NT Women’s Shelters have been abandonned by the Morrison Government

NT Women’s Shelters have been abandonned by the Morrison Government


Not a weekend goes by when I do not get a
phone call from someone needing assistance in the women’s shelters, and so I go and take
out a cousin, my aunty or my sister, and this becomes a regular path. I am so grateful to
our women’s shelters—the Darwin Aboriginal and Islander Women’s Shelter in Darwin City,
the Katherine Women’s Crisis Centre, the Tennant Creek Women’s Refuge, the Alice Springs Women’s
Shelter—and to all of those women in our regional communities who work on providing
a safe environment for what are still, unfortunately, recurring cases of violence. The inability to financially move out of these
situations is the next thing that legislators have to address. I raise that because I am
deeply disturbed by the fact that this government, which can do so much more, has taken away
the emergency funding for our women’s shelters. From places like the Darwin Aboriginal and
Islander Women’s Shelter, $38,000 has been removed. Thinking about the billions of dollars
that can go into any kind of large-scale national program, when you take away $38,000 from the
Darwin Aboriginal and Islander Women’s Shelter, that means they cannot take in a family; they
cannot put them up at Daisy Y, which is one of the Aboriginal hostels; and they cannot
provide taxi fares to get them from, for example, the hospital to the shelter. These are small
things but they mean so much. The Darwin Aboriginal and Islander Women’s
Shelter is an appropriate service for First Nations women who are escaping domestic and
family violence and sexual abuse or who are homeless. It has been operating for the past
33 years. It’s governed by a board of Indigenous women, and 95 per cent of its staff are Indigenous.
It also provides 24-hour domestic violence crisis accommodation for women and children
escaping domestic and family violence and sexual abuse and assault. It provides eight
transitional housing units, domestic violence outreach programs for women and children,
and the Darwin Indigenous Men’s Service, because we have to work with our men. Men are very
much part of the problem, but they are incredibly so much part of the solution, and so DAIWS
works with the men. It makes sure that the program is there to assist men to come through
and holistically works at giving them hope for the kind of future they need to have—a
future that doesn’t involve violence. The removal of the $38,000 has created a great
gap for DAIWS. But it’s not only them; it’s also about the women’s refuges in Tennant
Creek and Katherine, which have also seen their funding cut. They’ve been told to move
clients to mainstream services. You might think that that’s okay, but let me tell you:
it is not okay. It is not okay, because these services are culturally appropriate, and they
work. How do I know? Because I go there so often and assist with trying to help a lot
of these families move from the circumstances that they’re in. Much of the time it’s repetitive.
As many people would know, leaving a domestic violence situation can take decades. People
still go back to that situation for different reasons. These services in Katherine, Tennant Creek
and Alice Springs are critical. Again, we are talking about $38,000 in the emergency
relief fund. My colleague Senator Jenny McAllister was with me as we went and sat with the women
in Katherine. Having that appropriate service means so much for these families. I would
call on the government and on the minister: don’t hide behind the excuse that you are
giving that money to a mainstream service and that’s okay. It is not okay. Put the money
where it belongs and where it has been adequately and appropriately spent over the last 10 or
11 years. This removal isn’t good enough. I would urge you to reconsider that decision.
You can reconsider that decision, and you can make a difference to these services, especially
before we come to this Christmas season. We know that, unfortunately, the violence rate
increases at these times. We want Christmas to bring happiness, but, let
me tell you, it also brings some really serious situations that can result, unfortunately,
in the death of loved ones. So I’d urge the government to reconsider its
position on these emergency relief funds, in particular for the First Nations services
in this country. Give them the Christmas present that they deserve so that they can look after
the families who most desperately need the Christmas present that we all would like to
give our families. That is one of love, that is one of hope and that is one of decency
and dignity and respect—knowing that every individual in this country deserves to have
a future without violence.