Federal MPs Stephen Jones and Sharon Bird visited Illawarra Women's Health Centre on Thursday to call on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to fund its proposal for an Australian first, community led domestic and family violence trauma recovery centre that will provide a circuit breaker for women fleeing violence..
Aware the Morrison Government will be finalising its 2021/22 budget this month Mr Jones and Ms Bird have also written a joint letter to the PM asking him to include funding for the centre in next year's Federal Budget.
The centre is expected to cost $10 million to get up and running and Mr Jones said it would be a chance for Mr Morrison to show he is listening to woman.
And for the government to send a clear message to Australian women that it is serious about acting on sex discrimination, harassment in the workplace and domestic violence.
"The Prime Minister has a problem. The events of the last couple of weeks has put a spotlight on that problem. And the Prime Minister is in a unique position to do something about it," Mr Jones said.
"We are calling on the Commonwealth Government to fund the Illawarra domestic violence trauma recovery centre, a unique first in Australia centre which will provide a much needed service to the people of the Illawarra and will also provide a template for services to be provided around the country.
"The Prime Minister said he is listening and wants to do something. Here is an opportunity for him to do something meaningful."
The two local MPs and Illawarra Women's Health Centre general manager Sally Stevenson said recent Bureau of Statistics data shows the urgent need that presently exists in the Illawarra.
In the five years to December 2020 there has been a 15 per cent increase in reported sexual assaults and a 7.7 per cent increase in other sexual offences in the Wollongong area.
There is presently a limited range of short term programs provided by different services and the idea behind the trauma recovery centre is to provide wrap around medical and health care alongside legal support, financial counselling, ongoing individual casework and advocacy, and recovery from domestic and family violence trauma.
Ms Stevenson said concept plans are being finalised for a centre that could provide everything in the one place as a specialised, evidence based facility focusing on the emotional, mental and physical impacts of trauma.
"Within the next financial year we would be able to deliver that service," Ms Stevenson said.
"$10 million would be enough to run it operationally for three years.
"We are also looking for some business development funding and we are seeking that through the private sector at the moment.
"We are looking to support 400 families over the three years. If we need more in the budget we will ask for more.
"At the end of last year before we had any additional resources for the COVID impact we had a waiting list here of 90 women. That is just unacceptable.
"At the moment we have been able to almost double our mental health team through short term funding packages.
"But when you treat trauma you actually need a relationship built with your support workers than can last two or three years."
As Mr Jones and Ms Bird were calling on the PM to financially support the centre, news filtered through that an inquiry into family, domestic and sexual violence conducted by a House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs recommended that the Australian Government, in partnership with the NSW Government, fund a trial program of the Illawarra Women's Health Centre's Women's Trauma Recovery Centre.
And that the funding could be part of a pilot program over a five-year period with a view, subject to positive evaluation, to rolling out similar services around the country.
Ms Stevenson said that was fantastic news.
And she said support from the Illawarra business and general community for the Trauma Recovery Centre has been great.
That support has come from the police, legal services, the area health service, BlueScope, Waples, Stockland Shellharbour, the three tiers of government and Family and Community Services.
Families of victims of violence are also publicly supporting the centre, as are a range of professional domestic and family violence experts from across NSW who are also participation in the co-design.
Ms Stevenson said victims have also provided some very valuable input.
"We were given $50,000 by the Ministry of Health to undertake a co-design research project to look at the operational framework of the centre," she said.
"That will be the core of the business plan we are delivering to the government at the end of June.
"The co-design process is working with professional experts in the field but equally women with lived experience with domestic violence.
"We have done 20 indepth interviews with those women and we have run online surveys and face to face workshops with them to talk about what is needed in a dedicated specialised service.
"So their voices are really central to this design."
We depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.
Sign up for breaking news emails below ...