Fewer DV refuge beds now than 24 years ago

Domestic violence refuge Sonshine Sanctuary has joined 23 other groups calling for more funding for accommodation for women and children.

The service is not government funded and raises $150,000 a year itself to pay its staff.

But much-needed funding for Sonshine Sanctuary has prompted co-ordinator Cindy Scarlett to step out of the shadows that frontline domestic violence services normally occupy for the safety of those they house.

She is pushing for more refuges statewide because she knows the beds her refuge and others across Queensland provide are simply not enough.

The Woombye refuge, Caboolture Domestic Violence Service and Ipswich Women’s Shelter are three groups from the Combined Women’s Refuge Group in south-east Queensland that have co-signed a letter to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

The letter states about 30-50% of calls to DV Connect are not able to be answered. Many are from women seeking refuge.

CWRG said there were fewer refuge beds now than 24 years ago and there had been no new Queensland Government funded beds since 1991.

The group believes the solution includes more beds; improved pathways for women leaving refuges and heading into long-term housing; and specialised services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

The State Government’s decision to implement all recommendations from the Not Now, Not Ever report and recent media coverage of domestic violence deaths has raised community awareness and resulted in unprecedented demand for frontline services.

“For too long, the refuge sector has operated in silence, valuing the confidentiality and security of our clients over the need to have our situation heard,” the letter stated.

“We are the workers in refuges saving lives, and we are calling on the government and the community to stand with us and take real action to end domestic and family violence.”

Minister for Women Shannon Fentiman said the government was investing $21.3 million in accommodation for 56 shelters this year and $8 million towards two new 72-hour crisis shelters in Brisbane and Townsville.

She said $49 million would be spent on counselling and support services over the next five years.

Ms Fentiman said an audit of all domestic violence services that is due to finish at the end of the year would help inform future spending.

It is understood the audit will recommend funding for more beds.

CWRG will launch its paper, More Than Just a Bed, about refuges on Thursday.