Page 4445 - Week 14 - Thursday, 28 November 2013

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MRS JONES (Molonglo): Mr Assistant Speaker, I seek leave to make a brief statement regarding the Women’s Information and Referral Centre and the petition which has just been tabled.

Leave granted.

MRS JONES: I have received the petition just tabled regarding the closure of the Women’s Information and Referral Centre, some of the supporters of which I welcome to the Assembly, their Assembly, today.

The petition calls on the government to keep the Women’s Information and Referral Centre open. There are members of our community who are concerned about this vital service for women and that its closure will have such deep impacts on women’s services in Canberra that it will not be able to deliver on core outcomes for the most vulnerable women in our city.

The centre was a place where women could drop in, seek advice and ask a person for help. The closure of this centre is concerning. It clearly deeply worries the 700 people from Canberra and as far away as the UK and Canada who have taken the time to sign this petition. This petition is asking that the centre remain open. We know from yesterday’s question time that the minister is planning to develop the What’s on for women book, but women’s services until now offered through the Women’s Information and Referral Centre represent so much more than this book.

The centre took phone inquiries and referred women. The centre took internet inquiries and referred women. The centre ran the following 15 courses: “Thinking Thursdays”; “Financial Fridays for women—expanding your financial options”; “When being angry no longer works”; “Unbox your gift”; “Emotional mastery”; “The happiness hat trick workshop one: interpersonal communication audit”; “The happiness hat trick workshop two: resilience”; “The happiness hat trick workshop three: happiness”; “Self-esteem and assertiveness for women”; “Creative resilience”; Public speaking for women”; “Reclaim your power”; “Your self worth and wellbeing”; “Getting back to work—for women”; and “Home business career information seminars”.

We need to know how these courses will be delivered. There are so many questions that remain unanswered. Where will these courses be run and will they all continue to be provided? Who will women be able to trust and ask for referrals by phone when in need? Who will take and answer internet inquiries? If some of these services are delivered out of the child and family health centres, it may not be appropriate for every group of women. For some women, being in a place full of mums and babies would not be appropriate, and it may be tough.

If some courses are to be run out of the Theo Notaras centre, is this the most suitable place? Is closing this service really just to save $75,000 per year while $2.6 million has been spent on the branding Canberra exercise and $400,000 per annum is being spent on PR for light rail—and that is just salaries? Where will women be able to drop in if they are in crisis? Is it just a money-saving exercise and are all the courses going to be delivered?

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