Federal Parliament has been urged to pressure NSW premier Mike Baird to urgently restore full funding to the Tweed Valley Women’s Service (TVWS) which was forced to close when its contract was cancelled just before Christmas.
The shock closure, announced by the TVWS’s lead agency (service provider), On Track Community Programs (OTCP), outraged Richmond MP Justine Elliot who said it left women and children in the Tweed fleeing domestic violence facing a bleak future in 2016. (See previous story at http://www.echo.net.au/2015/12/closure-of-tweed-domestic-violence-service-sparks-outrage/)
Mrs Elliot yesterday told parliament closing down the service, which had an outreach centre in Murwillumbah and had operated in Tweed shire for 30 years, would have a ‘devastating impact’ on those fleeing domestic crisis, especially with violence against women at epidemic proportions.
Tweed mayor Katie Milne is also pushing to have funding restored and is calling on fellow councillors at their next meeting to support her moves to lobby the state government over it.
Cr Milne says the closure left a ‘devastating gap’ in services for victims of domestic violence in the shire.
In her speech to parliament, Mrs Elliot lambasted state north coast National Party MPs Thomas George (Lismore) and Geoff Provest (Tweed) over their ‘inaction’ on the ‘shameful’ closure.
She said that when the service was advised on 17 December that their contract had been cancelled, $580,000 in NSW state funding ‘along with 13 jobs were suddenly cut’.
‘I, like so many in our community, was shocked and outraged that this forced closure had occurred, given the vital services they had been providing, particularly for those women and children fleeing from domestic violence,’ the MP said.
‘Just as disturbing is the fact that it occurred just before Christmas.
‘The Tweed Valley Women’s Service has provided counselling, education, mentoring, crisis accommodation, transitional housing and support for women and children experiencing domestic violence.
‘The service has been in operation in the Tweed shire for 30 years.
‘The north coast National Party MPs and their state government have chosen to ignore locals by failing to assist with this very desperate situation.
‘The complete inaction by the NSW government and local National Party MPs Thomas George and Geoff Provest is both shameful and irresponsible.
‘I am also calling on those National Party MPs to explain to the community: why did their government allow On Track Community Programs to suddenly cut this funding from this important service?
‘Both state members have shown that they are unwilling and unable to do the job they were elected to do, so I will continue to work with the executive of the Tweed Valley Women’s Service and our community to have this service reopened.
‘On behalf of the service, I have made representations to Premier Mike Baird and also to the relevant NSW ministers, Brad Hazzard and Pru Goward.
‘We have also launched a petition demanding the NSW government restore funding to the service. The community response so far has been overwhelming.
‘I would like to commend the executive of the service and all those locals who rallied together to support this cause.
‘So far they have had three separate protests, a community meeting, a march and a rally.
‘We have all seen reports that violence against women is at epidemic proportions. As a former police officer, I saw first hand the devastating impact of domestic violence on women and children in our community.
‘We have a crisis that needs to be addressed, and services like the Tweed Valley Women’s Service are desperately needed and their full funding must be restored.
‘This situation can be fixed today. It can be fixed right now, so I call on the NSW premier to listen to our community, act and fix this,’ Mrs Elliot concluded.
Cr Milne’s motions echo the MP’s sentiments, asking council to recognise the service was ‘forced to close the doors during the high risk Christmas period after 30 years of providing safety, refuge and support to the women and children of the region’.
She is urging council to formally lobby the state government to restore funding immediately.