By Courtney Nowland:
The Lisa Harnum Foundation recently held a forum to establish a new domestic violence refuge in the Hills area.
Over 120 people attended the forum at the Castle Grand Community Centre, Castle Hill, on May 6.
The proposal to set up a new women’s refuge is being negotiated by Aileen Mountfield of the Lisa Harnum Foundation, Annabelle Daniel of Women’s Community Shelters, Hills Superintendent Rob Critchlow and Mitchell Federal Liberal MP Alex Hawke.
Ms Mountfield and Ms Daniel said they were very pleased with the community response to the proposal.
The Lisa Harnum Foundation, run by Ms Mountfield, reaches out to women with information, counselling, education and group work. The Foundation aims to eradicate domestic violence through increased awareness, education and prevention programs, especially in the Hills area.
The Foundation, along with the Women’s Community Shelter, ensures that women who have become homeless have access to short term emergency accommodation and support, and access to a property for three years rent free.
A generous donation from the Queensland Investment Corporation (QIC) has enabled the domestic violence service and refuge to find a home. Ms Mountifield and Ms Daniel extended a heartfelt thanks to QIC for its generosity and support. Ms Daniel announced that the new refuge would be crisis accommodation.
“We can make the duration of need client-based,” she said.
“Women’s safety comes first”.
Raquel Ricafort-Bleza, the Community Development Coordinator, Community Services, for the Hills Shire Council, said the forum aimed to create community support for the establishment of the women’s shelter. She said it also provided information and support for women and children experiencing domestic violence. Ms Ricafort-Blaza said the proposed refuge was “very important” as a lot of women and children had nowhere to go.
In the last month there have been 20 cases of domestic violence reported in the Hills area. Superintendent Critchlow said “the rate of domestic violence in the Hills area is about 40 percent of the state average”. While there has been a 15 percent decline in the number of reported domestic violence cases since 2010, Supt Critchlow said he was worried that women were not going to police for help and said the 15 percent decline was not a clear example of the rate of domestic violence in the Hills area, as most cases go unreported. He said the public response to domestic violence was very complex and required commitment by the government and community together.
”This project is a great example of the collaboration that would make a difference,” Supt Critchlow said.
Robyn Waite, Convener of the Hills Domestic Violence Prevention Committee, described domestic violence as a “hidden epidemic”.
Federal Liberal MP for Mitchell, Alex Hawke, said all tiers of government needed to be involved in campaigns against domestic violence. He said the prevalence of domestic violence was “quite disturbing” and “a great concern”. He was also thankful that domestic violence has “finally been taken much more seriously”.
The domestic violence refuge for the Hills area is expected to be operating by the end of 2015.
PHOTO: Aileen Mountfield and Annabelle Daniel