Striking a Blow for Women; Yoorana Women's Shelter Is on the Fraser Coast Domestic Violence Front Line

Fraser Coast Chronicle (Hervey Bay, Australia), November 23, 2013 | Go to article overview

Striking a Blow for Women; Yoorana Women's Shelter Is on the Fraser Coast Domestic Violence Front Line


Byline: Hannah Busch explores the state of domestic violence on the Fraser Coast and the burden it places on resources

WOMEN and children can come from throughout Queensland, at all hours of the day, to the safety of the Yoorana women's shelter on the Fraser Coast.

Some will be prepared and have their identification, their own toiletries and their own clothes.

But Yoorana Women's Domestic Violence and Resource Service co-ordinator Janice Steel says many women will not be prepared and face the prospect, if they chose to leave their relationship, of starting out again with nothing.

At least half may come to the shelter more than once, and some women will return up to four times before they are ready to leave an abusive relationship permanently.

The reasons behind their repeat appearances make addressing domestic violence a serious challenge for community groups, police officers and the victims and offenders themselves.

This Monday, the public is being asked to help address the challenge through the annual White Ribbon Day campaign.

The male-led initiative calls for men to take a pledge to never be violent to a woman, to stand up against other men who are violent towards a woman and teach their sons not to be violent towards women.

Anecdotal evidence from Fraser Coast providers including Yoorana, UnitingCare Community and the Queensland Police Service show women continue to make up the majority of domestic violence victims.

Ms Steel and the other staff at Yoorana see the common repeat appearances of women as a positive step, because it only increases their chances of leaving a dangerous relationship.

"We understand that is the cycle of domestic violence. There are phases," she said.

The shelter, named for an Aboriginal word meaning safe place, has been operating on the Fraser Coast for the past 30 years.

It can accommodate up to eight families at a time across its main refuge, a duplex and a halfway house.

All of its locations are kept confidential, for the safety of both staff and the women who stay there.

The first step in helping women who seek them out is always a risk assessment, which identifies who has the greatest need for emergency accommodation.

Transport and basic essentials have to be sourced for many of the women and their children, particularly those who call the state-wide DVConnect hotline and are referred to the shelter.

What follows is a daily support process that includes safety planning, counselling, group work and a parenting program to help children who are brought to the centre.

"It can take a lot of support hours to achieve very little," Ms Steele said.

"When they first come into the refuge, they do have a lot of needs."

The centre relies on local charities and community service groups for donations of toiletries, non-perishable food and clothes that are all given to clients.

One of the most challenging steps is finding affordable accommodation for women who are ready to leave the shelter.

Large families with four or five children and elderly women with little or no rental history face the biggest hurdles in securing a home once they leave Yoorana.

Ms Steele said there had been a number of families in the past few months forced to leave the area in order to find housing.

"There is a perception in the community that it's not domestic violence unless it is physical," she said.

"Women mostly tell us that the physical abuse is never as bad as the emotional abuse."

Ms Steele said Yoorana's busiest program was its court support service, which helps women who are going through the process of a domestic violence application.

Wide Bay police officers lodged more than 700 applications for domestic violence orders, July 2012-May 2013.

Domestic and family violence is one of the most common incidents Fraser Coast police must respond to. …

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