Illawarra Women’s Trauma Recovery Centre receives $25 million in federal budget

31 March 2022

Illawarra Mercury – Zoe Cartwright

In Tuesday night’s budget, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced $25 million for the Illawarra Women’s Trauma Recovery Centre, a long-cherished dream of Dr Williams and many others.

“There are dreams you have as a professional, and this is one of them. It’s unbelievable – I’ve been fighting for this for three years, what do I fight for now?”

In March 2020, Shellharbour MP Anna Watson secured $50,000 in funding from Minister for Health Brad Hazzard. It helped develop a business case for the centre.

The business case was completed in July of 2021 by researchers at the University of NSW, in partnership with the Illawarra Women’s Health Centre in response to the Fourth Action Plan of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and Their Children 2010-2022.

Dr Patricia Cullen was one of those researchers. She explained there is no other centre like this in the world.

“We wanted to make sure it was designed by the people who know best what is needed, and have worked closely with victim survivors, practitioners, policy makers and community leaders.

“It will be a game-changer.”

The Illawarra Women’s Health Centre, with general manager Sally Stevenson and chairwoman Judy Daunt at the helm, lead the campaign to establish an Illawarra Women’s Trauma Recovery Centre – a one-stop-shop providing holistic – and free – health, legal and psychosocial services for women escaping violence.

Ms Stevenson was “speechless” when she heard the news.

“We were called by the Prime Minister’s office and the office of the Minister for Families and Social Services shortly before the announcement,” she said.

“We weren’t aware it was going to be in the budget, we were absolutely thrilled.

“It’s because the whole Illawarra community has got behind it – all levels of government, the private sector, the Illawarra Mercury and the wider community.

“It shows the voices of victim-survivors of domestic and family violence have been listened to.”

Melissa Edwards is just one of the victim-survivors who have been an integral part of the campaign.

Since the campaign’s beginning she has shared her story time and time again. She was photographed for the Resilience, Resistance, Recovery exhibition by the Mercury’s award-winning photographer Sylvia Liber which launched the campaign, and she has dedicated her life to supporting other victim-survivors of domestic and family violence.

When she heard the budget announcement she became “a panda-eyed mess”.

“I was laughing and crying simultaneously,” she said.

“I was so relieved to hear this was finally being taken seriously, that a space would be created for women to recover, where their dignity can be preserved.”

Ms Edwards said the centre won’t just change the lives of women fleeing violence, but the lives of their children.

“We want children to have the skills and support they need,” she said.

“This breaks the cycle of intergenerational violence and gives children the tools they need to move forward. It will have a profound effect on our entire community.”

Ms Stevenson is thrilled at being able to shift the focus from campaigning to planning. She thanked everyone involved.

“MPs Anna Watson, Stephen Jones and Sharon Bird have provided unrelenting support and advocacy; Vicki Tiegs from Waples; the sheer strength and experience of Illawarra Women’s Health Centre board and staff have been the foundation of this campaign.

“The whole Illawarra community – we asked for support and we got it in spades,” she said.

After years of effort, politicians of all stripes in the Illawarra were “ecstatic” to hear the Illawarra Women’s Trauma Recovery Centre received $25 million in the Federal Budget.

“It’s finally happening, after years of lobbying, to have a Trauma Recovery Centre built here in the Illawarra, I’m thrilled,” Ms Watson said.

“Women experiencing trauma related to domestic, family or sexual violence deserve equitable access to the best possible resources and standard of care that we are able to provide.

“This centre will finally give victims access to not only an adequate support resource, but a physical place of care that focuses on long-term holistic recovery and rehabilitation”

“This is a great win for our region.”

Whitlam MP Stephen Jones said he was delighted to hear the news.

“These women have worked really hard, we knew the merits of the proposal would speak for itself, it just needed to get moving,” he said.

“I’m genuinely happy for this to be above politics – I’m delighted about the finding from the Federal Government, and if Labor wins, we’ll deliver it.”

Liberal candidate for Whitlam Mike Cains hoped the centre could become a model for other regions.

“Society has an obligation to assist victims, and if we can provide leadership on how to do that, it’s something we can be immensely proud of,” he said.

Greens candidate for Whitlam Jamie Dixon echoed his sentiments.

“I’m so happy everyone at the Illawarra Women’s Health Centre is seeing a rasult for all the hard work they’ve put in over the past years,” he said.

“I hope more centres in other areas follow suit.”

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