AUSTRALIAN FIRST: Domestic violence safe haven Bella’s Sanctuary opens
In an Australian first, survivors of domestic and family violence will have a safe place to call home when a purpose-built bridging accommodation facility, Bella’s Sanctuary, officially opens on the northern Gold Coast.
The $1.6 million safe haven will be based at an unpublicised address and will provide support for women and children leaving domestic violence situations.
The facility was the idea of Queensland developer Halcyon – in collaboration with DVConnect and listed property group Mirvac – who designed, built, funded and then donated the purpose-built home. This is the first time in Australia that a corporate and a not-for-profit organisation have teamed up to address the alarming rate of domestic violence through a housing initiative.
On average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner. 1 in 6 Australian women have experienced physical or sexual violence by a current or former partner. 1 in 4 Australian women have experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner.
DVConnect board of directors chair Shaan Ross-Smith said the purpose-built accommodation will not only support Gold Coast women and children, but women and children all across Queensland.
“As a not-for-profit organisation, we placed 4,000 women and children in Queensland motels last year alone because all shelters were at capacity,” Ms Ross-Smith said.
“The donation of a purpose-built accommodation facility will make a significant difference to many women’s and children’s lives who are now able to reset in a safe and supportive environment.
“What makes this accommodation facility different, and a first of its kind in Australia, is the fact that women and children can stay for up to 12 months, get back on their feet, find employment, let kids settle into school and slowly re-build their lives.
“We can’t thank Halcyon, Mirvac and the 90 South East Queensland tradespeople enough who have donated their expertise, labour and supplies to this very important cause,” she said.
The bridging accommodation will comprise of two one-bedroom, including one designed for the disabled, two two-bedroom and one three-bedroom units each with their own kitchenette, living area and courtyard. It will also have a communal kitchen and living room, a play area and a DVConnect support office.
Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence Di Farmer congratulated Halcyon and Mirvac on its project and its commitment to helping victims of domestic and family violence rebuild their lives.
“Getting out of a violent relationship is the first step to a bright future and we know that when a woman makes the incredibly brave decision to leave, this is the most dangerous time for them,” she said.
“Having a place of safety they can go to with their children, like Bella’s Sanctuary, makes all the difference and means they can focus on other things they may need help with to overcome the trauma they have experienced.”
Halcyon project director Marie Cone said Bella’s Sanctuary is an example of how the development and building industry can make a difference and play an important role in the community response to domestic violence.
“Halcyon and Mirvac encourage local businesses to get behind critical, not-for-profit infrastructure benefitting the most at-risk people living in our communities, and helping facilitate a conversation around domestic violence,” Ms Cone said.
“Victims can get government-funded crisis accommodation at a hotel or motel for two or three days, but so often women and children are then forced to go home to a dangerous living situation, and they’re stuck in that terrible cycle, so this DVConnect facility will provide an effective alternative.”
Mirvac CEO and managing director, Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz, said practical support was needed for survivors of domestic violence in addition to raising awareness.
“The statistics around the number of Australian women living in abusive relationships are alarming and we believe there is a clear need to not just raise awareness of domestic violence but provide practical support for victims,” Ms Lloyd-Hurwitz said.
“Every single person deserves to have a roof over their head and feel secure and we are very proud to be able to contribute in a small way towards creating this safe haven.”
Bella’s Sanctuary is designed to eliminate the added pressure of time constraints, ensuring victims of domestic abuse can take a considered approach to re-building their lives and not be forced to re-enter a potentially dangerous living situation.
DVConnect is funded largely by the Queensland Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women and is the only Queensland state-wide telephone service offering a free crisis helpline for anyone affected by domestic or family violence. DVConnect’s crisis helpline is 1800 811 811.