Women's Community Shelters 10th Anniversary Reception
Wednesday, 28 September 2022
Government House Sydney
Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC KC
Diyn Babana Gamarada Gadigal Ngura
Welcome - in the language of the Gadigal, the Traditional Owners of this land. As I pay my respects to Gadigal Elders, past, present and emerging, I thank them for their custodianship of this land and these waters, which have been home to First Nations people of this area for millennia.
- Women’s Community Shelter Founder Peter Hunt AM, Founding Chair (Gina Anderson), former Chair (Kris Neill) and current Chair (Julie White).
- Chief Executive Officer Annabelle Daniel OAM and Chief Operating Officer Simone Parsons.
- WCS Hub and Shelter Board Members (all volunteers) and staff, past and present.
- WCS partners, supporters and donors from across the network.
We are delighted to have Women’s Community Shelters (WCS) here at Government House Sydney for your 10th Anniversary celebration. It is a highlight for us to reconnect after our visit to the new Parramatta Shelter in November 2019.
The following two years, 2020 and 2021, proved to be a challenging time for the whole community. Uncertainty and loneliness were often the order of the day. Too often, domestic and family violence was the order of the day.
Behind the pandemic there was a ‘shadow pandemic’ of domestic and family violence. According to recent NSW Council of Social Service and Domestic Violence NSW research, an estimated 60,000 women experienced abuse for the first time in 2020. The trauma of domestic violence casts a long shadow and is almost invariably intergenerational. It is the lived normal for too many people.
Current statistics tell us that every night, 56,000 women are homeless, with domestic and family violence the reason. More than one in two women across Australia who seek a bed in a crisis shelter are turned away, mostly due to a lack of space.
As a community this should make us both angry and sad. It should also make us pro-active. That, in fact, is the story of Women’s Community Shelters. Just over 10 years ago, Ellie Hunt, a volunteer at Manly Community Centre came home and said to Peter that the Northern Beaches needed a Women’s Shelter, and that you and she were going to start one.
Women’s Community Shelters which you, Peter, founded with Ellie 10 years ago has taken many in this room on a journey as you have enabled women and children to have a safe, secure and comforting place to go. Ten years on, eight shelters have been established and a 9th is almost ready in the Camden area.
I know Peter that you and Ellie have always been the first to acknowledge your committed Board, staff and volunteers, past and present. Some are here tonight, from metropolitan and regional areas including the Great Lakes - Forster and Tuncurry, who have recently fundraised for a new purpose-built shelter in their community.
Indeed, Women’s Community Shelters has been the only NSW organisation to have established new crisis shelters between 2014 and 2021. And your work continues as you commit to meeting the increasing demand, including from a growing sector of homeless older women.
It takes a dedicated and extensive community of people to support the hundreds of women and children who stay and transition through WCS shelters each year. Without the support provided by local community organisations, housing providers and businesses, generous individuals, corporate organisations and government, WCS could not fulfill its mission. To all of those support networks, thank you. Your support not only helps WCS and the families to whom it provides its services, it also makes a public statement that this is a community problem.
The long-term solution to domestic and family violence is to stop it before it begins. The 'Walk the Talk' early intervention and prevention education program which commenced in high schools in 2019 has run successfully with over 3,300 students participating across 20 secondary schools.
Congratulations on your 10th anniversary. Thank you to everyone here - and to those who, as we speak, are engaged in running the network of shelters this evening - providing not only a much-needed safe ‘shelter’ but a haven and ‘community’ for women and children.