From the CEO

With 2017 drawing to a close, there is much to celebrate, yet as always we know there is plenty more to do.

During 2016/17, we directly supported 742 women and children, most escaping a recent incident of family violence. Through our ‘Engage to Change’ program, 270 community leaders and senior managers are now better equipped to recognise and respond to family violence in the workplace.

Our vision for the new McAuley House, which opened last year, has also taken shape, and already the value is obvious. We are now seeing our first planned movements out — women who, after years of needing a home, are now ready and able to move into one. Through our employment program, already 21 women have found work, becoming more financially secure and independent, as well as growing in self-esteem and social networks.

However, while there is cause for optimism some things are still not moving quickly enough.

There continues to be a lack of safe, affordable housing for women fleeing family violence. Women, with and without children, are sitting in hotel rooms for more than three weeks, unable to return home but with nowhere else to go. At last count, around 80 motel rooms in Victoria were required for women escaping family violence every night. And this is just for women who have been subjected to family violence—it doesn’t cover homelessness.

The impact of family violence on our community, and the fact that it is the leading cause of death, disability and illness in Australian women aged between 14 and 44, remains totally unacceptable. Its prevalence continues to be distressingly high; the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows that one in four women aged over 18 — or 2.2 million women — had experienced violence at the hands of an intimate partner since the age of 15.

We are also increasingly concerned about how the rapid removal of mental health funding from the Victorian government will affect the women who use our services.

Now that the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is being rolled out, Victoria has been transferring community mental health funding over to the Commonwealth.

It is doing this at a greater rate than any other state. Our mental health system, previously considered the Australian benchmark, is now under extreme pressure.

We will be strongly urging the government to reconsider this short-sighted move, as the withdrawal of this money will have the most disastrous effect on those with the highest needs, such as the women we see every day: women whose mental health has been affected by family violence, abuse, homelessness and isolation.

We are fortunate, however, that we have such strong community support in our efforts and we are so grateful because we cannot do this by ourselves.

It is my privilege to acknowledge and applaud the incredible grassroots support that we have received all year. From school children raising funds and donating toiletries, to Man With A Van helping move women and their belongings to safe accommodation, philanthropic trusts, our amazing special events committee, the Sisters of Mercy, the donation of real Christmas trees to create new memories for women and children alike, the artists who created incredible work at cost price for McAuley House—the list goes on. Heartfelt thanks, as well, to our dedicated staff, our committed and supportive Board, and our amazing volunteers.

We have achieved so much but we have the potential to achieve so much more. We value, and need, your ongoing support.