Women and children in the Tweed fleeing domestic violence face a bleak future in 2016 with the shock closure due to funding cuts to the Tweed Valley Women’s Service (TVWS).
Federal Richmond MP Justine Elliot says she’s outraged by the funding cuts, announced just before the Christmas holiday break by the service’s lead agency (service provider), On Track Community Programs (OTCP), and has called on the NSW government to immediately restore the funding.
The closure of the service, which has an outreach centre in Murwillumbah, takes effect immediately but will continue to have its phone-advice line until 21 January.
It leaves victims in the area with not many places to turn to in a domestic crisis at a time when, according to the MP, violence against women is at epidemic proportions around Australia.
But Liberal MLC Catherine Cusack said there would be no change to the way the service is accessed, with the Northern NSW Alliance Line remaining operational, and attacked Mrs Elliot’s statements as ‘cheap shots for political gain with complete disregard for the consequences for women in crisis’.
‘Justin Elliot fails to disclose she is the patron of a dysfunctional service in dispute with funding agencies,’ she said today.
‘Instead of ensuring a smooth transition in the interests of clients she is making their life even harder with this misinformation,’ Ms Cusack told Echonetdaily.
For 30 years, the women’s service has provided emergency accommodation, early intervention and prevention, as well as Indigenous family support and education programs, employing more than 13 staff.
In a letter by TVWS executive officer Tracy Asby to members of their service network (obtained by Echonetdaily) said the breakdown on the funding stemmed from legal action over alleged contract breaches.
‘As a result of the Going Home Staying Home reform in 2014, Tweed Valley Women’s Service entered into a contract to provide (Indigenous & General) Domestic and Family Violence services for the Tweed Heads region as part of a consortium indirectly funded by FACS NSW [the department of family and community services],’ Ms Asby said in her letter.
‘A little over three weeks ago the lead agency in this consortium commenced legal action against Tweed Valley Women’s Service alleging contract breaches.
‘TVWS were able to refute all 26 allegations within 72 hours; but did not have an opportunity to present these before the termination order was made.
‘As you are aware from your letter dated 17 December 2015 from Elaine De Vos, Executive Officer at OTCP our contract to provide services in the Tweed Heads has been terminated, effective immediately.
‘Following advice from our insolvency specialist, TVWS have been directed to settle all liabilities immediately.
‘Tweed Valley Women’s Service has commenced the process of dissolving the association with support and advice from our HR [human resources] legal specialist, employment law specialist; insolvency specialist and litigation specialist. All non-housing services will be transitioned by 4 January 2016.
‘Tweed Valley Women’s Service staff and management extend a sad farewell to all service partners who have supported our important work over the past 30 years; work that has received local, regional and national accolades over an extended period of time.
‘We are incredibly proud of the outstanding work achieved, the initiatives we have developed, led and been part of in our Tweed community.
‘Respect, integrity, accountability and professionalism have been the values which have underpinned all of our work over this extended period of time; and it is with great disappointment that we have not been provided an opportunity to publicly refute the allegations,’ Ms Asby said.
Mrs Elliot said she was ‘shocked and outraged’ over the closure ‘as the Tweed Valley Women’s Service provides vital services, particularly for those women and children fleeing from domestic violence’.
‘I have spoken with members of the Tweed Valley Women’s Service about this forced
closure. On December 23 I made urgent representations on their behalf and wrote
directly to both relevant NSW ministers, Brad Hazzard and Pru Goward.
‘I’m also calling on the state National Party MPs Geoff Provest and Thomas George and their government to explain the following:
1. Why has the NSW government allowed On Track Community Programs to suddenly cut funding from the Tweed Valley Women’s Service?
2. When will the state government restore full funding to the Tweed Valley Women’s Service?
‘As a former police officer I saw firsthand the devastating impact of domestic violence on women, children and on our community. Violence against women is at epidemic proportions.
‘Devastatingly, over 12 months, on average, one woman is killed every week in Australia.
‘Services like the Tweed Valley Women’s Service are desperately needed and their full funding must be restored urgently,’ Mrs Elliot said.
But Ms Cusack said the federal labor MP’s ‘remarks as a “former police officer” are particularly disgraceful’.
‘She should talk to her local police about this service before invoking their credibility – she will find her local police are in the long list of complainants about this service which is being improved in order to assist more women over extended hour,’ the MLC said.
Ms Cusack said women experiencing domestic or family violence, can access support by phoning 1300 355 305 or emailing [email protected].
If in immediate danger, contact 000. Outside of normal business hours contact Link2home on 1800 152 152 for local information and to discuss temporary accommodation options.
‘You can also contact the NSW Domestic Violence Line on 1800 656 463. Both these services are available 24 hours a day, seven days per week,’ she said.