Media Release

29 November 2016

New McAuley House backgrounder

About McAuley Community Services for Women

Catherine McAuley opened the doors of the House of Mercy in Dublin, Ireland, in 1827. Her dream of providing disadvantaged women and children with housing, education, religious and social services – enabling them to find a brighter future – had become a reality.

Catherine founded the Sisters of Mercy in 1831. The Sisters arrived in Australia in 1846. Thirty years ago, they established a house for women (now McAuley House) in 1986 and a safe house for women and their children (now McAuley Care) in 1988.

McAuley Community Services for Women was formed in 2008 by the Sisters of Mercy to continue and enhance this work for women. Through our service, we are committed to advocate for a better, safer and just society.

Today, Catherine’s founding spirit and ethos continues to live on.

Our work today

McAuley Community Services for Women is Victoria’s only woman-specific homelessness and family violence organisation. We are accredited under government standards.

Each year we provide accommodation and support to around 100 women through McAuley House.

Typically, around:

  • 50% come from different countries and cultures
  • 60% have diagnosed mental health conditions
  • 6o% wereliving alone before they came to McAuley House and All were homeless or at risk of homelessness
  • 8% have no income at all
  • 39% are between the ages of 45 -54 years old

Transforming lives

Having nowhere to call home can arise from complex root causes, but for many women it is all too often linked to family violence and the frightening prospect of leaving home with no guarantees for the future.

McAuley House supports women at a highly vulnerable stage of their lives, many have experienced long-term abuse and trauma, experiences that often result in a cycle of severe mental and physical illness and isolation.Many are separated from their family and friends, and the impact can pass through to the next generation.

The opening of the new McAuley House will enable us to build on our significant track record of empowering women to transform their lives. As Victoria’s first purpose built accommodation and support service for women who are homeless, we offer a crucial lifeline beyond homelessness and into a world of hope.


The Victorian Labor Government has invested $4 million towards the Pickett Street building in Footscray.This funding, together with the generous $ 7 million from the Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea, has ensured that Victoria’s first purpose built accommodation and support hub for women is opening in late 2016.

The design 

Architects Hede Associates have designed 1 – 3 Pickett Street.

The building has been designed to

  • To provide a safe and secure environment
  • To facilitate harmony and interaction between people with shared and different needs and aspirations
  • To promote wellbeing and empowerment
  • To embed sustainability principles

The facility will be staffed 24-hours a day, allowing for after hours and weekend community contact and support. It is expected that many more women will be assisted through the new centre each year.

Safety and security

The design ensures the safety of residents during their time in the program as well as ensuring the building is secure in a manner consistent with the use of the building. Thus the residential and office areas have been separated, security is paramount; and there is 24/7 access.

Harmony and interaction

The design encourages interaction and community while respecting the right to privacy and confidentiality. A mix of spaces allow for individual reflection, small friendship groups to interact as well as space for the whole community to come together.

Wellbeing and empowerment

All accessible spaces provide access to natural light, good ventilation, colour, selection of materials and the design and use of space all directly impact on physical and emotional wellbeing.


The design embodies environmentally sustainable design principals to minimise impact on the environment and provides a comfortable environment for people who live and work in the building.

External Environment and Green Spaces

Connection to nature through the use of gardens and access to views encourages stress reduction, elevates positive feelings, reduces negative emotions and gives some distraction from pain, distress and anxiety.

The facility includes three green spaces:

1)Roof Garden adjacent to the main kitchen & dining room space.This will be used for growing herbs & small plants & offers an opportunity for smokers to congregate nearby the main communal area.

2)Balconies – For the rooms that include balconies, opportunities exist for pot-plants and shrubbery to help to mitigate solar gain and assist with providing an effective healing environment.

3)Ground floor reflection garden – Using areas of the site that cannot be effectively used by the building, we envisage a garden space that can be used for quiet, peaceful reflection away from the facility.

McAuley House in Pickett Street includes:

  • Foyer
  • Office & Quiet Rooms
  • Car-parking (8)
  • Commercial Kitchen
  • Shared Kitchens
  • Dining Room for 50
  • Laundry
  • Community Lounge / Meeting Area
  • Recreational / Meeting Room(s)
  • Outdoor garden space / Roof Terrace
  • Capacity to tailor support between a high and low level of needs as required

Kitchen & Dining Area

The Kitchen area forms the heart of the facility. Residents spend a large amount of time in the kitchen, chatting informally to the cook, and amongst themselves. The kitchen will also be used for teaching.

  • Artwork
  • Throughout the building, there is art work painted by community street artists.
  • These include:
  • Baby Guerrilla – a floating woman and red door onto a panel in the front entrance.
  • Jessica Kease - a large bunch of flowers on the top floor wall
  • Fiona Dempster – a calligrapher who made the words for the reflection room, in collaboration with women from McAuley House
  • Kaff and Lucy – who painted the large women’s mural on the ground floor with assistance from the women from McAuley House.
  • Alice Pasquini – visiting artist from Italy, who painted a door in the recreation room.

  • Various Aboriginal Artists who created 25 original paintings throughout the building. 
  • Thomas Cole – who has crafted a neon sign ‘brave’ – reflecting women’s messages to each other

  • Klara Rah - painted the external electricity box.