I'm sad to report that at its April meeting council voted 6 votes to 5 NOT to reapply for state funding for the Warrawee Women's Refuge. This means the City will relinquish the service and the Department for Child Protection and Family Support will have to find another organization to take it on.
The City founded the refuge back in 1972 and has the distinction of creating the first purpose-built facilities in Australia.
The state government has been cost-shifting by systematically underfunding Warrawee relative to other refuges and expecting us to make up the shortfall.
However the City has also reduced the scope of the service in response, so it's not correct to suggest it was a growing "burden". Some perspective, I think we spent more on Australia Day and ANZAC Day activities this year.
In a letter to the Department the City has advised of its decision, but suggested council would reconsider if more funding was offered.
I think this might be a pretty feint hope and I'm sceptical that a new service provider will be given any more funding than the City receives. However I would be very happy to be proven wrong on either count and report an unexpected happy twist to the story.
All my thanks and commiserations to the staff who I expect will lose their jobs. All the reports I hear is that they did great work in very difficult circumstances. A transition to a non-government provider will likely see new staff on lower pay and conditions. It's a pity that as a society we don't value this work a whole lot more.
Thanks also to fellow Councillors Josh Wilson and Andrew Sullivan for their passionate and intelligent contribution to the debate at council. I think we have some work to do to claim the mantle of a leading social justice council.
Every level of government federal, state and local should be spending a lot more to combat the scourge of domestic and family violence. It's the biggest crime of violence in every suburb and town in Australia, but where are the politicians who like to bang on about "law and order" every election?
Notice how the Barnett government invokes domestic violence when it wants to use it as an excuse to shut down remote indigenous communities, but is happy to leave the sector desperately underfunded every other day of the week! We need a big change in our society.