Providing safety for women and children
Two of the biggest factors preventing women from leaving an abusive relationship is the fear of having nowhere to turn and worry about how it will impact their children.
That’s why Save the Children has been running Domestic and Family Violence Refuges for women and children in Queensland for more than 30 years. Our refuges provide safe accommodation, support and counselling services for women and their children who are fleeing domestic or family violence.
Why refuges are so important
Every person has the right to live in a safe environment, free from violence. Yet recent estimates from Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety suggest that up to 30% of parents experience some form of family and domestic violence, with even higher rates likely among disadvantaged, culturally and linguistically diverse, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
Furthermore, nearly 60% of women who experience intimate partner violence report their children have witnessed those incidents.
Children who grow up in households where domestic or family violence is commonplace are likely to experience poor concentration in school, aggression or anti-social behaviours with peers, poor self-esteem and depression.
Young people, especially older children who seek to protect their younger siblings, are often forced to make adult decisions and are too busy worrying about their home life to have fun, participate in school or enjoy healthy social activities.
Refuges provide alternative accommodation options for women and children fleeing violence, giving the family space to relax, regroup and make a plan for their future.
Save the Children’s Domestic and Family Violence refuges
We run five Domestic and Family Violence refuges in Queensland that provide unit-style accommodation for women and their children. They are each set in confidential locations and staffed with skilled Parent Support Workers and a Child Support Worker who ensure the individual needs and rights of children and women are supported.
Our refuges support women and their children who have come from a violent situation to find safety, and give them the time to work out their next steps. Our staff support them in whatever they need, from counselling and access to services, to establishing new homes, finding new jobs and settling children back in school.
On average, women and their children stay for about eight weeks. Most will move into independent housing after their stay. Some families may need more support, and will move into one of our extension houses as they transition out of the refuge.
Saving your children starts with saving yourself
A survivor of an abusive relationship, Kristie knows well the struggle of finding your feet again when you make the decision to leave. And, with four children under ten, how complex and difficult that decision to leave can be.
“When I left it was very dramatic … I had to leave my kids behind to start with for a couple of days because he wasn’t going to let me take them,” says Kristie. “When I did get them back, we just ran. We ran here. And it was the biggest decision I’d ever made.”
“Here” is Garema Refuge. A Save the Children safe haven in inner-city Brisbane for women and children escaping family violence. Kristie stayed in Garema with her four children for two months. Slowly, she started to rebuild her life.
“My first day in the refuge was very nerve-wracking because obviously we had a lot going on in our lives and we didn’t know what the future held,” recalls Kristie. “But everyone was so great here. We were able to just rest a minute – to find out what was going to happen next. We didn’t have to have all the answers.”
“[The staff] opened a whole lot of doors I didn’t know existed that helped me on my journey to getting my life back together,” says Kristie. “The transition out of the refuge was bitter sweet because you feel you are going to be on your own now. But the support didn’t stop when I left here. I know, even now, months down the track, if I’ve got an issue I can call and they are there for me.”
With Kristie’s new life, comes new opportunities, which have helped both her and her children grow.