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Byron Shire
March 1, 2021

Ballina’s refuge of hope

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Record numbers of women and children are being killed by their current, ex-partners and family members in Australia as you read this.

‘Domestic violence (DV) is unfortunately a major issue and this year has been one of the worst in modern history for women in Australia,’ said Abby Hogarth from Hope Haven women’s refuge in Ballina.

‘Far too many women live in fear, suffering in silence behind closed doors. Often the women who seek refuge at Hope Haven have endured years of abuse. When they come to the refuge they usually have nothing, and many are fearful for their lives.

‘Northern NSW is an area with high DV rates and has only four refuges that are at full capacity over 90 per cent of the time.’

The refuge was set up in 1999 after a clear and serious need for a refuge in the Ballina area. Over the years Hope Haven has gained a strong reputation as a refuge that is client centred, trauma and DV informed and follows a best practice framework.

‘Hope Haven provides crisis accommodation for women and children fleeing Domestic and/or Family violence,’ says Abby.

‘We provide 4–6 weeks accommodation initially, however, due to the housing crisis in the area we are often supporting families for 4–6 months.’

Transitional housing needed

Abby has pointed out that one of the important things that is needed for women and children in the area is more transitional housing.

‘If we had more houses for women to move into after their stay with us, our service could accommodate the increasing numbers of women who are in crisis and needing support.’

Youth refuge

Domestic violence doesn’t discriminate by wealth, status, race, sexuality, ethnicity or religion and there is big gap in support provided to young people who are wanting to escape DV homes and relationships.

‘There is a growing need for a DV specific youth refuge for young women aged 14 to 17 who have been the victims of domestic violence. Unfortunately, our service cannot offer accommodation to unaccompanied women under the age of 18,’ says Abby.

Similarly any boys who are over 14 are not able to join their mothers at the women’s refuge leading to Women either leaving their older boys with family members or friends or ending up in temporary accommodation due to the lack of options of support available to them.

Secret location

Maintaining the security of the site is vital to ensure that the women and children are safe and the government recently announced $5,574 to maintain the safety of Hope Haven.

‘Hope Haven is an incredible facility which provides a home for women at a time when they may be most vulnerable,’ Ben Franklin, Nationals Parliamentary Secretary for Northern NSW, said.

‘The services, support, nurturing environment and most importantly the safety Hope Haven provides is life changing for women.’

Since the first of January 2018, 66 women and 18 children have been murdered in Australia in DV related situations so safety is key.

‘Our location is kept strictly secret as some of the women and children seeking refuge here are in severe danger from their perpetrators who will not stop searching for women they see as a possession they own,’ pointed out Abby.

‘Women are in the most danger when they leave a violent relationship and more than one woman a week is killed in Australia due to DV.’

Refuge of hope

‘We have seen women walk in to our service with their heads hung in exhaustion and shame, then watched them rebuild their lives, witnessed their extraordinary capacity for survival, and then see them leave, knowing they are worth more than how they have been treated by their partners in the past.

‘The abuse these women have endured has sometimes gone on for decades, this slowly corrodes their self-esteem, isolates them and cuts them down. Many women end up feeling depressed and worthless. It takes tremendous courage to leave a domestic violence situation and seek safety and a new life without coercion and control.

‘When we treat women with kindness and respect, walk alongside them and support them in their own individual journey of rebuilding their lives, they can totally transform their lives and their children’s lives.’

Reach out

If you need help call the domestic violence helpline on: 1800 656 463

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