Women’s refuge to open in Morwell

Indigenous women and children fleeing family violence will soon have a new safe place to call home in the Latrobe Valley.

The Orana Gunyah women’s refuge will open next year in Morwell and provide short-term accommodation, as well as counselling, case management and other services, for women and children in-need.

Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency and Community Housing Limited will oversee the refuge.

The centre’s name, which means ‘Welcome, Place of Shelter’, fitted the 24-hour centre’s purpose well, according to VACCA chief executive Muriel Bamblett.

“Ultimately, it’s about the protection of women and children. We will provide a safe, secure facility,” Ms Bamblett said.

“As quickly as possible we will provide support and counselling… it’s important to work on an episode of violence and engage with the woman before the ‘honeymoon period’ after the event.

“We want women to own a way forward, and for them to know that violence – whether it be physical, emotional, spiritual – to aboriginal women is unacceptable.”

Ms Bamblett said there will be five family-sized units available and through partnerships with other organisations they could organise referrals and transfers in Victoria or interstate.

She said by providing a culturally-appropriate service response with aboriginal staff, it was hoped the centre would be effective in combating violence against women within the aboriginal community.

“I think it’s really important to send the community message that we are taking the issue of family violence seriously,” Ms Bamblett said.

“We want to grow knowledge of family violence in the community. We really want to set up an elders group to advise this facility. It’s important to engage elders who can make strong statements that family violence is unacceptable.”

Member for Morwell Russell Northe, whose government has funded the construction and running of the centre, said the new facility was part of an overall strategy to address violence against women and children.

“In Gippsland there is no such refuge, so women have had to travel more than a 100 kilometres to Melbourne to seek the support that they will soon have in Gippsland,” Mr Northe said.

The facility is expected to be operational from 14 January.

A morning tea and information session open to all will be held at the VACCA offices at 25 Rintoull Street, Morwell on Monday at 10.30am.