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21 November 2023 | Domestic Violence

New women’s refuge opens

Lutheran Services has unveiled a new domestic and family violence refuge to provide a safe place for women and children fleeing domestic and family violence situations in Southeast Queensland.

The $3.8 million project doubles the reach of Mary and Martha’s refuge and provides a secure, supportive and sociable place for women and children to rebuild lives and connect with others.

Lutheran Services developed the refuge with operational funding support from the Queensland Government and $3.8 million in Commonwealth funding through the Safe Places Emergency Accommodation Program.

Lutheran Services CEO Nick Ryan says the not-for-profit organisation is delighted to be expanding its services for women and children escaping domestic and family violence.

“Each week we are reminded of the urgent need to help women and children experiencing domestic and family violence,” said Mr Ryan.

“Together, alongside the Queensland State Government and Commonwealth Government, we recognise the dire need not just to provide refuge for women and children, but help them redevelop their agency, find their voice and their capabilities to embark on their new life in safety and security.”

Lutheran Services’ new Mary and Martha’s refuge accommodation offers comprehensive support services on-site, including a children’s counselor, helping families face the challenge of starting anew.

The eight new units, built at an undisclosed location in Southeast Queensland, offer private backyards with space for women and children to bring their pets – something that can otherwise be a barrier to finding alternate accommodation when leaving a domestic violence situation.

Assistant Minister for Social Services and the Prevention of Family Violence, The Hon Justine Elliot MP said the development of the new Safe Places site is vital in ensuring that women and children experiencing family and domestic violence have a safe place to find refuge and support.

“These safe and secure homes will provide women and children experiencing family and domestic violence the opportunity to start anew and begin the process of healing,” said Ms Elliot.

“This refuge will provide necessary, specialised and person-centred support for victim-survivors of family and domestic violence.”

Further supporting why a service of this kind is so important, Lutheran Services Executive Lead Community Services, Chris Seiboth, said that the demand for safe and secure refuge accommodation spiked during COVID and has been sustained since.

“Today, the societal stressors of increased cost of living, combined with decreased housing availability and job security, are all factors in domestic and family violence,” said Mr Seiboth.

“As the rising cost of living creates a barrier for women to leave domestic and family violence situations, Lutheran Services is proud to offer essential support accommodation for women to help them as they rebuild their lives.”

Lutheran Services’ first Mary and Martha’s refuge was established in Woolloongabba in 1980 by the Nazareth Lutheran Church with the congregation donating the property and overseeing its ongoing management. It moved location in 1987 but continued with its legacy.

Acting Mary and Martha’s refuge Manager, Rebecca McConnell, said that the level of comfort and amenities offered at the new location goes a long way in supporting women and their children as they rebuild their lives, independence and confidence.

‘’If you leave a relationship and go into a share home where no one cares about the space, it makes it too easy to go back to a violent situation. Having comfortable and safe surroundings takes a big a load off women and their children, better allowing them to rebuild their lives in a safe and supportive environment,’’ said Ms McConnell.

“After supporting women with their immediate crisis needs – being shelter, food and clothing – we form strong relationships with them, allowing them to come out of their shells and engage with the other families around them. Seeing women regain their confidence, and develop these relationships, is a rewarding part of the work we do.”

The new Mary and Martha’s location means Lutheran Services can now support 18 families in need across Southeast Queensland.

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