16 August 2022

Wheels in motion to bring more crisis accommodation to Queanbeyan

| Claire Fenwicke
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The concept design for The Orchard in Orange, which is the inspiration for new crisis accommodation in Queanbeyan. Photo: Housing Plus.

A push has begun to bring state-of-the-art support accommodation for people experiencing domestic and family violence to the Queanbeyan area.

A partnership between community housing provider Housing Plus and local community organisation Molonglo Support Services was preparing an expression of interest (EOI) to apply for State Government funding to build “Core and Cluster” accommodation in Queanbeyan.

According to their corporate proposal, Queanbeyan was one area where demand for emergency accommodation outstripped supply.

“In the last 12 months Molonglo Support Services received over 1000 referrals from police in Queanbeyan, 100 of whom were assessed as at serious risk of further injury or death,” it said.

“While Queanbeyan has an existing six-bedroom communal refuge, this is insufficient to meet demand.

“The refuge is often at capacity as it also services smaller surrounding towns, and the nearest alternative women’s refuges are in Goulburn and Cooma.”

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”Core and Cluster” was a crisis accommodation model that moved away from a shared-house environment to having fully independent living quarters, with a private bathroom and kitchen facilities.

It’s based on Housing Plus’s ”The Orchard” model, which was officially opened in Orange in November 2020.

It’s a cluster of private apartments that surround a core multipurpose building holding office space for staff and support places, as well as common areas to build a sense of community.

According to Housing Plus’s website, The Orchard in Orange provided a safe and supported environment in which victims could recover.

“Apartments are modern and open plan with private backyards and access to larger outdoor spaces, including a dedicated sensory playground for children,” it said.

“The core has been designed to meet all the needs of women and children, and includes consulting rooms, audio-visual equipment for court appearances, a wellness retreat to improve wellbeing and prepare for court or other appointments, multifunctional counselling rooms, a study, creche, kitchen with dual appliances for cookery demonstrations, barbecue area and a healing room for Aboriginal women to make their own.

“We have created all this because our women and children deserve to have a wonderful place to recover and to feel safe.”

This refuge was used as the basis for the NSW Government’s announcement on 19 October, 2021, of $426.6 million over four years to expand the Core and Cluster model to deliver about 75 extra women’s refuges across the state.

Theresa*, a mother of two young children, was supported by The Orchard after she was abused and strangled by her partner.

She said The Orchard enabled her to stay close to her support network while keeping her children in school and continue her employment until she was able to find a private rental.

“This support gave me the courage and trust that there was a way out of my situation with a plan that would keep me and my children safe,” Theresa said.

“I have achieved independence and I am now able to do things without being shut down with intimidation and abuse like I was before.”

At the recent Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council meeting, councillors unanimously agreed to write a letter of support in principle for the project.

Councillor Katrina Willis said this was an “innovative way” to provide supportive accommodation to the region’s families trying to escape domestic violence.

“We know it’s a problem across the country, and sadly our own community’s not exempt,” she said.

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While no financial request was being made of the council at this stage, the corporate proposal did note the council could provide further support down the track.

“The ability of the council to provide land would significantly enhance our proposal,” it said.

“The council could also consider waiving costs associated with development, planning contributions.”

Molonglo Support Services and Housing Plus need to submit their EOI to the NSW Government by 23 August.

NSW police respond to more than 140,000 domestic and family violence incidents each year.

On average, one woman was killed every nine days by a current or former partner across the country.

For confidential advice, support and referrals, contact 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732), the NSW Domestic Violence Line (1800 65 64 63), NSW Rape Crisis (1800 424 017) or the Men’s Referral Service (1300 766 491). In an emergency, call triple zero (000).

* Name changed to protect her identity.

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