

     

    “Ms Tranter said the fear expressed in the comment that Abyan would use the abortion to try and stay in Australia, was disturbing, given the matter involved a rape victim. “http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2016/01/02/departments-claim-raped-refugee-rejected-abortion-wrong-foi-reveals

    “From the multiple reports of abuse, rape and sexual assault, to the awful treatment of pregnant rape victim Abyan; it seem increasingly obvious to the general public of Australia (as well as the recent United Nations Human Rights forum delegates) that Nauru and Manus Island are not safe places.”

    Meanwhile our Immigration Minister Peter Dutton wanted to make it known that he was in support of White Ribbon Day, and that he is someone who publicly denounces violence against women.

    “Unfortunately, he also happens to be the bloke who effectively sentenced a bunch of women and children to mandatory detention centres where sexual assault, rape, and violence against women runs rife.”

    “Sending women and children to harmful and dangerous detention centres means you’re kinda okay with horrendous acts of sexual assault and violence against women, and are more or less part of the problem – otherwise you’d stop it happening, right? Which makes Peter Dutton a big fat hypocrite. “http://www.pedestrian.tv/news/arts-and-culture/peter-dutton-shoots-self-in-foot-with-tweets-about/8bfbbf0f-73c6-44ea-996e-da84fda5618b.htm

     

    Pornography

    ABC produced a discussion panel on Pornography – Porn Even

    As Laura McNally reports:

    “Even in follow up to the panel, Tom Tilley continued to press the idea that porn is healthy, saying, “the personal experiences [expressed by the panel] weren’t extreme, it was just the broader generalisations and the theories people were making that got extreme.” Tilley apparently sees empirical data as theory and anecdote from half-a-dozen porn users as fact. With a sample size of one couple, the show seems to have concluded that porn is changing sex lives, and only for the better.”

    “After a careful, nuanced and sensitive approach toward domestic violence on Hitting Home, the ABC has shown all the nuance of a train-wreck in examining the role of porn in sexual violence. Survivors of sexual violence, including the many performers harmed in the production of pornography, deserve better from the national broadcaster.”

    Sexual Assault

    Federal Minister Briggs has stood down from his position on the front bench after complaints of sexual assault from a junior public servant. To top this off he then sent a picture of the young women “to several people” which ended up in our newspapers.

    And to start our new year, today’s news is that our esteemed Peter Dutton sent a SMScalling a female journalist  a “mad f … king witch” in a text.

    Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

    ditch the witch

    In Conclusion

    So Mr. Turnbull you say “real men don’t hit women”.

    Well it appears that real men

    • cut women’s services

    • lock up refugee women in detention centres, subject them to strip searches and to rape, fail to provide them with access to abortions after being raped;

    • cut welfare benefits to women

    • refuse to change anti-vilification laws;

    • do nothing to change the family law system to protect women and children from violence;

    • become MP’s so they can publicly vilify women

    • become MP’s so they can sexually assault women.

    • etc, etc

    Perhaps First dog on moon best expresses the hope that women have for 2106

    first dog

    First dog on moon: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/picture/2015/nov/25/this-white-ribbon-day-lets-raise-awareness-of-our-awareness-raising

  • 09Oct

    shelta-logo

    Women’s House Brisbane recently highlighted their concerns about the potential loss of women’s only services in Queensland.

    “Women’s House is outraged at the recent loss of many valuable services for women and children, in particular, domestic violence refuges in New South Wales. Staff at Women’s House believe that women’s refuges in Queensland will be put out to tender next year.”

    This issue was raised in my previous post on this, where Women’s refuges were put out to tender earlier this year in NSW.

    This has led to smaller specialist domestic violence refuges losing their funding to larger generic welfare organizations – many of them religious. And as the article points out, they “have an appalling record in relation to survivors of violence” – just take a look at Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
    Over 20 refuges in NSW have been de-funded. Larger generic organizations are able to offer cheaper services by cutting specialized services for women and children.

     

     

    Australia is not alone in this backlash against feminist services.

     

    Karen Ingala Smith has been interviewed by Socialist Resistance.

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    Karen is the chief executive of nia, a charity with a feminist ethos supporting women who have suffered sexual and domestic violence in the U.K.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     
    “We’ve lost too many specialist women’s organisations and it is continuing. It’s harder and harder for independent women-led organisations to survive, and the fight to survive takes away energy that we should be spending on supporting women, girls and children and campaigning for change.”
    Tenders are going to large organizations that aren’t specialist women’s organizations. She gives an example:

    “The local area did not lose refuge spaces but in order to meet the lower contract value, the new organisation managed to circumvent employment protection laws and made all the existing staff team redundant, offering them new contracts at lower rates, more hours per week and less annual leave. Most accepted. Since then, as staff left and new ones were recruited, salaries were offered at lower rates. With this sort of contracting the central focus becomes not ‘What could we do for women and children with this money?’ but ‘How could we deliver the specification outlined in this contract – and nothing more – for the least possible cost?’”

    Both articles point out the importance of feminist, women’s specialist and women-only services.

    “It means that our work names male violence and that services are provided in a framework which recognises that there are inequalities between women and men in society, and that male violence against women and girls is both a cause and a consequence of inequality. That we don’t see male violence against women as reducible to individual acts perpetrated by individual men, but as a key instrument of men’s domination of women, supported and normalised by patriarchal institutions, attitudes and social norms and values.”

    It is not just about delivery of services but about activism and awareness-raising about male violence against women and children. It is about recognizing that male violence against women and children is not about individual pathology – it’s a social problem embedded in our patriarchal society.

    “Women’s refuges in Australia have a proud legacy and wealth of experience and skills in working with women and children who have experienced violence and abuse. Refuge workers have a well-developed understanding of the nature and impact of violence against women and children. They understand that women are not to blame for the violence perpetrated against them and that rather, it is part of a much wider systemic problem.”

    “For the sake of women and their children who are desperate to break free from abuse, Women’s House urges the Queensland government not to follow the course taken by NSW. It is essential that the Queensland government funds refuges that have a specialised focus on women and children and a diversity of services which meet the variety of needs required by those affected by violence.”

    Women’s House opened the first domestic violence refuge in Queensland in 1974. It has a public office in Woolloongabba and provides services for women who have experienced domestic violence and sexual assault.” .

    Woollongabba Womens House is a cooperative that runs Women’s Shelters in and around Woollongabba in Brisbane’s inner South.

     

    Karen also runs a blog which counts women who have been killed.

    counting-dead-women-montage

     

    And here is the updated number from Australia’s Destroy the Joint

    dtj counting dead

    Good enough reason one would think!

  • 24Jun

    Going…going…gone – women-only services are in the process of closing down.

    SOSwomen's services
    SOSWomen’s Services  have highlighted the plight of women-only refuges in NSW.
    Under the ‘Going Home Staying Home’ program, the NSW government is failing to support women-only domestic violence services.
    “336 individual services have been consolidated into 149 packages operated by 69 non-government organizations.” Sydney Morning Herald

    And it is not just women’s shelters, but women’s legal services, women’s health services, women’s sexual assault services – along with other marginalised groups such as services for our First Nation’s people, refugees, migrants, disability services and many more are at risk with cuts to funding and tendering processes which ignore the real needs of women.

    When we lose women’s services then we lose our voices.

    From SOSWomenServices

    10464058_1447817408808832_1810247233436499230_a

     

    Women experiencing violence and abuse will no longer have a place to tell their stories; there will no longer be a women’s sector to bring these stories, these voices, to society’s attention.

    We are at risk of losing local women’s networks;  regional women’s networks;  state-based women’s networks and national networks, representing the women’s sector to advocate on behalf of women.
    How can we have national networks representing the women’s sector when we no longer have a women’s sector?

    And not only in NSW.

    Because beware – the Queensland government has already signaled its intentions to follow the same path and concerns are being raised in SA about the closure of women’s health services and Victoria too is watching on with interest. We can predict that other states will follow.

    Our Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse which actively engaged with grassroots women’s sector has already been closed down and replaced by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety with its focus on academic research.

     

     Large Generalist Providers
    “Some services have decided to close their doors after decades; others will continue to operate under the management of new generalist providers such as St Vincent de Paul, Mission Australia, the Salvation Army and Wesley Mission.” (Sydney Morning Herald)

    Make no mistake these generalist services are corporate organizations where quantity, not quality are what matters; where the managerial focus is on key performance indicators and inputs and output targets and who operate from a ‘case mix’ model.
    “Women’s refuges don’t do ‘case mix’ models, they do real women and children with real life problems who need safe places to sleep and the environment to improve their lives.” (SOS Women’s Services)

     

    What’s so Important about Women’s Services?
    I have written before about the importance of women only, feminist services in providing specialist services based on years of experience and also being informed by a feminist perspective.  (see post on Women’s Services)
    We are losing the ability for women escaping domestic violence to collectively meet in an environment where their stories of violence are placed in a broader social context.
    It is their experiences which inform the need for political and structural change.
    This will likely be replaced by a corporate system where only homelessness is addressed; and where violence and oppression will be treated as an individual personal pathology and women will be redirected to family therapy and individual counselling.
    At the heart of all of the significant and structural changes that have occurred for women in the last 40 years has been the stories of women’s experiences and women working together to create change.

    Our advocacy in regard to changes in criminal, civil and family law to protect women from violence and abuse; changes in police practices; changes in how our health systems respond to women victims of violence –just a few of the changes that have come about as a result of the advocacy of the women sector – all have come from the grassroots of experiences of women who have been involved in the women’s sector.
    We will no longer have a women’s sector.
    Why would we need organizations such as WESNET, the National Women’s Health Network, and National sexual assault services? They would be operating in a vacuum because they would have no sector to represent.
    Silencing Dissent

    During the Howard era much of the funding directed towards non-government services came with a clause preventing services from criticizing government policy.
    The most recent example – Community Women’s Legal Centres have lost funding for advocacy work.
    We are in this era again.
    In a neo-conservative, patriarchal era the concept of democratic critique and dissent is being destroyed.

     

    Sheilas-black

     Tim Dunlop has written in ‘Sheilas’ An Initiative of the Victorian Women’s Trust’ of the silencing of dissent and how it is being re-enacted under the present Liberal-National government.

    This is not only happening at the Federal level but also at state levels.

     

    Once these services have been lost, once women’s voices have been silenced a change in government at state or federal levels will not bring back these services.

    It will take years for women to win back what we have now – and there will be no avenues which will be available for women through which women will have their voices heard. And once lost they may be difficult, perhaps even impossible, to recover.

     

    WOMEN’S VOICES ARE BEING SILENCED – NOW, ON OUR WATCH, IN OUR TIME!

  • 19May

    Important Update:elsie

     

    May 18th saw people throughout Australia marching against the draconian Abbott government thanks to the March Australia

    We need to be mindful of the cost to women as a result of the ideology and misogyny of the current governments both at Federal and State levels.

    sos

    Where Will Women Go?

    Women beware! There is a real possibility that women-only services are at risk.

    When a woman escapes from an abusive partner; when a woman has been raped; when a woman has to go to Court to get a violence order to protect herself and her children – who can she turn to for help?

    40 years ago the Elsie women’s shelter was started in NSW. It was the first shelter established in Australia. It was started by women for women.

    Since then many women’s refuges, women’s health services, sexual assault services and women’s legal services have been established throughout Australia.

    Now there is a strong possibility that these services for women will be closed down. Services which have given women secure and safe places in their escape from physical, emotional and physical abuse – safe places for their children, both emotionally and physically.

    Services such as domestic violence services, women’s health services, sexual assault services and women’s legal services are at serious risk of losing their funds and having to close down. They are increasingly being audited and assessed by both State and Federal Governments. Their viability is being questioned.

    We are all aware that across state, territory and federal governments, funding is being cut – and particularly in health, legal and welfare services.

    For example, the current Queensland government is conducting an audit of all women’s services and have acknowledged that their preference is that, in future funding decisions, contracts will be made with the fewer, larger providers of social welfare. So large social welfare organizations will be taking over from community-based, women-only services.

    The NSW government appears to be making similar moves. It also is planning to close the current women-only services and shift a large bulk of services previously done by government into the not for profit or private sector.
    There is a campaign SOSwomensservices

    • WOMENS ONLY REFUGES WILL CLOSE BY THE 30TH OF JUNE.
    • THE LOSS OF EXPERTISE AND EXPERIENCE WILL BE DEVASTATING TO THOUSANDS OF WOMEN.

    There are many advantages of having women-only, community based services.

    Experience has shown that women prefer these types of services because they provide for greater security and safety, both emotionally and physically.
    If we were to lose these services then we would also lose an incredible knowledge base which has been developed within the women’s sector. This knowledge has been based extensive experience and knowledge of those women working in this sector, alongside women, listening to women and their experiences.
    This has allowed women to raise awareness of their issues, based on direct experience. The women’s sector has a long history of advocating on behalf of women.
    These services were also set up based on feminist principles with an understanding of the history of feminist development and advocacy. A feminist understanding of sexism and the inequality of women and how it is the basis of male violence against women will be lost.
    A considerable advantage of the women’s services sector is that it was developed from feminist advocacy and that a major role of such services was to challenge the social constructs that perpetuate disadvantage for women. Part of the empowering aspect of their work is to join with women using the services to advocate and lobby for changes to systems which create barriers to women’s safety and well-being.
    It is possible that the larger NGO’s may sub-contract to existing agencies. We are aware that many women’s services are already being run by the larger Non-government organizations. We also acknowledge that in some cases, women-only services continue to operate effectively under this arrangement.
    However, with increased pressure on funding and the reality that funding is going to be increasingly difficult to obtain under the current political climate of funding cuts, there is a deep concern that women-only services will be jeopardized. There is a real possibility that this may lead to women-only services being absorbed into the more generic welfare services.
    According to Senator Waters the budget “…appears to slash $60 million from women’s programs.”

    As the ABC report states “PM has been told that a number of crisis shelters for women and children are set to close as a result of plans to “concentrate” services.”
    We need women’s voices to speak out loudly against these changes. Let us not lose what we struggled for so long to achieve.

    March in May Adelaide

    marchinmayadelaide6                                               marchinmay adelaide

    Read the rest of this entry »

  • 16May

    MEDIA RELEASE

    Friday 16 May 2014 – for immediate release

    Federal Budget exposes more funding cuts as A-G Brandis stops community legal centres speaking out on unfair laws and practices

    The Federal Budget has exposed a further $6 million in cuts from community legal centres in 2017/18 beyond the deep $43.1m cuts to legal assistance services announced last December. The government is also set to stop community legal centres engaging in valuable law reform and systemic advocacy using Commonwealth funds.

    “These cuts fly in the face of overwhelming demand. Community legal centres already report having to turn away one in five people needing their help. These cuts will see even more people turned away – people who cannot afford a private lawyer and have nowhere else to go for legal help with serious problems such as family violence, workplace mistreatment, homelessness, eviction, relationship breakdown and debt,” said Community Law Australia Chair, Liana Buchanan, today.

    “Contrary to statements from the Federal Government, these cuts are directed at frontline services. Having to close outreach offices and stop providing family violence support lawyers at court are just some of the actions centres will have to take because of these cuts.

    “As well as biting deeply into frontline services to address serious legal problems, these cuts wind back some welcome expansions into areas where free legal help has been unavailable. They will worsen the postcode injustice that has too long affected people in regional Australia.

    “When conservative estimates tell us half a million Australians miss out on the legal help they need each year, cutting community legal assistance is a callous and false economy. The economic cost benefit analysis of community legal centres shows for every dollar spent by government, centres return an economic benefit of $18 (see below for link).

    “These cuts have nothing to do with efficiency and everything to do with saving quick money at the expense of an unacceptable legal risk to the disadvantaged.

    “As well as cutting frontline services, the government also plans to amend service agreements to stop community legal centres from working to change unfair laws, policies and practices that impact their clients.

    “Through the thousands of people they see each year, community legal centres are uniquely placed to see how laws and the legal system impact the community. Working to address broader barriers to justice through advice and submissions to government, education campaigns, test cases and public advocacy is a critical part of community legal centres’ work.

    In many instances, law reform and systemic advocacy is quite simply the most efficient and effective way a community legal centre can stop legal problems in the future and help more than just their individual clients.

    The restrictions on community legal centres come as the recent Productivity Commission draft report on access to justice places advocacy at the core of what community legal centres should do, explicitly recognising the efficiency and community benefit of law reform and systemic work. (see pp.624-5).

    “We need fair and workable laws, and fair access to legal help regardless of whether you can afford to pay a private lawyer. The funding cuts and effective gagging of community legal centres completely undermine that goal, and they worsen the access to justice crisis already faced by many Australians,” Ms Buchanan concluded.

    Background information

    Draft Productivity Commission Report on Access to Justice Arrangements

    http://www.pc.gov.au/projects/inquiry/access-justice

    MYEFO cuts to legal assistance services

    http://www.communitylawaustralia.org.au/broad-cuts-to-legal-assistance-services-will-fuel-access-to-justice-crisis/

    http://www.communitylawaustralia.org.au/defunding-of-aboriginal-legal-services-peak-a-dangerous-economy/

    Cost-benefit analysis of community legal centres

    http://www.communitylawaustralia.org.au/economic-benefit-clcs/

    To arrange a media interview or for further information, please contact Darren Lewin-Hill on 0488 773 535. www.communitylawaustralia.org.au <http://www.communitylawaustralia.org.au>