By TILEAH DOBSON
The Women’s Safety Summit has ended this year, with political clashes and little progress as the federal government’s critics attest that the core issue of violence against women was left to the sidelines.
The summit itself once again shone a spotlight on the alarming rise in domestic violence cases, especially since the start of Covid-19 related quarantines and lockdowns.
According to a report conducted by Domestic Violence NSW (DVNSW), the lockdown affecting the Greater Sydney area has had an immensely negative impact on services for family violence, and the women and children who need them.
According to the report, 73 per cent of these services had a significant jump in demand, with 83 per cent of services reporting a growing complexity of situations described by the clients. Of the 33 services operating waitlists, 48.5 per cent recorded an increase in their waitlist times.
These alarming statistics are the driving force for a call by Sydney Lord Mayoral candidate and Board Director for DVNSW, Yvonne Weldon, for the City of Sydney Council to establish its first publicly funded shelter for domestic violence victims.
“As little as $50,000 would go a long way towards giving dozens of terrified women and children protection, a safe place to live and a chance to rebuild their lives – that’s astonishingly the same amount of money the Lord Mayor spent on a Christmas Party this year,” Weldon said.
The shelter Weldon has proposed would be funded by the City of Sydney, along with its ongoing operations. The facility would accommodate approximately 200 women and children, who have been displaced and rendered homeless by domestic violence and systemic disadvantage.
With the City of Sydney’s extensive real estate portfolio, Weldon said sites for these shelters would not be difficult to find, as there is much in the way of dormant land and dwellings.
“In times like these, we need to unite more than ever. That means urgently seeking out ways to support those individuals struggling most in our community and assuring them that their suffering is not in silence or out of our sight,” she said.
When asked whether this proposal includes men fleeing domestic violence – as statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows one in six men suffer from abuse from partners, and one in 20 men have experienced sexual violence – Weldon stated that men are not included in the the plan.
“Women only, as this is where the greatest need is in the community. However, we do recognise that domestic and family violence occurs across all ages, socioeconomic and demographic groups,” Weldon said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison acknowledged at the Women’s Safety Summit that Australia “has a problem” when it comes to the treatment of women, and violence against women.
“Right now, too many Australian women do not feel safe and too often, they are not safe and that is not okay. There is no excuse and ‘sorry’ doesn’t cut it,” the Prime Minister said.
Weldon said: “Our community leaders should be prioritising the protection of our city’s most vulnerable people in the midst of a pandemic, not fussing over flowers and finger food.”
Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore was approached for comment but did not provide responses by deadline.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence help can be found via:
● 1800RESPECT or 1800 737 732 which offers a national counselling helpline, information, and support.
● NSW Domestic Violence Line 1800 65 64 63 which offers a state-wide counselling helpline, information, and support.
● Men’s Referral Service 1300 766 491 for men, or friends and family of men using violence.
Tileah Dobson is the news editor of the Sydney Sentinel.