Innovative family violence service model to open
By Annie North Inc. - Women’s Refuge and Domestic Violence Service
Annie North Inc., in partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services, is developing a purpose built secure women's refuge facility with a new model of response to women and children fleeing family violence.
It is innovative, cutting edge, not operating anywhere else in the world, and replicable for other agencies. Importantly it will provide an enhanced response to local women and children who need secure women’s refuge and support in a safe environment.
Annie North Inc. has been operating high security women's refuges and other secure shelters for women and children in the Bendigo area for almost 28 years.
The new purpose built facility does a number of things. While traditional women's refuge models require women to leave their area, their supports and connections, and access a variety of services in a place unknown to them, this facility enables women and children to remain in their local area and brings the services to them. When women and children are at risk it is the system approach which matters so that they are supported and neither her, her children nor the perpetrator fall through the gaps.
Leaving a family violence situation is the most unsafe time for women and children. Until the broader criminal justice system locates the perpetrator, serves him with orders and holds him to account it is not safe for many of these women and children to be leaving secure facilities to access the supports they need. Risk assessment and management are critical and until the perpetrator is assessed as being controlled by the system it is much safer, and just, to bring all the necessary services in for the women and children.
For example, at the new facility women and children will have access to:
Twenty-four hour on site support seven days a week
Professional counselling, therapeutic support and case management on site
A videoconferencing facility on site connected to the Victorian Court System to be able to provide remote witness evidence to the Court
A training/workshop room so that they can learn about how the Court works and other things by a Legal Clinic coming into the facility
A computer laboratory for homework classes, and for women skilling-up to enter or return to study or the workforce
We are working on children being able attend school in the facility through a satellite classroom until it is safe for them to return to school
Children will be able to participate in the on-site Stephanie Alexander cooking and gardening program
There will be an orchard and kitchen garden for therapeutic purposes
The facility is disability accessible
Multi-discipline groups of student placements will be part of the support
Annie North Inc. is committed to social justice. We are also committed to furthering an integrated approach to respond to women and children experiencing family violence. We work closely with the Loddon Campaspe Integrated Family Violence Consortium and its Advisory Group.
Our new purpose built facility will provide a new approach, bringing to and wrapping services around the women and their children, rather than them having to shop around and seek services elsewhere when it may not be safe to do so.