All throughout the course of history, NSW Women’s Refuge Movement members have been representing on government and interagency working groups, advisory councils, and steering committees so that they can have some influence and advice on policy and legislation. Through this, the NSW Women’s Refuge Movement has made some great contribution to enhancing the way they handle cases of women and children escaping sexual abuse and domestic violence. All of these achievements and milestones that the NSW Women’s Refuge Movement had on the community, the government, and the sector could already make up a book on its own.
This is a sample of some of the achievements made by the WRM that could provide an indication of how much of our influence has already been spread:
Lobbied state and federal governments for SAAP funding
The Women’s Emergency Services Program (WESP) has provided the funding for SAAP. Even though that there are also other states who are willing to secure a 5-year funding under the Crisis Accommodation Assistance Act, the WRM and NSW, in particular, have the upper hand and was the ones that were successful in negotiating the funding. A good example is when the WRM demands to have input regarding the funding policies so that we can guarantee that the funding would be ideal to what we require.
Lobbied the Department of Housing to accommodate single women with children
During the early 1970s, the Department of Housing (DoH) don’t consider single women with children as a family which is the reason why they wouldn’t house them. Because of this, the NSW Women’s Refuge Movement influenced the Department of Housing which includes a protest, are hoping that the definition made by the DoH of what makes up a family much broader, thus allowing lesbians and single mothers etc. be considered to be qualified enough for the housing project by the DoH.
1978 Working Party to observe the care of sexual assault victims
The WRM representatives made some contributions to the 1978 interdepartmental working party to search on how to provide the best care for sexual assault victims. This act would require several meetings with the government which eventually resulted in the establishment of the Sexual Assault Taskforce.
1979 Canberra Rally to lobby for the funding to be increased
All of the WRM refugee representatives went to visit Canberra and held a peaceful protest that talks about the lack of refuge funding for women and children’s services by taking children and picnic baskets and let them sit through a Parliament House. In the year 1979 to 1990, the delegations of the WRM are going towards Canberra for at least twice every year to get some consultations from the Ministers regarding issues that have something to do with women and children about escaping from domestic violence and to even lobby their rights.
1981 Amendments to the Crimes Act
The taskforce that is responsible for developing the Sexual Assault Amendment Act represented the WRM has made some changes to the Crimes Act that have something to do with the sexual assault offenses.
1981 Government Taskforce on domestic violence and Monitoring Committee which oversees the legislative changes
During 1981, the government task force set up an initiative to conduct an investigation of domestic violence and the WRM was represented along with it. In the following year, a Monitoring Committee was formed so that the legislative amendments can constantly be monitored. During its 10 years of existence, the Monitoring Committee included a WRM representative so that the operations can be overseen.
1983 Sexual Assault Committee
The WRM gave its fair share to the Sexual Assault Committee which made some coordination regarding government policy and programs and services for those who have fallen victim to sexual assault and also to oversee the operations conducted by the 1981 amendments that have anything to do with sexual assault offenses.
1985 Government taskforce on child sexual assault
This is a task force that was established partly by the government as their way of responding to refugees who are working closely with children in bringing attention to the government about the number of children disclosing sexual assault made by adults. Since it was first initiated, the WRM was already represented on this task force. In 1985, the final report was published, and it shows that there are about 65 recommendations that are made as part of a comprehensive strategy for health, law, police reform, welfare, and education. The parliament then passed a comprehensive set of law reforms in November 1985.
1985 Child Protection Council
The members of the WRM which include Maureen Lacy, Barbara Kilpatrick and Sally Steele has taken the children issues passionately. As a way of responding to their lobbying about recognizing children’s issues, the Child Protection Council was founded so that they can monitor the child sexual assault legislation and for them to view at the legal reform and even training and health services. The council continued to operate for 10 years, and they are responsible for many of the legislation that has anything to do with the protection of the rights of children as well as overseeing aspects of government portfolios that concern children. Funding for refugees and providing training in mandatory reporting has been approved which also includes the funding of the 20 refuge worker positions,
1986-1987 Recognition of the need for Aboriginal services
To express how they feel with regards to the Aboriginal services about not being funded, the WRM held several meetings together with the state government and lobbied for the Aboriginal services to be funded and be run by Aborigines for the Aborigines. The WRM soon examined to have separate funding for the Muslim and Indochinese women’s refuges.
1990 Court Assistance Scheme
The Bringa Women’s Resource Centre initiated an informal Court Assistance Scheme in 1987. The first committee, together with the Redfern Legal Centre, represented the WRM to propose on assistance for women at courts. In 1990, the Court Assistance Scheme was founded, and it happened as a result of the committee’s lobbying regarding the issue.
1995 Women’s Action Network paved way to the founding of Violence Against Women Unit
During the election of the Carr Government in 1995, the Domestic Violence Council was put to an end, and domestic violence wasn’t considered to be an issue with the Labor government during that time. In relation to the Women’s Legal Services and Domestic Violence Advocacy Group, the WRM created the Women’s Action Network. The government was being strongly lobbied to reconsider their views regarding domestic violence, and because of that, the government responded by setting up a Violence Against Women Unit that could overcome the other government portfolios that are related to each other which are housed in the Department of the Attorney General. This continued for 10 years until late of 2004 wherein the department eventually downgraded and was transferred to DoCs.
Lobbied for separate services that are intended for women with mental health issues
Women, as well as their families, who may require help for their mental health, are in between options of the lack of community-based support services and inappropriate institutionalization. The WRM, together with the community-based mental health workers, lobbied to have the services be separated for those women who have mental health issues. As a response to the lobbying, the Charmian Clift Cottages was established so that residential program for women who have mental illness can be provided and that they can live with their dependent children and receive support in the process.
1989 Diverta Box paved way to the NSW DoCS Domestic Violence Line
The Diverta Box was the first ever after hour service that was specifically made for women and children who have escaped domestic violence. The central contact number was diverted between the 24-hour services which are the Ashfield Infants’ Home, Bringa Women’s Resource Centre, and Bonnie Women’s Refuge. The constant lobbying to expand the service led to the founding of the Docs Domestic Violence Line.
Family Law Kit
When problems with the Legal Aid started to happen, the WRM once again lobbied to have a resource to help services be developed so that women can be guided through the Family Court proceedings. This project was eventually funded through the efforts of the Law Society, and they employed a lawyer by the name of Catherine McKenzie who works with the then Chief Justice Elizabeth Evatt of the Family Law Court to have this resource be developed.
Input into AVO legislation
Barbara Kilpatrick has represented the WRM in giving input to every amendment to the AVO legislation that has occurred throughout the course of time.
1985 Goulburn Police Academy
The way how police respond to domestic violence is important. Because of this, Barbara Kilpatrick started a lecture at the Goulburn Police Academy on the WRM’s behalf. Other refugees have been approached if they want to speak on the other branches of the police department in their designated areas.
Ministerial Advisory Committee
Yvonne Wilson, a representative of the WRM, was among the first members to take part on the Ministerial Advisory Committee. This committee was put up to monitor the happenings in the refuge movement and gave voice to the WRM regarding policies and procedures that have something to do with all the programs funded by the SAAP. It also gave the WRM a venue to respond to and raise concerns with the DoCs, DoH, and Health directives and reports in a fashion that will have this entire information be sent directly to the particular Ministers through the efforts of the Director-General.
1997 Lobbying for improved working conditions within refuges
With the arrival of the Australian Services Union, the WRM fought for the refuge workers’ rights as a way to respond to the number of refugees who were closing and the funded being brought back to the government.