Tess* was “pregnant and vulnerable” when she was forced to flee a domestic violence situation.
- Tasmania’s housing crisis is now affecting every women’s shelter across the state and they are all at capacity
- One shelter was unable to help almost 3,000 callers needing emergency accommodation last financial year because there was no room
- More women’s shelter units will be built in Hobart and Launceston within the next two years, but there are calls for more in regional areas
The Tasmanian woman, whose real name cannot be published for legal reasons, said when her abuse reached breaking point three and a half years ago, she had nowhere to go.
“My situation was psychological and emotional abuse,” she said. “Years of pulling down, escalating and escalating to the point of quite frightening situations.”
Tess said she was unable to find support due to a lack of women’s shelters in regional Tasmania.
“I was so full of shame that I didn’t want to go to my family and friends for support because I was so embarrassed … and so I just hid,” she said.
“I did spend time [sleeping] in a car, I did spend time in a friend’s caravan until I could get back into my house … I was lucky I could get back in and change the locks and I got someone who stayed with me.
“But many women don’t have the same resources and that is why it’s so important that we get them help.”
Tess is now an advocate for change, and is one of a growing number of women pushing for more support services and shelter in regional Tasmania for others going through similar experiences.
Family violence support services:
“There’s a desperate need, especially in Sorell [near Hobart] and the south-eastern region, because it’s one of the fastest growing regions in Tasmania,” she said.
“Broken bones can heal, but it’s the psychological — the brokenness of your mind and the brokenness that you feel — that’s what needs ongoing help.
“The fact that we don’t have a service is really a shame on our politicians.”
Four-fold increase in calls for help
Tasmania has women’s shelters in four locations, Burnie, Ulverstone, Launceston and Hobart.
All up, there are about 50 emergency crisis rooms and/or units available for women and their children across the state, but all are at capacity.
There are also a number of other transitional support units, but they are also full.
Hobart Women’s Shelter chief executive officer Janet Saunders said the service was unable to help 2,839 callers needing emergency accommodation last financial year — a four-fold increase from four years ago.
“We often find ourselves having to tell women that we’re unable to accommodate them, which can be quite difficult,” Ms Saunders said.
“We are seeing an increase of women presenting for reasons other than domestic and family violence, although that still remains the main presenting reason, we are seeing many families come through because of the housing crisis.”
Mayor Mary Knowles says the sprawling electorate of Lyons has no shelters. (ABC News: Manika Dadson)
Northern Midlands Mayor Mary Knowles and Derwent Valley councillor Julie Triffett will move a motion at the December Local Government Association of Tasmanian meeting urging the State Government to look at establishing some kind of women’s shelter in central Tasmania.
Many service providers hope Senator Jacqui Lambie’s deal to have Tasmania’s housing debt waived will also help free up women’s shelters for those in need.
“In the whole of [the electorate of] Lyons, which is most of Tasmania, there’s not one women’s shelter,” Ms Knowles said.
She wants the Government to research whether one needs to be established — possibly near Campbell Town or Bothwell — so women in regional Tasmanian towns don’t have to travel hundreds of kilometres to get support.
“Tassie seems like it’s a small place but it can actually be quite a bit of an achievement for a family in stress to get from one place to another,” Ms Knowles said.
The Tasmanian Government is helping fund new crisis units in the state’s two largest cities as part of its affordable housing action plan.
Ten new units are due to open at the Hobart Women’s Shelter by December, and at least another 10 will be built in Launceston by the end of 2021.
“We’re hoping with the additional increase, we will start to see a decline in those unassisted requests for accommodation,” Ms Saunders said.
‘Demand outstripping supply’
Tasmanian Council of Social Service chief executive Kym Goodes said the state needed to look at other shelter options.
Kym Goodes says it is critical women can remain in their local area. (ABC News: Lucy MacDonald)
“There is no doubt that the demand is outstripping the supply and the current funding allocation is significant, however we have a backlog of need that will not be met for many years,” Ms Goodes said.
“We need to make sure women are safe, that they’re in accommodation that can be supported overnight by having someone else sleeping on site.
“So setting up a range of different options so women don’t have to leave their local area is really critical.”
A spokesman said the Tasmanian Government was committed to helping women that needed support.
“Population density, demand and access to other relevant services determine the placement of women’s shelters,” the spokesman said.
“The Government also runs the rapid rehousing program which provides people affected by family violence with transitional accommodation in the private rental market at subsidised rent.”
*Name has been chan