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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 3 Hansard (7 March) . . Page.. 798..


MR STANHOPE (continuing):

The experience of Toora Single Wimmin's Shelter, a service providing emergency accommodation for women in crisis in the ACT, provides a valuable insight into the extent of the problems faced by some women in our community. Toora Single Wimmin's Shelter was established in 1982 to provide shelter for homeless women unaccompanied by children. From the outset it was discovered that this client group experienced many complex issues, including domestic and other forms of violence, chemical dependency, sexual abuse, dysfunctional family issues, mental health issues, and, more often than not, a combination of many of these factors. In other words, these are some of the most vulnerable members of our community.

The Toora house provides supported accommodation for homeless women, unaccompanied by children, 16 years and over. It is funded for 10 crisis beds, up to three months, and four medium-term beds, up to six months. It employs 5.5 full-time equivalent workers, including management and admin staff. The Toora house is staffed 24 hours a day due to the nature of the client group, but for evening and overnight shifts there is only enough funding for one worker per shift.

In 1992 the organisation received funding to establish Heira, a crisis accommodation service for women, unaccompanied by children, escaping domestic violence in particular. This service was established in recognition of the particular needs of women escaping domestic violence and the unsuitability of the Toora environment to meet their needs. Heira employs 4.5 full-time equivalent workers, including management and admin support. The service has accessible workers 24 hours a day. Overnights are covered by "on-call" and "back-up" from the Toora overnight worker. Every night between the hours of 8 pm and 9 am one Toora worker is responsible for up to 22 clients.

A 1998 survey of key stakeholders indicated that the provision of accessible 24 hour services was highly valued by them, and the organisation's expertise with women with mental health and other complex issues was highlighted as being of exceptional value to the ACT community. Toora and Heira are currently funded under the supported accommodation assistance program.

Statistics contained within the Toora Single Wimmin's Shelter annual report for 1999-2000 indicate that demand for the services is growing and the problems being faced by clients are becoming more complex. However, real funding of the service has not increased in five years, except for a tiny CPI increase. There is also, of course, in the face of that an increasing and growing demand and the onset of the GST.

According to the Toora client profile contained within the annual report, Toora accommodated 376 women in 1999-2000, an increase from 292 in the previous year. The number of women under 25 years old accessing the service increased by 76 per cent. The return rate for clients almost tripled from 10 per cent to 29 per cent. In addition, the number of women reporting having experienced domestic violence increased from 52 to 73 per cent. It is a quite staggering statistic that 73 per cent of women accessing the service that Toora provides experienced domestic violence.

In addition, an average of 15 women per month-and this is a quite frightening revelation-or one woman every two days, were turned away from the service because resources are so overstretched. We have situation where 15 women per month, one woman every two days, are being turned away from the service either to go home to face


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