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Government NSW, Women

Life saving domestic violence service ‘one sickie away’ from closing

Public Service Association 3 mins read

A domestic violence service which saves hundreds of women’s lives a year is one sick day away from closing, says the union which represents workers at the service.

 

The Mt Druitt Family Violence Service provides ‘first contact’ services to women who have just fled violent partners but is so short staffed it might have to close its doors without urgent action.

 

The unique facility, which has been operating since 2006, provides the most frontline assistance to women who have literally just walked out of violent relationships, like tinned food, feminine hygiene products and the use of a phone so they can arrange to stay at a friend’s place.

 

The service should have seven case workers, they currently have two, with one trainee. 

 

Only weeks ago a media report found Mt Druitt was the most murderous postcode in Sydney. 

 

Pregnant mother of four, Kirralee Paepaerei, was stabbed to death in 2018 by a former boyfriend, as was 22-year-old Ruth Mataafa in 2020, likewise Sarah Brown, who also left behind four kids when she was stabbed to death in 2018. In July last year Christine Rakic was beaten to death by her former husband.

 

Former Secretary of the Department of Communities and Justice, Michael Coutts-Trotter, held up the service as the “gold standard” for family violence support provision in 2023 and a model which should be emulated throughout NSW.

 

The staffing crisis at the service comes after reports the Albanese Government’s 2022 budget pledge to hire another 500 domestic violence workers has stalled.

 

Women who walk into the service have literally just walked out of the most horrifically violent situations, said Stewart Little the General Secretary of the Public Service Association.

 

“Today a woman who’s just walked out on a violent partner will walk through the door of the Mt Druitt Family Violence Service to use a phone to find a friend’s couch to sleep on, get some tinned food, soap and tampons,” said Mr Little.

 

“The next day the service will assist with referrals to police, housing and health services, often women will have little ID as they’ve left in a hurry so the service will go to the bank with them so they can access their own money.

 

“They also help women navigate the family law court system, help them get escaping family violence grants, as well as looking after their immediate basic needs like food, food vouchers, and even clothing because they’ll often leave a violent partner with just the shirt on their back, and their kids under their arms..

 

“The Mt Druitt Family Violence Service has helped women escaping violence for 18 years, they’ve saved hundreds and hundreds of lives.

 

“This service is at the front line of helping women escape being punched, bashed or killed in their homes, I’m sorry to use that language but it’s the brutal reality,” said Mr Little.

 

“They are one sick day away from closure, if one of the few staff that are there had a sick child to look after, or broke an ankle, that would be it, they would have to shut their doors.

 

“Already when staff have been sick we’ve seen the service have to shut its doors temporarily.

 

“This service has saved hundreds of lives since it opened, just stop and think about that for a second, this service literally stops women being killed in their own homes, and it might soon close.

 

“The issue is the Mt Druitt Family Violence Service gets their staff from the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) from the pool of child protection caseworkers.

 

“But the DCJ are so short staffed they can’t release any child protection caseworkers to work for the service, so the potential closure of this service is driven by the chronic shortage of child protection caseworkers.

 

“I have met with Minister Harrison and sought urgent funding for these critical services but have met with nothing but blank stares. Frankly I’m not sure the Minister is even aware of the services in her portfolio.

 

“When you read in the paper this service has closed, don’t say you weren’t warned,” said Mr Little.

 

Contact: Tim Brunero 0405 285 547

 

The service is unique as it’s the only service which works with women still in violent relationships, accepts male victims as clients, works with family violence (elder abuse etc), and works with young people 16 years and over. 

 

The Mt Druitt Family Violence Service has recently been renamed the The Western Sydney Nepean Blue Mountains Domestic Violence Service and had its coverage significantly expanded without any rise in staff members.

 

The service is funded by Community Services and works in partnership with NSW Health, Police, Corrective Services and Housing. It is the last government-run family violence service. Similar services throughout the state have been outsourced to community organisations.

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