‘Heartbreaking and frustrating’: Calls for refuge to support DV victims in Peel’s outer region

There is a growing call for a second domestic violence refuge centre in Peel, with over 140 victims turned away from the region's only crisis facility in the last six months.

The issue will only get worse with domestic violence reports on the rise.

WA police statistics have revealed a Mandurah family assault is reported every three days, increasing from 80 reports in 08/09, to 143 reports in 17/18. 

Pat Thomas House executive officer Jill Robinson said the crisis centre was not reaching women in the outer areas of the region, including Boddington, Pinjarra and Waroona. 

“More than 140 women in the past six months were provided referrals to other refuges, or crisis care centres, due to Pat Thomas being at capacity,” she said. 

“The refuge can only accommodate six women and 18 children, and we are struggling with the current demand.

“It’s heartbreaking and frustrating.”

Ms Robinson said the number of women accessing the centre was increasing each year and there was a “clear need” for another refuge in Peel.

...if Government were to fund new initiatives then it could mean taking the money from an existing service from within the community or another region.

Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence Minister Simone McGurk

“Unfortunately the more remote areas of Peel are experiencing limited services,” she said. 

“We don’t have enough money to travel staff back and forth and actually service those areas. 

“Although the state government promised a new refuge, we are yet to hear anything which is disappointing given the desperate need.”

Shire of Murray chief executive officer Dean Unsworth said the Shire was “favourable” of a crisis support centre being established in the Murray region. 

Council recently passed a recommendation to provide a building rent-free to the Safe Woman Safe Family initiative, which is a proposed five-day drop in centre linking clients who have experienced domestic violence to professional support services. 

...this old building is desperate for repair, maintenance and an expansion.

Jill Robinson

This is a first for the Murray region. 

Mr Unsworth said the service would operate out of a building on Camp Road, adjacent to the Murray Aquatic and Leisure Centre, on a six year contract.

“The commitment equates to an approximate $5,000 contribution from the shire in the 18/19 financial year and $14,500 per annum in subsequent years,” he said. 

Although a positive step, the centre would not provide crisis accommodation.

Murray-Wellington MP Robyn Clarke said she supported the idea of a crisis centre, but it was unlikely in the near future.

“Whilst it would be great to have a crisis centre set up within Murray, given the state’s current financial situation it would need to be a service that government could afford, and that wouldn’t remove funding to other organisations within the region,” she said.

Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence Minister Simone McGurk said a new crisis centre for the Peel region was unlikely in the near future.

“There is always more we can do – we understand that – yet given WA’s current financial state, if Government were to fund new initiatives then it could mean taking the money from an existing service from within the community or another region,” she said. 

Ms McGurk said in 2018-2019, the state government committed nearly $1.9 million in funding for a number of organisations providing family and domestic violence services in the Peel region. 

“This includes more than $1.2 million to Pat Thomas House for accommodation, support advocacy and outreach services, more than $350,000 to the Lucy Saw Centre Association for their Family and Domestic Violence Coordinated Response Service; and $260,000 for the Allambee Family and Domestic Violence Counselling Service,” she said. 

But Ms Robinson said most of the funds for Pat Thomas went to the core running of the business and it was not enough. 

“Although we are grateful for the money we do receive, there are other things we can’t do,” she said.

“But this old building is desperate for repair, maintenance and an expansion.

“We are a non-for-profit and know how to work very smart and spread ourselves thin, but it really is an issue.” 

Follow Carla Hildebrandt on Twitter @hildebrandt_c or email carla.hildebrandt@fairfaxmedia.com.au to get in touch.