NSW feminist groups seek to roll back reform of domestic violence shelters

(NB: The following is a working draft only at this point in time – see **)

In 2014 the New South Wales government implemented a program to rationalise the operation of a large number of publicly-funded domestic violence refuges and homeless shelters.

It’s my understanding that the review process was primarily driven by a desire to improve the system of management both at the state level, and at the level of individual facilities. Many of these facilities were being run by feminists essentially as private clubhouses based on individual rules and operating procedures. The refusal by feminist groups to provide accommodation for males in refuges was one of a number of contentious issues in this regard. Not surprisingly, the government sought transparency and accountability, and to maximise use of the network of refuges/shelters within the context of an agreed set of uniform standards.

Central to this reform process was a new policy framework entitled ‘Going Home Staying Home‘  which is summarized in this fact-sheet, and with many further details available here.

The review of refuges and shelters culminated in a tender process based on a set of specifications designed to ensure that refuges operated lawfully, and that broader community expectations were met. Feminists groups made a tactical error in refusing to properly engage with this process and/or commit to meet the required standards. They consequently fared poorly, with non-feminist organisations winning most of the available tenders.

Rather than admitting their own culpability, feminists chose to misrepresent the revised arrangements as indicative of a heartless government “closing” refuges to save money, before setting about sabotaging the efforts of the incumbent management groups.

A similar situation occurred when the feminist lobby accused the Western Australian government of terminating its trial of specialist domestic violence courts for financial reasons, whereas in fact they did so because the operation of the courts was found to be “counter-productive“.

Any government contemplating standing up to the Domestic Violence Industry needs to be mindful of the feminist modus operandi. In the NSW situation there were many millions of dollars of public funds on the table, and the feminist lobby was never going to bow out without a bitter stoush. Political happenings at both the state and federal level played in their favour, however, undermining the courage and conviction previously displayed by the NSW Government.

During the election campaign the Premier of NSW, clearly desperate after the ALP landslide in Queensland, actively wooed the feminist lobby. He made a number of commitments before being re-elected, and as a result it now appears that we will witness a reversal of the reforms of 2014.

The following series of articles provides readers with a time-line, albeit mostly framed according to the feminist perspective, of what occurred in NSW from May 2014 to the present day:

Brief extract from a transcript of discussions in the NSW Parliament regarding the ‘Going Home Staying Home’ program (29 May 2014)

Concerns raised about the loss of experienced local homelessness services (20 June 2014)

Women’s refuges closing down after reform fails them (21 June 2014)

Anne Summers on the fight to save women-only refuges (28 June 2014)

Pru Goward’s tender touch brushes women aside, by Anne Summers (28 June 2014)

Domestic Violence Centres Under NSW Govt Assault, by Wendy Bacon (9 July 2014)

“In June, the NSW government released the results of a tender for three years of funding for Going Home Staying Home, its new policy for homelessness and domestic violence services. 27 women’s refuges, some of which had been open for decades, lost their funding … 

Overall the NSW government has increased funding for homelessness to $515 million. But more significantly, it has dramatically changed the way it funds service.

336 funding agreements have been reduced to just 149 separate packages, which include anything from one to 13 organisations offering a range of services.

A new emphasis on local partnerships within 13 NSW regions meant that many tenders were hastily scrambled together to fit into the new funding requirement.

For women’s refuges, the news was bound to be bad, as 59 different women’s services were spread across different packages, often competing against each other.

Of 59 applications that included women’s refuges, only 32 were successful. To an outsider, this initially looks like 27 refuges will close, including Elsie’s which was one of the unsuccessful ones.

But the truth is more complicated. Some unsuccessful services are in the process of being taken over by winning tenderers, and some winning tenderers are looking rocky as the reality of making partnerships work hits home.”

The truth appears fairly simple to me … the NSW Government increased rather than decreased funding for shelters, the previous system of funding was extremely unwieldy, and in most cases shelters were not closed but rather placed under new management.

Community groups outraged by NSW refuge closures (17 July 2014)

UPDATED: The Gutting And Gagging Of Feminist Women’s Refuges, by Wendy Bacon (25 July 2014)

Domestic Violence specialists sacked as refuges shut their doors, by Rachel Browne  (26 July 2014)

NSW Government closes doors to women fleeing violence, by Anne Summers (26 July 2014)

Domestic violence peak body in disarray as members make a vote of no confidence, by Rachel Browne (11 August 2014)

“Angry members of the state’s peak body for domestic violence have issued a vote of no confidence in the organisation, alleging mismanagement had resulted in the closure of a number of specialist women’s refuges.”

Letter from Gabrielle Upton MP, NSW Minister for Family and Community Services (22 October 2014)

The evidence supports specialist refuges for domestic violence (18 February 2015)

How funding changes in NSW locked women out of domestic violence refuges (9 March 2015)

In her March 2015 article ‘Call for Parliamentary Inquiry into changes at NSW women’s refuges‘, Wendy Bacon provides a long list of the management woes that she claims afflict DV refuges since the feminist hand-over.

After reading Wendy’s article one is left with the impression that facility management problems only emerged after the feminists were ejected. I’d suggest that was not the case, and that significant problems were likewise evident in the management of facilities pre-June 2014. It’s unfortunate that journalists chose to look the other way at the time, and it also tells us a great deal about the priorities of current-day feminists.

The picture presented in the media is that any management deficiencies exposed in feminist-controlled facilities can be sheeted home to inadequate government support. Similar problems occurring in non-feminist run facilities are, however, a different and much more serious matter. The key factors in those situations are more likely to be reported as, for example, a “lack of specialised skills”, a lack of understanding”, and insufficient female focus.

And now I suspect we shall see the funding faucet once again thrown open for feminist groups, that an inordinate amount of money will be wasted or otherwise mis-directed, and that we shall still not see the provision of spaces with refuges for male victims of domestic violence.

(**I’ve written to the relevant state agency seeking further any information concerning both the background to the tender process and the tender process itself. I also want to confirm the figures as to how many, if any, refuges were actually closed versus how many refuges were created or expanded in capacity. Once this information is received I will amend this blog post accordingly. I would also welcome any relevant information that might be volunteered by readers)

Some other papers concerning the mismanagement of Domestic Violence refuges and homeless shelters (outside Australia)

Accountability and Oversight of Federally-Funded Domestic Violence Programs: Analysis and Recommendations, by SAVE Services (2010)


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yn3cHsHnUPM Youtube video about feminist-run DV shelters in Sweden

Reinvigorating the domestic violence sector: Systematically addressing conflict, power and practitioner turnover  This doctorate thesis from December 2009 discusses mismanagement and bullying within the domestic violence industry with the laughable conclusion being that the solution is to “re-invigorate the feminist principles and philosophy that has traditionally guided the sector”. Isn’t that a bit like saying the molestation of children in orphanages is best addressed by ‘re-invigorating the Catholic principles and philosophy that has traditionally guided the sector’?

Indeed, in both cases we have a group within society that has been placed on a pedestal and absolved of the level of oversight and accountability that would otherwise be considered reasonable.

On that note, this paper argues that given the failure of the feminist-driven approach to DV, that it’s time to give others a chance.

Domestic violence organisations in the USA don’t provide adequate services to male victims as they are required to do by law, and no-one does anything about it – See the related reddit discussion thread

Elsewhere in this blog you might be interested in:

On recognising and supporting male victims of domestic violence This post includes links to some papers that specifically look at the lack of provision for men in available DV refuges 

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