On an autumn evening in 1974, Australia’s first ever women’s refuge opened its doors to women and children fleeing family violence in Sydney’s Inner West.
The home was named Elsie, and she was every bit as important as she was intended to be.
At the time, family violence was considered a ‘family matter’ – private business, something that should remain within the walls of the home. It was an era when too many Australians opted to pull down the blinds and turn up the TV, rather than checking on their neighbour.
A mother heard cries from her neighbour's shed. She then made a harrowing discovery.
Callum Wareing stomped on his ex-girlfriend's head five times. Yesterday, he was spared jail.
For many women, Elsie changed that. The home was the beginning of a safe housing system for women escaping family and domestic violence.
The way we talk about family violence, the way it’s covered in the media, the attention it commands in the national debate, has come a long way. Yet it remains a national emergency.
That’s why as Leader of the Opposition, I have made tackling the scourge of family violence a key focus of Labor’s plans for a fairer Australia.
More resources for community legal services and safe accommodation was the first policy I announced as Labor leader.
Family violence remains one of the leading causes of homelessness for Australian women.
Too often, when violence claims another life, we hear people ask ‘why didn’t she leave?’. The real question is – where would she go?
Sarah Ferguson and Andrew a former abuser talk about Domestic Violence in Australia. Post continues below.
At the last election, Labor announced a plan to restore $88 million to help fund Safer Housing for Women, money cut from the program under the Abbott-Turnbull Liberals.
Last week, Chris Bowen, Doug Cameron and I launched Labor’s comprehensive housing package, in which we re-committed Labor to supporting Safer Housing for Women.
Labor’s plan will increase transitional housing options for women and children escaping domestic and family violence, young people exiting out-of-home care and older women on low incomes who are at risk of homelessness.
Safe Housing will increase the number of refuges specifically available for women and children fleeing domestic violence and will fill a gap between crisis housing and longer term arrangements.
It’s time the Prime Minister got on board and backed this policy. The government needs to put its money where its mouth is.
Our language, our attitudes and encouraging respect are important. But the true test of public life is whether we live up to our rhetoric, whether we match our good intentions with resources and action.
Australia owes the survivors of family violence and the people currently trapped in its vicious cycle, real action.
It has been 43 years since Elsie opened her doors to victims of family violence. It’s long past time that safer housing for women was a national priority.
This article was originally published in Mama Mia on Friday, 28 April 2017