Innovative Domestic Violence Refuge for Women & Children Coming to Port Stephens (NSW)

Hume Community Housing is set to establish a groundbreaking refuge in Port Stephens, offering vital support and shelter for women and children facing domestic and family violence. This initiative is made possible by a substantial investment from the NSW State Government, totaling $484.3 million, which includes the construction and operation of 39 new “Core and Cluster” women’s refuges across the state.

The announcement has been warmly received by Hume, as data reveals that the Port Stephens LGA experiences a disproportionately high number of reported incidents of Family and Domestic violence. In fact, incidents of violence are 2.3 times more likely to be reported in Raymond Terrace and 2.7 times more likely in Tanilba Bay compared to the state average.

Brad Braithwaite, CEO of Hume, recognizes the urgent need for safe and appropriate crisis accommodation in the area. He expresses gratitude to the NSW Government, emphasizing the life-changing impact this refuge will have on women and children affected by domestic violence: “Because there is no refuge or crisis accommodation in the region, our impacted customers are struggling to escape often dangerous living environments.”

This refuge will primarily cater to local women and children who require immediate protection from domestic family violence, with a focus on prioritizing Aboriginal and culturally diverse women. Services will also be accessible to gender-diverse and non-binary victims and survivors.

The “core and cluster” model employed by this initiative combines the services and supports of a traditional refuge with the independent living facilities of transitional accommodation. The “core” acts as a communal facility offering access to counseling, legal assistance, education, and employment support, all designed in a child-friendly and trauma-informed manner. This model has already seen success in trial runs in the regional communities of Orange and Griffith.

Hume will partner with the Port Stephens Family and Neighbourhood Service (PSFaNS), an organization with over 35 years of local experience providing life-changing services to women and families in the region. The involvement of Port Stephens Council, which supported Hume’s successful tender bid, is acknowledged as crucial in addressing the need for increased crisis housing in the area.

The refuge will comprise six self-contained units that accommodate up to 12 occupants at a time, allowing for pets and disability access. These units will be connected to the “core” building and will be accompanied by a communal sensory play area for children and a yarning circle.

Brad Braithwaite explains that the design includes landscaped areas that promote a sense of safety and security, encouraging individuals and families to integrate. The self-contained accommodation will be culturally appropriate, ensuring privacy and independence for the occupants. PSFaNS will collaborate with victim-survivors, providing support for recovery and stabilization while also delivering therapeutic interventions for children and young people.

Hume takes pride in leading the development of this purpose-built, safe, private, culturally appropriate, and trauma-informed refuge. It is expected to have a tangible impact on local women and children experiencing domestic and family violence, offering them the opportunity to forge brighter, safer futures.

Image is an artist’s impression of the innovative core and cluster model of housing featuring six self-contained units linked to a core communal building. Construction of the new refuge is scheduled to commence in 2024, with plans to open its doors in 2025.